Jags End Season on Sour Note with Loss to Browns
The Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9) scratched and clawed their way until the final whistle of a 23-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns (5-11). Below-freezing temperatures at Cleveland Browns Stadium made both teams focus their efforts on the running game – the two combined for 73 running plays.
Cleveland’s rushing attack set the pace for the game. The Browns’ 214 yards on the ground ate away at the clock and kept quarterback Derek Anderson from having to make plays.
The Jaguars attempted a valiant effort in the fourth quarter when they were down 20-3. But, two touchdown passes to rookie Zach Miller were not enough to even Jacksonville’s record to 8-8.
Jacksonville finished the season on a four-game losing streak, whereas Cleveland ended it on a four-game winning stretch. The Browns have won the last two matchups between these former AFC Central rivals.
The Jaguars and Browns played their last games of the 2009 regular season. Following the loss, Jacksonville was eliminated from contention for this year’s playoffs.
Now, on to the Awards…
Key Play of the Game: Almost five and a half minutes remained in the fourth quarter as the Browns were in a no-huddle situation on 4th and 1. Instead of a power-run play, quarterback Derek Anderson threw a first-down pass to rookie Mohamed Massaquoi for 14 yards. To culminate the 14-play drive, Cleveland kicker Phil Dawson nailed a 33-yard field goal to put the game out of reach for Jacksonville.
Best Director (goes to Jaguar coach or coordinator): In the last game of the season, Jacksonville should have been better prepared for Cleveland. I think the difference between 7-9 and 8-8 going into the offseason is tremendous. A one-game swing can hurt the fan base’s hope. This Award will continue to sit in my garage until next season.
Best Jaguar in a Leading Role: Mike Thomas, starting wide receiver – Thomas, a 2009 fourth-round steal, tied his mark for receptions (7) and broke his previous record for receiving yards (65) on Sunday. The rookie receiver made his fourth start of the season a fantastic one. After Sunday’s performance, he now holds the Jaguar rookie record for most receptions and most by a wide receiver. Thomas’ 48 grabs were fourth-most on the Jaguars this year. He has a bright future ahead of him.
Best Jaguar in a Supporting Role: Maurice Jones-Drew, starting running back – The first-time Pro Bowl selection had a quiet 88 total yards of offense against Cleveland. Most of those yards came on a 30-yard run when the game was out of reach. With the weakness of the passing game prominent in the poor weather, I expected the coaching staff to increase Jones-Drew’s workload. However, he only finished with 17 touches. His lack of carries could be attributed to the shot he took by safety Mike Furrey in the first quarter. Jones-Drew shook off a hard hit to the right leg/knee that would have taken most players out of the game entirely.
Mediocre Jaguar: Mike Sims-Walker, starting wide receiver – Even though he was targeted seven times, Sims-Walker converted two catches into 28 yards. On one pass, he clearly dropped it, and another time David Garrard’s pass sailed over Sims-Walker and into the hands of cornerback Eric Wright. In the last eight games, Sims-Walker’s production dropped more than I predicted. After his monster day against Kansas City (six catches, 147 yards and one touchdown), he told me his individual goals were to reach 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Through Week 9, Sims-Walker was well on his way. He’ll finish well short of each goal (869 yards and seven touchdowns). But, it is a plus that Jacksonville has finally found a No. 1 receiver. Sims-Walker has a few more seasons before he even hits his prime.
Best Brown in a Leading Role: Jerome Harrison, starting running back – The fourth-year back out of Washington State continues to prove his importance to the Browns. Harrison ran for a below-average 3.8 yards per carry (33 carries, 127 yards) with one trip to the end zone. He had more than half (33) of his team’s 60 offensive plays. Harrison, who ran for a third consecutive 100-yard game, controlled the tempo of the entire game. And, he is only the third running back this season to run for 100 or more yards against the Jaguars. Tennessee’s Chris Johnson and Miami’s Ricky Williams are the others. Depending on offseason acquisitions, Harrison will be the starter for the 2010 season.
Best Brown in a Supporting Role: Joshua Cribbs, special teamer – The explosive Cribbs is one of a few stars who can score any time he touches the football. On Sunday, Cribbs totaled 105 yards via the run game and kick/punt returns. His 14-yard touchdown run in the second quarter put a dagger through the Jacksonville defense’s heart. Not to mention, the special-teams aspect of the game was altered greatly because the Jaguars did not want Cribbs to return a kick for a large gain. It’s hard to believe that Cribbs, a two-time Pro Bowler, went undrafted out of college. Any team would love to have this guy.
Best Sound Editing: “Obviously, season didn’t end the way we wanted it to.” – Head coach Jack Del Rio on a pathetic end to the 2009 season.
Best Animated Short (goes to the player with the most passion on the field): Zach Miller, tight end – In a more featured role, the rookie Miller had his best game all year. With an inactive Marcedes Lewis, Miller made eight catches and turned them into 69 yards and two touchdowns. Those are games in which players can lose starting jobs. I expect Miller to battle Lewis for snaps and receptions. Lewis will play more on running plays, but Miller proved himself this season with 21 receptions and 212 receiving yards. I smell a training camp battle.
Tweet of the Week (Twitter post): “Thanks to everyone who sent me Pro Bowl Love! My linemen also deserve a lot of credit as well, they opened the holes for me.” – Running back Maurice Jones-Drew on Saturday, January 2.
Defensive back Kennard Cox
Wide receiver Torry Holt (hand)
Tight end Marcedes Lewis (cheek/concussion)
Cornerback Rashean Mathis (groin)
Offensive lineman Paul McQuistan
Center Cecil Newton
Left tackle Tra Thomas
Defensive end Julius Williams
Other Jaguar notes:
Quarterback David Garrard went 22 for 39 with 202 passing yards and two touchdowns. His lone interception, tossed late in the second quarter, was a poorly-thrown pass meant for Sims-Walker.
Middle linebacker Daryl Smith finished the game with 11 total tackles – eight of which were solos. It was his third game of 10 or more tackles this year. Smith, a sixth-year player out of Georgia Tech, recorded his first 100 total tackle season.
Rookie cornerback Derek Cox, starting his 16th game of the season, intercepted the fourth pass of his young career.
For the fifth time this season, second-year cornerback Tyron Brackenridge started for the injured Rashean Mathis. Brackenridge made two tackles on Sunday.
Defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison was placed on injured reserve Saturday with an injured knee he suffered last week against the New England Patriots.
In Ellison’s place, rookie Terrance Knighton started and played most of the game. In my opinion, Knighton had his most impressive game of the season. He made five tackles – four of which went for losses.
Knighton, along with John Henderson, clogged the middle of the line, which forced Cleveland to run to the outside.
The Jacksonville pass rush continued to struggle during Sunday’s game. The defense did not sack or hit Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson.
Kicker Josh Scobee was 1 for 2 (made 47-yarder) on field goals. On the opening drive of the third quarter, Scobee missed a 43-yard attempt, which was pushed wide right by a strong west wind.