ReFo: Jaguars @ Browns, Week 13
As the Cleveland Browns hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, they did so with their slim playoff hopes hanging by a thread. Taking an early lead, they somehow managed to give the ball back to the Jaguars three times inside the final three minutes of the first half, finding themselves down 20-14 at the half.
Three lead changes in the fourth quarter lead to the Jaguars taking the lead for the final time with 45 seconds to go, winning their third on the bounce and leaving the Browns looking to the future.
It was a game that featured a standout performance from a member of both teams, and had plenty of talking points despite both team’s records heading in. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at which players stood out.
Jacksonville — Three Performances of Note
It hasn’t been the season Jaguars fans would have hoped for from Jason Babin (+4.4), but his performance on Sunday marked his highest grade of the season, and was a bit like rewinding the clock to the player we saw in 2011 and early 2012. He didn’t do too much against the run, though he certainly wasn’t pushed around either, but it was as a pass rusher where he shone.
His two sacks marked a season high, with Babin adding a hit and three hurries giving him six total pressures from 37 pass rushing attempts. All but one of those attempts, and all of the pressure came from the left side of the defense, with his Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 14.3 coming as a result of his work against Mitchell Schwartz and Shawn Lauvao. One of those pressures came on 3rd-and-4 with 14 seconds left in the first half, with Babin getting round Schwartz and knocking the ball from quarterback Brandon Weeden’s grasp, allowing the Jaguars to add a field goal before the break.
Young Secondary Flashes
While the Jaguars went through some growing pains early in the season, and surely still face some ahead, their young secondary continues to show flashes of brilliance that point to better days ahead. Dwayne Gratz (+1.9), John Cyprien (+1.1) and Alan Ball (+1.5) all showed something on Sunday, even if they did have a couple of scares as well. Gratz found himself targeted 10 times, allowing seven receptions for 98 yards, including 79 yards to Josh Gordon. However, all three of the passes which didn’t result as a reception came as a result of Gratz making a play on the ball, with an interception and two pass break-ups.
Opposite Gratz, Ball allowed just 27 yards through the air from five targets, with a break-up of his own. Second-round draft pick Cyprien, who had his third consecutive positively graded game, was more up and down, but his interception on 1st-and-10 with 2:47 left in the first half was the highlight of his day. Taking advantage of an errant throw by Weeden and returning the ball all the way to the Cleveland 17-yard line.
Ace in the Hole
As impressive as the young players in the defensive backfield were, it was their fourth round rookie receiver Ace Sanders (+2.1) who provided the excitement for the offense. Picking up six first downs, with another called back by penalty, he finished the game with a career-high 67 yards through the air. His longest reception of the day was his most important, beating Tashaun Gipson on a hitch-and-go on 2nd-and-5 with 3:44 to go in the game, setting the Jaguars up at midfield on what wound up being their game-winning drive. 51 of his 67 yards came from the slot, with Sanders averaging an impressive 2.22 Yards Per Route Run.
Cleveland — Three Performances of Note
Record-Breaking Day for Gordon
As has become the norm for the Browns this season, wide receiver Josh Gordon (+5.4) stole the show. Despite playing for just a little over three quarters, missing the third quarter after a big hit, Gordon put up astronomical numbers, reeling in 10 catches for 261 yards and two touchdowns. Coming from just 35 routes run, Gordon finished the game averaging 7.46 YPRR, the highest single game mark for a receiver in 2013.
He got his yards in a variety of different ways, including adjusting to a slightly underthrown ball by Weeden on 1st-and-10 with 11:58 left in the first quarter, doing well to keep his feet in bounds for his first big reception of the game. He looked to have put the Browns ahead for good on 1st-and-10 with 4:09 left on the clock, catching the ball on a hitch route before speeding away from Cyprien and Gratz for a 95-yard score. Gordon now has 498 yards in the last two games, with 212 Yards after the Catch alone.
Flashes from the Rookie
Drafted with the sixth overall pick in April’s draft, Barkevious Mingo (+1.9) hasn’t exactly had a rookie year for the ages, registering four sacks, six hits and 13 hurries through 11 games. On Sunday he may not have blown anyone away, but he did have more splash plays that we’ve seen from him in recent weeks.
On 2nd-and-10 with 8:05 left in the fourth quarter he beat left tackle Cameron Bradfield with an inside spin, getting a hit on quarterback Chad Henne. That came after coming away with a batted pass on 1st-and-10 with 4:10 left in the first half and then beating Bradfield again, this time outside for a tackle in the run game. The consistency isn’t there with Mingo yet, but at least he is flashing the ability that saw him drafted so high.
Finding Ways to Lose
A few weeks ago against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns fell apart in the second quarter, with the team looking like they were trapped in quicksand, sliding deeper as they tried to kick their way out. Sunday’s game against the Jaguars had that same feel, with three Brandon Weeden turnovers at the end of the first half resulting in a 13-point swing in Jacksonville’s favor.
The Browns had three one-play drives that resulted in turnovers, starting with Weeden’s two first half interceptions. They somehow managed to survive that, building a lead midway through the fourth quarter, but once again they found a way to let it slip away. On 1st-and-10 with 7:47 to go, center Alex Mack snapped the ball over Weeden’s head, with the last year’s first round draft pick forced with kick the ball out of the back of the end zone just to prevent a Jaguars touchdown.
– Weeden completed just 12.5% of his passes when under pressure, jumping to 71.9% when the Browns were able to keep Babin and company away from him.
– Maurice Jones-Drew forced just one missed tackle from 23 rushing attempts, with backup Jordan Todman forcing three from five attempts.
– The Browns were able to pressure Henne on just 10 of his 42 drop-backs.
PFF Game Ball
It may have come in a losing effort, but in becoming the only receiver to ever post back to back 200-yard receiving games, Josh Gordon left little option for the PFF Game Ball to go anyone else.
Follow Gordon on Twitter.