SPORTSTALK: THE JAG-OFF

VICTORY IS OURS: WEEK 7, JAGS VS. BROWNS

Cleveland got steamed, and the Jags discovered their running game

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On a clear day, you can see forever. And things like a “This Is Hoyer Country” banner, and a crowd full of more orange tops than a Road Crew convention. And so the question of the day was this: Could the Jaguars take back their house?

The first quarter offered some encouragement. The Jags defense got Brian Hoyer off the field before the Browns got to midfield. This week’s starting back, Denard Robinson, tore for 14 yards on an off-tackle rush on the Jags’ very first offensive play, the beginning of the best day by any Jags running back this year (62 first-quarter yards, 122 yards and a TD on the day).

The Jags kept eight in the box early, stalling Ben Tate and forcing the Browns into third-and-longs aplenty. Then the first Blake Bortles pick, returned into the Jags’ red zone. The defense, tougher with each passing week, especially the front seven, held them to three downs and a field goal.

Early in the second quarter, all looked swell (except for Bortles), despite the 3-0 deficit. Bortles got some short passes going, but lacked the line protection to go deep reliably. Blitzes are still a problem for the Jags’ overmatched line.

Bortles threw his second pick in Jaguars territory, with the Browns already up 6-0, but the Jags’ defense held, setting up a two-minute drill. Quick strikes to Robinson and Clay Harbor and a timely defensive penalty set up a 41-yard catch-and-run TD to Robinson and gave the Jags a halftime lead. Hoyer Country? Not so much.

After a dynamite halftime performance by the Bethune-Cookman marching band, the second half was on — the Jags with the ball and the lead going into the final 30. A huge Hoyer fumble recovery gave way to the Jags taking over inside the Browns’ 30, setting up a Josh Scobee chip shot. Armed with the lead, the defense was amped and Hoyer was shaken.

The Jags got a great third-quarter drive, highlighted by a couple Bortles runs. Jedd Fisch’s offense looked in sync, up until yet another crucial Bortles pick (his 10th this year). The game could easily have ended there. But it didn’t.

The Browns began to move the ball after the turnover, getting to midfield by quarter’s end. But then they turned it over on downs, though the Jags could do nothing with it. A series of punts followed, and then it happened: The Jags forced a fumble from the Browns’ returner, setting up first and goal, and a Denard Robinson TD put the Jags up 17-6. A Hoyer pick and a return to the Browns’ 5-year-line sealed it. A Storm Johnson TD provided insurance. (We’ve been waiting all year to see them run the ball like they did Sunday. It was awesome.)

The Bank partied like it was 1999.

Poz and Andre Branch injuries loom large for next week’s Miami game — a Miami team that rather convincingly put down the Chicago Bears this week — but the Jags nonetheless won what Gus Bradley called “a battle of wills.” The biggest Jags win since 2011.

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