CLEVELAND, Ohio – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday
1. Defense, defense, defense.The Jaguars' 19-7 victory Sunday wasn't their most-dynamic, memorable victory of the season. Here's what it was: yet another example of the Jaguars' 2017 defense showing it can do special things. The Jaguars allowed one quick-strike touchdown drive in the first half Sunday, but otherwise stifled the Browns – creating four turnovers, one of which (an interception by linebacker Telvin Smith) set up a Jaguars touchdown that loomed large the entire game and another (a fumble recovery in the end zone by Smith) that secured a sloppy, cold, wet victory. The Jaguars forced a three-and-out on five of the Browns' first seven possessions, and that start defined the day. They allowed the Browns 184 total yards – their second game holding an opponent under 200 yards in three weeks. By the second half, it felt as if the Browns wouldn't score again. They didn't, and it was yet another dominant performance by a unit that's making such days routine.
2. One thing mattered Sunday.The Jaguars' victory wasn't dominant – and it wasn't a particularly pretty or efficient day offensively. None of that mattered, because what mattered was the Jaguars won on the road in difficult conditions. The rest was their fourth consecutive victory, and the accompanying result was the Jaguars are in first place in the AFC South through 10 games. The Jaguars on Sunday won in windy, cold temperatures with intermittent snow that threated to turn to hail at times. It made offense brutally rough – and a slew of injuries at the receiver position and along the offensive line contributed to a difficult day offensively. The Jaguars missed a couple of chances to stretch the lead in the first half, and the Jaguars' yardage and first downs revealed an edge that didn't show up on the scoreboard. Was it pretty Sunday? Was it easy? No, but it was yet another victory and nothing else mattered on Sunday.
3. Yannick Ngakoue is coming into his own.Jaguars defensive lineman Calais Campbell has said often this season that Jaguars second-year defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has potential to be the NFL's best pass rusher. Campbell said it again Sunday following a game in which Ngakoue repeatedly proved Campbell's point. Ngakoue, who set a Jaguars rookie record with eight sacks last season, registered two and a half sacks and forced three fumbles on Sunday. Two of those forced fumbles came in the final two minutes, with end Dante Fowler Jr. recovering one that should have been a touchdown and Smith recovering one that indeed was a touchdown and clinched the victory. Ngakoue's day was about more than sacks. He pressured quarterback DaShone Kizer throughout. Ngakoue now has nine sacks through 10 games this season, and is well on his way to making Campbell look very, very smart. "He's special," Campbell said. "He's incredible."
well on his way to making Campbell look very, very smart. "He's special," Campbell said. "He's incredible."
- These Jaguars love to play on the road where they thrive on the hostile conditions. On Sunday, in Cleveland the cold, biting winds, the occasional snow squalls and the Dawg Pound did their best to thwart the Floridians, but they couldn't. I stood on the sidelines and listened as the defense challenged each other before AND after every series. The offensive line rallied as the Browns threw the kitchen sink at them to stop the run and somehow found enough room for a first down here and there and 139 yards on the ground against an excellent Browns defensive front. Everyone in black and white battled a crowd that was more hostile than you would imagine supporting an 0-10 team. I've watched all season and 10 weeks in this can be called a group of road warriors.
- It was a day for defense. Five take aways produced 16 of the Jaguars 19 points. Their five sacks came mostly at critical moments when the game still hung in the balance as did three of the five turnovers they forced. The Browns managed just 50 yards on the ground and while DeShone Kizer managed one good drive...for the most part the Browns we're ineffective against a defense that seemingly can shut an offense down in game's biggest and most critical moments. For a split second late in the game with a six point lead it felt like the Browns had momentum and just like that Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell ended the moment with a sack and forced fumble.
- Leonard Fournette said he didn't like playing in cold weather and I don't doubt the kid from New Orleans won't miss the conditions he faced in Cleveland. He did, however, play well, very well. The rookie carried the ball 28 times against one if the better run defenses in the NFL for 111 yards. That he did it on an ankle that has bothered him for more than a month and on a day when the temperature makes everything feel worse than it really is was impressive. It was important for the Jags to get a big game from him to know that he is healthy enough to carry them down the stretch. Mix in a couple of starting offensive linemen who should return and maybe a receiver to bolster the passing game and the Jags look like they're in good shape on both sides of the football heading to Arizona and then December.