JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Guard Uche Nwaneri has heard all sorts of excuses for opponents losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars in recent weeks.
They're amusing - and insulting.
"It's ridiculous," Nwaneri said Monday. "Really, are we a high school team and you have to apologize to your city because you lost to us? Come on, man. This is the NFL. Every win is a hard-earned win.
"There's rarely just easy sailing for any team throughout the season. When you're able to pull out a win, you celebrate it. When you lose, you try to be as gracious as you can in defeat. But don't trivialize our win because we came in here with a record that wasn't as good as yours."
The Jaguars (3-1) have won three of their last four games, all since starting the season with eight consecutive losses by double digits. It's been a modest turnaround that coincides with coach Gus Bradley's team playing better and a considerably easier second-half schedule. The Jaguars host Houston (2-10) on Thursday night.
Despite Jacksonville's recent success, opponents have been less than complimentary afterward.
Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker called losing to the Jaguars "disgusting." Bradley's team was winless at the time.
"I'm embarrassed," Walker said. "A team that's 0-8 comes in here and beats us? Beats us on our home field, that's 0-8, the Jaguars? Come on."
Houston running back Ben Tate said he felt bad for the city following a 13-6 loss to Jacksonville on Nov. 23. Receiver Andre Johnson called it the "lowest point" in his NFL career.
Cleveland players were less dramatic after Sunday's 32-28 loss to Jacksonville, but they made it clear they felt like they blew a winnable game.
"It's funny 'cause we're all professional athletes here," Nwaneri said. "I remember when they used to have jokes about the Bengals, the Browns. The stuff they say after they lose to us, it's like, 'What's somebody going to say if they lose to you, you know, because you lost to us.' It's funny. I don't really care, but it is amusing to be on the field and to hear them complain.
"It sounds like a child complaining because they can't have their way."
The Jaguars drove 80 yards in the closing minutes to beat the Browns. Chad Henne found Cecil Shorts III for a 20-yard touchdown with 45 seconds remaining to put Jacksonville up four. Shorts beat cornerback Joe Haden with a double move on a third-and-9 play.
It a happy homecoming for Shorts, who grew up in Cleveland rooting for the Browns.
He bristled Monday when asked about opponents hitting "rock bottom" by losing to Jacksonville.
"I couldn't care less what they think," Shorts said. "It's the NFL. You're going to win or lose each week. You've got to bring your best that week. For us, we're getting better. We've been 3-1 since the bye week, so if they've got a problem with it come see us. That's how I feel about it."
The Jaguars scored 15 points off turnovers against Cleveland, taking advantage of three turnovers late in the first half and a botched snapped in the fourth that resulted in a safety. Those points surely helped Jacksonville keep it close, especially since the Jaguars struggled to cover Josh Gordon (10 catches for 261 yards and two touchdowns).
Gordon's 95-yard score with 4:09 remaining looked like it would seal a victory for Cleveland.
But the Jaguars answered - and left another team searching for answers.
"It's any given Sunday in this league," Henne said. "Anybody can come out and beat anybody. You saw what happened. Look at Atlanta. You thought they were going to be a Super bowl contender this year and you see what happened to them. Teams are going to have struggles, but the best teams are the ones that finish strong and just keep getting better each and every week like we said and play their best football in December."
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