CLEVELAND--The Jaguars will never forget their last-ever game against an AFC Central Division opponent. This one was more than a football game. It was an escape.
"I thought I was starring in 'Saving Private Ryan' for a minute," wide receiver Jimmy Smith said following a 15-10 Jaguars win at Cleveland Browns Stadium, where the Jaguars and referee Terry McAulay's officiating crew became the targets of fans who "rained" plastic beer bottles and other dangerous items of debris onto the field with 48 seconds to play in regulation.
The assault occurred following a replay-review ruling by McAulay that ended the Browns' attempt to rally for a game-winning touchdown. This was the call's chronology.
• On a fourth-and-two play at the Jaguars 12-yard line, Browns quarterback Tim Couch threw an apparent three-yard completion to rookie wide receiver Quincy Morgan, who was tackled hard by rookie safety James Boyd.
• Couch hurried his team to the line of scrimmage. When the ball was snapped, Couch double-clutched a "spike" to stop the clock.
• McAulay stepped in and said the spike had not occurred because the replay booth had signaled down to McAulay for a stoppage of action before the ball was snapped. The replay crew was challenging Morgan's catch.
• Replay review clearly showed Morgan had not caught the pass; the ball slipping out of his grasp before he struck the turf. However, Browns coach Butch Davis argued the Browns had started the next play before the replay-review crew signaled for a stoppage. McAulay told Davis he had been buzzed for a stoppage before the ball was snapped.
"We were trying to get it reviewed when it happened," Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said of Morgan's "catch." "Then we thought it was intentional grounding because (Couch) double-clutched the spike."
Coughlin couldn't "challenge" the call because he had used all of his times out. He had to rely on the system, which allows the replay-review crew to demand a review when the game is inside the two-minute warnings. This time, the system favored the Jaguars.
• When McAulay announced to the crowd the fourth-down completion was being overturned by replay, the situation became dangerous. After the crowd showered the field with debris for 10 minutes, McAulay decided to end the game in favor of player safety.
• NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was put in contact with McAulay and Tagliabue said the game must be finished. League precedent had been established in 2000 when Miami and New England were required to return to the field nearly an hour after they had left it.
• Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver met with Browns coach Butch Davis and league officials, who decided on a safe plan to conclude the final 48 seconds of the game. It was decided the Jaguars and Browns would enter the field from the Browns' tunnel area.
• Approximately 25 minutes after they had originally left the field, the Jaguars, Browns and McAulay's crew re-emerged. Mark Brunell took the snap from center twice, knelt with the ball each time, and all that was left was a sprint to safety. McAulay's crew was doused by beer one more time.
"That's not football; not as I know it," Coughlin said in rebuking the crowd's behavior.
"I was concerned about our safety and I'm just glad to get home tonight," Smith said.
The incident was fueled by hard feelings between the two teams from a Sept. 30 game in Jacksonville in which rookie Browns defensive tackle Gerard Warren blind-sided Mark Brunell. The hit resulted in a concussion for Brunell and a $35,000 fine for Warren.
"I was on the way to the shower," Brunell said of what he was doing when he was informed he would have to return to the field.
Brunell suffered his worst performance of the season. He threw two interceptions, one of which was returned 97 yards for a touchdown; he was sacked eight times and his 59.5 passer rating is one of the lowest of his career.
"I shouldn't have thrown the ball," Brunell said of his pass for Smith, which was easily intercepted by rookie cornerback Anthony Henry. That cut the Jaguars' lead to 9-7.
To the rescue came running back Stacey Mack, who became only the fourth running back in Jaguars history to crack the 100-yard rushing mark. Mack rushed for 115 yards against Warren and company and gave the Jaguars a rare and overwhelming time of possession advantage.
The defense came to the rescue, too. The Jaguars thoroughly dominated Couch and the Browns offense, stopping them on fourth-and-one at the Jaguars 45-yard line near the end of the first half to preserve a 9-0 lead.
"Stacey Mack had a great day. It was the key for us on offense. I'm glad to get the running game going. We've been wanting that for some time," Brunell said.
"You could tell we were ready to play. When you control the run on both sides of the ball like that, you have to have done something right," Jaguars defensive tackle Seth Payne said.
Jaguars right guard Zach Wiegert turned in one of the game's strongest performances. Wiegert manhandled Warren, which paved the way for Mack's success.
On the Jaguars' first drive of the game. Mack carried eight times for 35 yards. Brunell's four-yard touchdown pass to Smith capped a 15-play, 67-yard march that used 8:48 or the clock.
The win left the Jaguars at 5-8 and a game behind the Browns (6-7) and the Titans, who are tied for third place. The Browns will finish the season with games at Green Bay, at Tennessee and at Pittsburgh.