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This one favors Browns


They are two teams who have now produced the two most bizarre endings in the last two seasons.

Last year, it was a replay overruling of a Browns catch and the bottle-throwing incident that followed. Today, it was a 50-yard, "Hail Mary" pass reception by Quincy Morgan that wasn't overturned by replay.

"What I saw on the replay was that the point of the ball was on the ground," Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said following his team's devastating 21-20 loss to the visiting Cleveland Browns on the final play of the game.

Some would agree with Coughlin that the point of the ball appeared to have struck the ground, and all would agree Morgan's catch was certainly worth another look, but the final verdict was that replay did not provide adequate evidence to overrule the call. In other words, replay did not show the ball actually striking the ground.

Jaguars cornerback Fernando Bryant was locked in single coverage with Morgan. Apparently, Bryant didn't get the safety help that was intended in the Jaguars' "cover two" scheme.

"That was the defense called. There wasn't anything wrong with the defense called. I didn't make the play," Bryant said.

Morgan appeared to push Bryant as the Browns receiver began his leap for the ball, but Bryant countered, "They're not going to call (pass interference) in that situation."

Bryant offered no excuses. But, clearly, he should've had help on the play, which employed a three-man rush and dropped eight defenders into coverage.

It was the most bitter defeat of the season for a Jaguars team that has made a habit of losing games they believe they should've won. "I thought we played well enough to win," Coughlin said.

The Jaguars were dominated statistically by the Browns, who had nearly 10 minutes more time of possession and fell just a few yards shy of doubling the Jaguars in total yardage. But the Jaguars have also made a habit of keeping games close this season, and with the game appearing to be on the line in the fourth quarter, it was the Jaguars who made the big plays.

Fred Taylor's 24-yard run set up a 33-yard field goal by newly-acquired kicker Danny Boyd, and the Jaguars had a 17-14 lead with 2:32 to play.

Then, rookie linebacker Akin Ayodele made his first career pass interception, picking off a Couch pass and returning it 22 yards to the Browns 24-yard line with 1:25 to play.

"I thought the turnover sealed the game," Coughlin said.

It would've, had the Jaguars converted Ayodele's theft into a touchdown.

The Jaguars got to the Browns four-yard line, but the Browns held on second and third downs. On fourth down, Coughlin ordered Boyd to boot a 22-yard field goal that gave the Jaguars a six-point lead and eliminated any opportunity for Cleveland to force overtime with a field goal.

Coughlin's second critical strategic decision called for Boyd to attempt a "squib" kick. Expecting as much, Browns coach Butch Davis had his "squib" receiving team on the field, and one of his front-line players deflected Boyd's line drive and allowed Browns second-line defender Jamel White to return the kick to the Cleveland 47-yard line.

Couch was sacked, then threw short for eight yards, and with the clock turning and the Browns facing a third-and-seven at the 50-yard line, Couch knew he was down to one play. He let it fly for Morgan in the right-front corner of the end zone, and Morgan came down with the ball.

It was a win that moved the 7-6 Browns to within a half-game of the Steelers in the AFC North title race. And it was a loss that all but mathematically eliminated the 5-8 Jaguars from playoffs contention.

"It should've never come to that," Taylor said of the "Hail Mary" play. Taylor rushed for 145 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown run, and appeared to have taken the game over in the second half.

But the Jaguars' passing attack wasn't able to complement Taylor's production. Mark Brunell and company were able to produce only 54 net yards passing, as the Browns secondary held Jimmy Smith to two harmless receptions for 23 yards.

"I needed to be sharper today," Brunell said in accepting blame for the passing game's woes. Clearly, those woes influenced Coughlin's decision to kick a field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-goal.

Two missed Cleveland field goal attempts and a penalty that nullified a 91-yard kickoff return for an apparent touchdown by the Browns' Andre Davis allowed the Jaguars to keep the score close. Meanwhile, the Jaguars committed no turnovers for the second consecutive week, and lost.

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