Jaguars Come Up Short in 14-10 Loss to Browns

The Jaguars’ comeback came up short. They couldn’t take the final step.

Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw an incomplete pass into the end zone on the game’s last snap, capping a curious sequence of plays by Jacksonville in the closing seconds and giving the Cleveland Browns a 14-10 win Sunday over the Jaguars.

Gabbert, who had some good and bad moments, threw behind wide receiver Mike Thomas in the middle of the end zone with the ball bouncing off Thomas’s outstretched hands, denying the Jaguars (3-7) a victory that was within reach.

“Plain and simple, I have to make a play,” Gabbert said. “I have to find a way for us to score. That’s on me. I have to learn from that and get better. At the end of the day, it’s my job to score a touchdown.”

After Browns kicker Phil Dawson missed a 38-yard field goal with less than three minutes left, Gabbert drove Jacksonville from its own 29 to Cleveland’s 5, helped along by a pass interference call against the Browns. But with the end zone and a thrilling victory right in front of them, the Jaguars got bogged down when they couldn’t afford to.

On third down, Maurice Jones-Drew picked up 3 yards and a first at Cleveland’s 2 with 33 seconds left. Coach Jack Del Rio elected not to use his only timeout, and by the time the Jaguars snapped the ball again, 20 seconds had elapsed. Jones-Drew then picked up another yard and Del Rio called time with 8 seconds left.

Del Rio said the play took too long to run.

“We were way too deliberate,” Del Rio said. “You get lined up in that situation for sure. It wasn’t a matter of the timeout after that play, it was a matter of how long we sat there to get that (first down) play off. It was not what it needed to be.”

On second down, Gabbert’s pass to the back corner of the end zone bounced off wide receiver Jason Hill’s chest with 3 seconds left. Browns cornerback Joe Haden believed he got a hand on Gabbert’s throw.

Then, on the final play, Gabbert couldn’t connect with Thomas, allowing the Browns to escape.

Gabbert wasn’t going to second-guess anything that happened. He just wants to learn from the experience.

“Hindsight is 20-20,” said Gabbert, who went 22 of 41 for 210 yards. “Everyone is going to have their opinion and think they have the best play to call, but it’s our job to go out and execute. We’ve got to put the ball in the end zone.”

Jones-Drew rushed for 87 yards and a 6-yard TD.

Del Rio was asked why he didn’t give the ball to his best player on the last play.

“”You can make a case for doing that,” Del Rio said. “You can guess any number of plays when you don’t connect. We had two guys with the ball in the air in the vicinity — missed opportunities.”

Jones-Drew didn’t second-guess the late-game decisions. He reasoned that wouldn’t change the final score.

“It hurts every time you lose, especially when you have an opportunity to win,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep working. Somehow, some way, the locker room has to get tired of losing. That’s on the offensive side. Ten points is not going to win the game in this league at all. Our defense has been good week after week. We’ve got to make plays.

“If you can’t make plays, there’s no need to be playing football.”

When the Jaguars moved inside Cleveland’s 10, quarterback Colt McCoy took a knee on the sideline, closed his eyes and the young quarterback asked for some help from above.

This week, the Browns got it.

“There’s nothing wrong with praying,” McCoy said. “We deserved this one.”

Last week, the Browns lost 13-12 to the St. Louis Rams when Cleveland botched a snap and reliable kicker Phil Dawson missed a 22-yard field goal try. This one nearly ended under similar circumstances as Jacksonville’s final drive was set up by Dawson missing a 38-yarder that sailed over the top of the right post.

“Everybody played their hearts out and it’s about time it went our way,” said Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who covered Thomas tightly on the final play. “We knew it was up to us. Right there. We had to make the play and we did.”

McCoy shook off an apparent shoulder injury and threw a 3-yard TD pass to Josh Cribbs in the fourth to give Cleveland a 14-10 lead. But Dawson’s stunning miss with 2:49 left gave the Jaguars (3-7) a final chance and Gabbert, who had some good and bad moments, nearly pulled off the comeback.

Notes: Browns RB Chris Ogbonnaya rushed for 115 yards and scored on a 1-yard run … Jaguars LBs Clint Session, Matt Roth and CB Kevin Rutland left with head injuries. Del Rio provided no details. … Jaguars TE Mercedes Lewis had 7 catches for 64 yards. … Jaguars S Dawan Landry intercepted McCoy near the end zone in the third. … Jacksonville’s TD drive took 18 plays, covered 92 yards and ate up 9:53.

Texans Handle Jaguars in 24-14 Victory

Arian Foster rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown, and Houston shut down rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the NFL’s worst offense in a 24-14 win over the Jaguars on Sunday.

Matt Schaub threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score for Houston (5-3), off to its best eight-game start. The Texans also took one more step toward the franchise’s first division title and playoff berth by improving to 3-0 in the AFC South.

“We knew it was going to be a tough, dirty game,” said Houston linebacker Brian Cushing, who led his team with seven tackles. “In this league, it’s tough to get a win. We just had to do what we had to do.”

The Texans have outscored their division opponents by a total score of 99-28. This was the closest of the three games, mostly due to two Houston fumbles that led to Jacksonville touchdowns.

Schaub completed 16 of 30 passes and was sacked twice, and the Texans once again missed star receiver Andre Johnson, who sat out for the fourth straight game with a hamstring injury.

Unlike past seasons, Houston can rely on its defense to pick up the slack.

The Texans stayed in control by holding Jacksonville to 61 yards and five first downs in the second half. Gabbert, making his sixth career start, completed 10 of 30 passes for 97 yards and two interceptions in the game, for an anemic 26.7 rating.

“We had a defense that stood up and said, ‘We’re gonna win the game,'” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. “They were excellent all day, exceptional.”

The Jaguars (2-6) couldn’t carry over momentum from their surprising 12-7 win over Baltimore on Monday night. Maurice Jones-Drew was limited to 63 yards on 18 carries, and says the entire offense bears some of the blame for Gabbert’s struggles.

“We have to continue to give him time in the pocket. We have to catch the ball when he throws it,” Jones-Drew said. “The quarterback is only as good as the players around him. So obviously, if he’s not doing well, we’re not doing well.”

The Texans got off to another fast start, scoring on their opening series for the fifth time. Schaub went 4 for 5 and then sprinted for a 2-yard touchdown with 8:21 left in the first quarter.

Jacksonville’s sixth-ranked defense held Baltimore to 34 yards rushing Monday night, but Houston matched that total on its first three possessions.

Gabbert was hurt on Jacksonville’s first series. Forced to scramble, he slid awkwardly at the end of an 11-yard run and was hit by safety Glover Quin and Cushing.

Trainers helped Gabbert off the field with bruised ribs, and Luke McCown replaced him. Gabbert returned on Jacksonville’s next possession, then threw five straight incompletions.

The Texans’ offense bogged down, too, failing to convert three consecutive third downs.

“We wanted to get everyone involved,” Schaub said. “We had some opportunities down the field, and I missed a few of the throws. I’ve got to make those plays for us to be successful as an offense.”

A slick play by Jacksonville’s defense midway through the second quarter created the Jaguars’ best scoring chance of the game.

Clint Session sacked Schaub and forced a fumble, triggering an impromptu double-lateral. Defensive end Matt Roth scooped it up, then flipped the ball backward to defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. Knighton chugged 7 yards, then pitched to Session who reached the Texans 10 before Foster tackled him.

Two snaps later, Gabbert threw a short TD pass to Jason Hill, Jacksonville’s first touchdown since the third quarter of a 17-13 loss to Pittsburgh two weeks ago.

The Jaguars were lucky to be tied at halftime after producing 113 yards in the half.

“We are working our butts off,” Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio said, “and I’d sure like to have a little more validation for the type of effort that’s being put forth.”

Jacoby Jones returned a punt to the Jaguars 44 early in the third quarter, and Schaub threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Joel Dreessen.

Jason Allen intercepted Gabbert’s pass to Mike Sims-Walker on the first play of the fourth quarter, and the Texans stretched the lead on Foster’s 4-yard touchdown run.

Jones-Drew scored on a drive set up by Ben Tate’s fumble. The Texans used nearly the rest of the time to set up Neil Rackers’ 39-yard field goal.

Notes: Foster has 12 100-yard rushing games, a franchise record. … Texans LB Darryl Sharpton is out for the season after tearing a tendon in his right leg. … Jaguars PK Josh Scobee had his streak of 15 games with a field goal snapped. … Jacksonville is 5-9 in the week after playing a Monday night game.

Jets’ Defense Removes All Doubt Against Jaguars

But over by the far bank of lockers, where Darrelle Revis resides, there was a brief lecture given in Trash-Talking 101.

It was one thing that his coach, Rex Ryan, and the team’s defensive staff had challenged the unit to improve after a leaky game last week, to match expectation with performance. It was quite another for a Jaguars backup receiver, Jason Hill, to insinuate that Revis did not deserve his reputation as the best shutdown cornerback in football. Revis said he was “so sad, so sad, so sad” that Hill did not play Sunday because of a hip injury.

“I guess he got the New York Jets flu,” Revis said.

If so, Hill must have spread it among his teammates. The Jets’ defense, when it harasses, pesters and swarms as it did Sunday, has that effect on teams. It can make them sick. On a day when offset two touchdown passes with two interceptions, he looked like Joe Namath compared with his Jacksonville counterpart, Luke McCown, who was sacked for a safety and completed nearly as many passes to Jets defenders (four) as he did to his own players (six). McCown’s quarterback rating was 1.8 — the lowest ever against the Jets.

“That’s not my personal record, but we’re working on it,” Ryan said.

Next week, perhaps? Through two games, the Jets are 2-0, just as they expected, just as they planned, heading into a stretch of three difficult games away from MetLife Stadium — at Oakland, Baltimore and New England.

They are 2-0 despite a modest showing by Sanchez, who after throwing for 182 yards flogged himself for committing two more turnovers, and an ankle injury to the All-Pro center Nick Mangold, who hobbled around in a boot and on crutches. X-rays were negative, but a magnetic resonance imaging test is expected Monday.

“Just blocking, I got rolled up on,” said Mangold, who declined to speculate on his status. “And then, pain.”

When they review the game tape Monday, the Jets are bound to identify several trouble spots, among them Sanchez’s interceptions, their seven penalties and an offensive line that worked to gain continuity after Mangold was replaced in the first quarter by Colin Baxter.

But on first blush, Ryan said he was pleased, pleased that both areas that had been isolated for improvement — first-quarter efficiency and defense, as a whole — had rewarded him.

During their team meeting Saturday night, Ryan challenged his offense, which had not produced a first-quarter touchdown in 16 games. If the Jets won the coin toss, he said, he would defy his standard philosophy of deferring to the second half. We’re taking the ball, he told them.

“He mentioned it,” right guard Brandon Moore said, allowing a brief smile as he expressed an understatement.

So when the Jets, represented at midfield by the entire offensive line and fullback John Conner, as if to punctuate Ryan’s point, did win the toss, Sanchez responded by directing a 65-yard drive capped by Santonio Holmes’s leaping 17-yard catch in the end zone. On the play, Holmes beat Drew Coleman, who had about as good a day as the Jacksonville secondary’s other former Jet, Dwight Lowery, who later delivered a late hit on Sanchez.

Sanchez popped up then to continue that third-quarter drive, which ended with Dustin Keller’s 11-yard touchdown catch, but left with the score 32-3 after being struck on the hand by Matt Roth on his final pass attempt.

Sanchez bemoaned his failed conversions and missed opportunities, lamenting how the Jets should have scored more points — and more often — than the two second-quarter field goals by Nick Folk. But the Jets could afford to live with such inefficiency because of a defense that took exception to yielding 390 yards last week to Dallas and, to a lesser extent, being reminded all week of how Jacksonville manhandled it during the teams’ last meeting, in November 2009.

“Constantly,” said Calvin Pace, who added of Ryan: “He’s always hard on defense. Rex doesn’t really give us a lot of love. It’s always not enough. It keeps us in the right mind frame.”

Antonio Cromartie had two interceptions, nearly returning one for a touchdown, and also averaged 42.5 yards on two kickoff returns. Eric Smith settled for one interception, though he could have had three. Muhammad Wilkerson, two games into his Jets career, has already produced more sacks than Vernon Gholston, the team’s last first-round pick at defensive end. It was Wilkerson who in the first quarter grabbed McCown at the Jaguars’ 1 and tossed him into the end zone like a sandbag. The safety gave the Jets a 9-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.

“Obviously, at that point, you’ve got them on their heels,” safety Jim Leonhard said. “You can start getting more aggressive and coming after them, and that’s what we did. We didn’t let up today. With the talent that we have, if we execute the game well and don’t make mistakes, we can do this to teams.”

By Ryan’s convoluted math, conference games are worth a game and a quarter in the standings, and so their next nine games will carry extra importance. At times, they played sloppily on Sunday. At times, their offense sputtered, though it did gain 101 yards on the ground.

But an overmatched opponent is no match at all for the Jets, whose fans recognized as much. Pockets of empty seats began forming early in the second half, and grew bigger as the fourth quarter started. Those who did stick around ostensibly did so to revel in a blowout, as rare around these parts for the Jets as steak tartare. It tasted just as good, too.

“When we watch the film tomorrow,” Revis said, “it should be all hoorays.”