CLEVELAND, Ohio – Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays from the Jaguars’ 31-27 loss to the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium in a 2023 Week 14 game in Cleveland, Ohio, Sunday
1. A kick and a kick. Sunday's final minutes came down to two kicks – and both went the Browns' way. First, the Browns extended their lead to double digits with a 55-yard field goal by kicker Dustin Hopkins with 3:10 remaining. The Jaguars then cut a 31-21 lead to 31-27 lead with a two-yard pass from quarterback Trevor Lawrence to tight end Evan Engram, with Lawrence being sacked on the two-point attempt. Browns wide receiver James Proche recovered the ensuing onside kick with 1:33 remaining to secure the victory.
2. Fuuuuumble – and six. The Jaguars' defense struggled on two first-half drives – but the unit came up with two big first-half takeaways. The biggest may have been a fumble that led to a much-needed first offensive touchdown of the game. The Browns led 14-0 midway through the second quarter when quarterback Joe Flacco passed to wide receiver Amari Cooper, who fumbled after a 19-yard gain to the Browns 24. Linebacker Devin Lloyd recovered the fumble that was forced by safety Andrew Wingard, returning it to the Browns 12. Lawrence two plays later passed 10 yards to tight end Evan Engram for a touchdown that cut the Browns' lead to 14-7 with 6:14 remaining in the second quarter. "He's playing really well right now," Lawrence said of Engram, who caught 11 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns Sunday.
3. Saaack, fumble and a touchdown. The Jaguars scrapped back into the game in the third quarter, forcing a third Browns turnover that they turned into a touchdown. Jaguars rookie safety Antonio Johnson sacked Flacco, turning second-and-10 at the Browns 33 into a fumble that defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter recovered at the Browns 25. "It was just a great call [by Defensive Coordinator Mike Caldwell] for the perfect play," Johnson said. Running back Travis Etienne Jr.'s one-yard run cut the Browns' lead to 21-14 with 4:59 remaining in the third quarter. Key play on the drive: A 16-yard reception by wide receiver Calvin Ridley on third-and-12 from the Browns 17.
4. Missed opportunities. The Jaguars had multiple opportunities in the first half Sunday – and missed enough that they trailed 14-7 at halftime. Particularly frustrating for the Jaguars were two second-quarter drives into scoring range that resulted in no points. The Jaguars drove to the Browns 32 after an interception by Jaguars cornerback Darious Williams, but Browns safety Grant Delpit sacked Lawrence for a 13-yard loss on third-and-four from the Browns 32. A Jaguars drive in the final two minutes of the first half ended when Browns cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. intercepted a pass by Lawrence intended for Ridley at the Browns eight-yard line. "He (Lawrence) and Calvin need to be on the same page, and they weren't right there," Pederson said.
5. Quick strike. The first points figured to be important Sunday in what many projected to be a low-scoring game. The Browns got them – and got the home crowd enthusiastic – in stunningly easy fashion. The Browns took the opening kickoff and scored quickly on the game's first possession with a 34-yard pass from Flacco to tight end David Njoku capping a six-play, 75-yard drive. Flacco completed four of four passes on the drive for 66 yards. The touchdown came with the Browns in a heavy personnel package, with Flacco completing pass to a wide open Njoku after a play-action fake on third-and-one from the Jaguars 34 for a 7-0 lead with 11:39 remaining in the first quarter. "They got us," Pederson said of the Browns. "They did a good job there." The Browns did not produce a first down on any of their next three possessions.
5a. Fumble – and a big touchdown. The Jaguars took possession to start the second half with a chance to tie. Instead, they gave the Browns a short field and big-time early third-quarter momentum. Lawrence threw short to wide receiver Parker Washington on third-and-21 from the Jaguars 14. Linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. forced and recovered Washington's fumble. A four-yard run by running back Kareem Hunt capped the ensuing drive for a 21-7 Browns lead with 9:39 remaining in the third quarter. The Jaguars' second turnover in the second half also led to a Browns touchdown, with wide receiver David Bell's 41-yard touchdown reception from Flacco coming four plays after Lawrence's third interception of the game and giving the Browns a 28-14 lead with 12:34 remaining.