CLEVELAND—David Garrard was hardly just a manager of the game. He was a play-maker, the most important play-maker in the Jaguars' 20-14 win over the Browns on Sunday at snowy Cleveland Browns Stadium.
"He threw two touchdown passes and we had a chance for four. David really played well today," coach Jack Del Rio said of his quarterback, who was replacing injured starter Byron Leftwich. "The big run at the end; David took off and iced the game. I think you can see he's more than a scrambler. He could've had a better day statistically if we had caught the ball better."
Garrard was much more than the care-taker quarterback he was expected to be. He wasn't a mere hand-off machine. He was a quarterback who rallied his team from a 14-3 halftime deficit to 17 third-quarter points that stole rookie quarterback Charlie Frye's thunder and left the Browns unable to recover.
"There were a few moments when it wasn't going the way we wanted, but we overcame them. Guys kept playing and made some plays," Garrard said.
Garrard and the Jaguars overcame two end zone drops by Ernest Wilford, one in the first quarter and one in the third. Garrard finished with 11 completions in 20 attempts for 116 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and an 84.6 passer rating, but those stats are very misleading. He was sensational when the game was on the line, including a 28-yard run on a third-and-19 at the two-minute warning. That run was the final nail in the Browns' coffin.
With their fifth consecutive win, the Jaguars returned to Jacksonville 9-3, in the driver's seat for a wild-card berth and able to turn their attention fully to their next opponent, the 12-0 Indianapolis Colts.
"Now we can look forward to next week. We couldn't do that and feel good about it without winning here first," Del Rio told reporters.
Feeling good, of course, required a dramatically improved performance in the second half. The Jaguars allowed the Browns 243 yards of offense in the first half, including 180 yards of passing by Frye, who was making the first start of his pro career.
Reuben Droughns had rushed for 62 yards and Braylon Edwards had caught three passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns, and Frye had a 154.4 passer rating that was just a few points shy of perfect.
All of that, of course, was against the number three defense in the league; the number two pass-defense.
"We just played better in the second half. We had to regroup and come out with energy and determination," Del Rio said. "I did what I had to do to motivate the team. I think you can imagine I wasn't very pleased with the first 30 minutes. Coaches made adjustments and players rallied."
The Jaguars held the Browns to just 60 yards of offense the rest of the way, while Garrard moved the Jaguars to scores in their first three possessions of the second half. In the final two, Garrard lofted a perfect nine-yard touchdown pass to George Wrighster and found Jimmy Smith for a 12-yard touchdown strike while rolling out to the right.
"We ran the same stuff in the second half that we ran in the first half," defensive tackle Marcus Stroud said.
"I've seen him worse," Garrard said of Del Rio's halftime mood. "He's broken a couple of things."
Greg Jones pounded out 103 yards rushing, the biggest chunks coming when the Jaguars were trying to run out the clock. Jones ran for 22 and 18 yards in consecutive carries in the fourth quarter. It was his second 100-yard game of the season and of his career.
"We can't afford to do that against Indy," Smith said of the Jaguars' Jekyll and Hyde routine.
"You see in spurts what we are capable of. To beat the better teams, we have to perform at a higher level," Del Rio said.
The Colts are certainly one of those better teams.