It wasn't pretty but the Jaguars grabbed sole possession of first place in the AFC South Sunday with a 19-7 win over the Cleveland Browns.
The Jaguars are 7-3 following another impressive outing by Jacksonville's defense. The team's fourth-straight win also saw running back Leonard Fournette shake his struggles from the previous week.
The game was closer than it needed to be, as the Jaguars controlled the field position and time of possession battles. Still, there is something to be said about how the team battled through the adversity brought on by the windy, snowy conditions in Cleveland.
Here are 10 immediate observations following the Jaguars' win over the Browns on the road:
1. The turnover battle determined the final score
In the fourth quarter, the Jaguars produced three turnovers, which led to nine points. Those three turnovers helped the Jaguars put the score and game out of reach for the Browns.
Shortly before A.J. Bouye's interception in the fourth quarter, I tweeted out that the next turnover would lose the game for the team giving it up. Bouye's pick on Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer led to a 39-yard field goal for kicker Josh Lambo. It put the Jaguars up by six points, forcing the Browns to play for a touchdown on the last two drives.
The Browns pressed for a touchdown score, foregoing their plunge into field goal range with three minutes left in the game. The pressure eventually got to Kizer, as defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell sacked the young quarterback and forced him to fumble. Fellow defensive end Dante Fowler recovered the ball.
Even after that turnover, the Browns got a second chance with a minute and a half left on the clock. Yet again, Ngakoue forced a fumble and the Jaguars recovered. Linebacker Telvin Smith gained possession of the ball in the end zone, scoring a touchdown for the Jaguars. The score put the Jaguars in front, 19-7.
Speaking of Smith, his first-quarter interception on Kizer allowed the Jaguars to score after a listless pair offensive series.
The turnovers were the difference, as the Jaguars held possession for nearly 14 minutes more than the Browns.
The Jaguars won the turnover battle, 5-1.
2. Fournette shakes off Week 10 rust in Week 11
Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette hates the cold. However, he played relatively well in it.
Fournette looked sluggish during the Jaguars' Week 10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. He tweaked his right ankle injury, which caused him to be questionable leading into the game against the Browns.
After testing out the injury before kickoff, Fournette and the Jaguars determined he could play. The rookie running back offered up an impressive performance, rushing for 111 yards on 28 carries. He was able to break a few big chunk runs, helping the Jaguars maintain a clear advantage in the time of possession battle.
3. The inexperienced wide receiver group does enough
Rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook wanted to produce 200 receiving yards by himself during his NFL debut. The Jaguars' offense failed to produce 200 receiving yards as a group.
Westbrook finished with three catches for 35 yards. The group overall finished with 154 receiving yards.
The odds didn't look to be in the Jaguars' favor in the passing game but quarterback Blake Bortles was able to do enough with what he was given Sunday. The quarterback completed 17-of-30 passes for 154 passing yards and a touchdown.
Wide receivers like Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole and Westbrook were able to make some meaningful plays.
The Jaguars' tight ends chipped in as well. Veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis caught the Jaguars' lone offense touchdown completion.
4. The weather greatly impacted special teams, ball security
This was a sloppy game. The two teams combined for 10 fumbles during the matchup.
Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo missed a 41-yard field goal attempt due to the wind. Both punters offered some putrid results during various stages in the game because of the wind and snow flurries.
It's the NFL in November.
5. Parnell and Omameh were missed
The Jaguars' offense had some rough periods at the line of scrimmage Sunday.
While Fournette was able to gain ground and Bortles was able to take some shots downfield, there seemed to be several breakdowns in protection against the Browns.
Josh Wells and Chris Reed did their best to provide relief but there was clearly a difference without Jermey Parnell and Patrick Omameh in the lineup.
Reed was called for two penalties for 15 yards during his first start of the season. His holding call late in the second quarter forced a longer field goal for Lambo and the kicker missed.
Bortles was only sacked twice. However, for the second week in a row, he was asked to evade sacks by breaking several tackles.
6. Referees almost cost the Jaguars the game
We brought up the turnovers and fumble recoveries earlier. Fowler's recovery in the fourth quarter should have been returned for a touchdown.
The referees stopped the play because they thought Kizer was sacked to the ground before fumbling. Had they let the play continue, Fowler would have produced a clear recovery and return for a touchdown. It would have put the Jaguars up by at least 12 points, making it a two-score game.
The referees reviewed the fumble and overturned their decision on the field. It was an easy call to make after watching the review. However, the issue was that the ball wasn't returnable because the referees ruled the play dead.
The Jaguars' offense failed to take advantage of the turnover and eventually punted with a six-point lead. The one-score game offered the Browns the opportunity to take the lead with a touchdown and an extra point. Late in the fourth quarter, that could have doomed the Jaguars.
Luckily for Jacksonville, Ngakoue forced another fumble, which was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown for the Jaguars.
A similar situation happened with cornerback Aaron Colvin in Week 6 against the Los Angeles Rams. The referees blew the play dead when Colvin could have returned the ball for a touchdown. It ended up costing the Jaguars in a 27-17 loss.
7. Special teams offered up some struggles
Jacksonville had quite a few blunders in the game's third phase against the Browns.
The opening kickoff by Cleveland running back Matthew Dayes was returned for 53 yards, a successful onside kick was nullified by an offsides penalty and punter Brad Nortman had a few attempts he probably wants back.
New long snapper Colin Holba also had some issues with snaps during the game.
Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis has made the unit much better but there are still some issues to be sorted out at this point.
8. Jaguars' run defense continues to improve
The Jaguars struggled to consistently stop the run before the bye week. In the three games since the break, the Jaguars have been very hard to run on.
Part of the success comes from adding nose tackle Marcell Dareus. However, the Jaguars are also getting it done because incumbent talent has stepped up.
Abry Jones and Malik Jackson have played much better against the run as of late. Ngakoue and Campbell have also improved in that area.
The Jaguars held the Browns to just 50 rushing yards in a game that was close throughout the first three quarters.
9. The Jaguars sweep the AFC North
Jacksonville has clobbered the AFC North this season, producing a 4-0 record against the division. The group has outscored the division in 116-30 in four games. That's quite the accomplishment.
10. Jacksonville owns sole possession of the AFC South lead
The Jaguars are one game ahead of the Tennessee Titans (6-4) in the AFC South division race with six games to go. The Jaguars will play the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12. Arizona was defeated by the Houston Texans, 31-21, Sunday.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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