JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It was close. It was entertaining.
And, it was another loss, the last for Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell.
Playing its third-string quarterback who hadn’t started a game since 2017, the Jaguars kept it interesting until the finish in a 27-25 loss to the Browns at TIAA Bank Field on Sunday. An hour later, owner Shad Khan announced that he had fired Caldwell as the long-expected housecleaning of the franchise began.
In what has become a theme in the second half of the season, Jacksonville played better than expected and stayed in the game longer than it should have. It pressed Cleveland (8-3) for the full game, but had a two-point conversion pass from Mike Glennon with just over two minutes to play fall incomplete.
It marked the 10th consecutive loss, the second-longest losing streak in franchise history, and longest single-season streak ever for the Jaguars.
The Jaguars (1-10) travel to Minnesota next week before closing things out with the Titans at home (Dec. 13), a trip to the Ravens (Dec. 20), back at home against the Bears (Dec. 27) and on the road against the Colts in the finale on Jan. 3. Jacksonville’s longest losing streak (13 games) covered the tail end of the 2012 season and bled over into late October 2013, Caldwell’s first full season as general manager.
The Browns had their issues early with a surprisingly aggressive Jacksonville defense that was playing without COVID-19-sidelined coordinator Todd Wash, but chipped away enough in the second half to pull away.
Jacksonville made it interesting though.
Glennon took Jacksonville right down the field and got the Jaguars in position to force a tie. Running back James Robinson’s 4-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes, 14 seconds to play got them within 27-25. Glennon’s two-point conversion pass to Collin Johnson was smothered by the Browns to prevent the tie.
Cleveland scratched out two first downs after that to seal the victory.
That Jacksonville even had a shot at that point was a credit to its defense.
Facing fourth-and-1 at the Jaguars 22 with 5:42 left, the Browns bypassed the points for a shot at putting the Jaguars away for good. But Adam Gotsis smothered Kareem Hunt for no gain and set Glennon and the Jaguars up for a drive to try and tie it.
Jacksonville played far better offensively against Cleveland with veteran Glennon at quarterback than it fared a week earlier with turnover-prone rookie Jake Luton, who was picked off four times by the Steelers in a 27-3 loss.
Glennon played well in his first start since a Week 4 game in 2017 when he was with the Bears. He finished 20 of 35 for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Jaguars didn’t have a turnover.
Glennon’s first touchdown pass was a toss — and a grab — of beauty. Glennon floated a pass down the left sideline to Johnson, who split the defense, raced to the end zone, lunged for the pylon and laid out to get in.
Jacksonville regained the lead on another Glennon touchdown pass, a 2-yard strike to Tyler Eifert on another excellent grab and what should have been a three-point lead.
But a flag on the Browns after kicker Aldrick Rosas’ point after made coach Doug Marrone change his mind. Instead of keeping the points on the board, Marrone gambled and went for two. Glennon’s pass to Keelan Cole was well off and Jacksonville settled for a 19-17 lead. That play loomed significant in the final minute.
Secondary coach Joe Danna called defensive plays in the absence of coordinator Wash, who was forced to miss the game due to COVID-19 concerns. Robinson continued to stockpile a spectacular rookie season. He had 128 rushing yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. And rookie receiver Johnson had a stellar afternoon with four catches for 96 yards.