JACKSONVILLE – Gus Bradley figured something extra mentally would be needed in this one.
The Jaguars' head coach told players before a 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns at EverBank Field Sunday to expect a battle of wills, with the Browns believing they could run to win and the Jaguars believing they could stop it.
The Jaguars also believed they could run.
As it turned out, the Jaguars were right on both counts, not only holding the Browns – who entered the game third in the NFL in rushing – to 69 yards, but turning in their biggest rushing day in more than two seasons by rushing for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
The Jaguars last rushed for 185 yards in a game in September 2012 in a victory at Indianapolis.
"I'm really pleased with our effort," Bradley said after the Jaguars won for the first time in nine regular-season games, a streak that dated to last December.
"It was a total team effort. I'm really pleased with our guys' effort and how it all came together."
The Jaguars trailed 6-0 before a 31-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Bortles to wide receiver Allen Robinson with:27 remaining in the second quarter. Bortles, who finished with a season-high three interceptions, had thrown two interceptions at that point, and the Browns had moved inside the Jaguars 25 three times. But the Jaguars' defense had held the Browns to two field goals.
The Jaguars then pulled away in the second half with the Jaguars stuffing the Browns' offensively and the offense taking advantage of opportunities.
"I felt this was really going to challenge our mental toughness," Bradley said. "I just saw a look on the sideline that, 'This was a whole game now.'
Aside from Jaguars running back Denard Robinson, who set a career high in rushing yards, the Jaguars' defense was the story of the game.
The Browns entered the game third in the NFL in rushing with 146.4 yards per game. They rushed for 69 yards on 30 carries Sunday. The Jaguars also held the Browns to four of 17 on third downs.
"The defense played lights out," defensive tackle Roy Miller said. "They've been telling everybody, 'We're going to run the ball and win.' We knew it was going to be a physical game and we just came out on top of that."
The Jaguars also harassed quarterback Brian Hoyer into his worst game of the season. He was sacked three times, completing 16 of 41 passes for 215 yards and no touchdowns with an interception. He entered the game with seven touchdowns and one interception.
The Jaguars have held their opponents under 20 points three consecutive games for the first time since 2007.
"It feels good to have a plan and go out there and execute it," Miller said. "All the hard work you put in – it's a great feeling. We haven't had the feeling of getting a reward for our hard work.
"In any game, you've got 24 hours to be sad or happy. Right now, we've got 24 hours to be happy, so it's a good feeling."
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Denard Robinson, running back, Jaguars
The second-year veteran got his first start as the feature back, and took full advantage.
Robinson, who had started twice this season with the Jaguars in dual-back formations, not only got the start, he got the vast majority of the carries for the first time in his NFL career, rushing 22 times for 127 yards and a touchdown.
His eight-yard touchdown with 5:58 remaining gave the Jaguars a 17-6 lead. The 127-yard game was the most for a Jaguars running back since Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 177 yards in a victory at Indianapolis in September 2012.
"He's always been very impressive to watch running the ball," Bortles said. "He's getting better. He hasn't been doing it for very long. He's getting better week-by-week and the offensive line is doing a really good job. I thought they played their tails off and they really did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage."
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense:On 1st-and-5 from the Browns 31 with :36 remaining in the first half, Bortles got time to throw and found Robinson to his right. Robinson broke a tackle by cornerback Buster Skrine and turned the play into a catch-and-run touchdown for a 7-6 halftime lead.
Defense:Linebacker Telvin Smith blitzed and forced a sack/fumble early in the second half that middle linebacker Paul Posluszny recovered at the Browns 25. The play set up a short drive that ended with a field goal that gave the Jaguars a 10-6 lead. Smith also had an interception that led to a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Special teams: The Jaguars' special teams didn't win the game, but they made the play that secured the victory. On 4th-and-3 from the Jaguars 42, Bryan Anger punted 56 yards to the Browns 2. Returner Jordan Poyer muffed the punt, and after running back Jordan Todman appeared to recover it, linebacker LaRoy Reynolds won the fight for the ball at the bottom of the pile at the Browns 6. Running back Denard Robinson scored on the next play for a 17-6 Jaguars lead.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"Yeah, you could feel us getting better, you could feel us sniffing victory a little bit, but we finally came through today. The defense had a great effort today. The offensive line did a great job, (Denard Robinson) and Blake (Bortles) did a great job running the ball today and that's all you can ask for."
--- Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts III
1.Bortles: "It's awesome; obviously, when you get a win it's unbelievable. I think it's pretty cool how involved the fans were; it was a great feeling."
2.Bortles: "I've got to improve. I've got to keep getting better, but that's part of it. Obviously, I'm not happy with the way I played, but I'm extremely happy with the outcome of the game."
3.Linebacker Telvin Smith: "It was definitely a great win. This is for the team. We worked together, we came together, and we did it."
4.Telvin Smith: "I always like to say that I'm a big play guy. I like to change the game, so to be able to do that and show these guys that I could stand up on this level and play. Like you said, I've been doing that here and there, but today was definitely a breakout game."
5.Offensive guard Zane Beadles: "Obviously we ran the ball well and that's a good thing. In my opinion, it's just all the work that we've put in leading up to this point. We had a great week of practice. It's been six weeks, or seven, in the regular season now of work, just grinding every single day, trying to get better, and finally it all came together today."
6.Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks: "You know what? It feels good, we've been working hard and in the NFL all you need to look at is the win-loss column and we had hadn't gotten there but we just kept on working at it and it's good that we got it at home. We want to show people that we're still working and going out and striving to get better."
LOOKING ON . . .
1.Robinson started at running back for the Jaguars, and early on, he gave the running game a significant lift. He rushed for 42 yards on his first six carries and finished the first half with 67 yards on 10 carries. The Jaguars entered the game last in the NFL in rushing.
2.Marks, who has been nothing but solid in 23 games with the Jaguars, had one of his more noticeable games of the season Sunday. With the Jaguars swarming early and stopping the run, Marks was key against the pass, batting down two passes in the first half.
3.Jaguars defensive end Chris Clemons registered his fourth sack of the season. The Jaguars as a team now have 22 sacks after entering the game third in the NFL with 19 sacks. …
First half images of the Jaguars Week 7 matchup with the Cleveland Browns.
Posluszny sustained a pectoral contusion in the fourth quarter, and did not return. He said afterward he expects to play next week.
Defensive end Andre Branch sustained a groin injury late in the fourth quarter and did not return. He was helped from the field afterward.
Center Luke Bowanko sustained an ankle sprain in the first half and returned.
The Jaguars will play host to the Miami Dolphins at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
Second half images from the Jaguars win over the Cleveland Browns.