Posted: Sunday December 19, 1999 06:46 PM
CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- One week before playing in their biggest game of the season, the Jacksonville Jaguars were put to the test against the lowly Cleveland Browns before reality set in.
Fred Taylor rushed for 136 yards, including a crucial 41-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, as Jacksonville extended its franchise-record winning streak to 11 games with a 24-14 victory over Cleveland.
Jacksonville (13-1), which owns the best record in the NFL, was unable to lock up the AFC Central Division title, but maintained a two-game lead over Tennessee, one week before their showdown in Tennessee. Jacksonville suffered its only loss to Tennessee on September 26.
"I don't think we played well at all. I'm very disappointed," Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin said. "I don't care what the numbers are. It was not a good preparation for us and certainly not a good football game. I think our players would agree with that."
Ty Detmer, who replaced injured rookie quarterback Tim Couch late in the first half, threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Darrin Chiaverini to cut Jacksonville's lead to 17-14 with 1:20 left in the third quarter.
The Jaguars answered by getting down to the Cleveland 1, but the Browns stopped Jacksonville on 4th-and-goal as Mark Brunell threw an incomplete pass.
"I thought we had to do it," Coughlin said. "The ball was on the two-yard line and with three shots, you ought to get the ball in the end zone. You've got to rise up and win and put the ball in the end zone and when we don't do that. It's very disappointing."
Jacksonville forced the Browns to punt and got the ball back on the Cleveland 41. On the next play, Taylor ran off left guard for a 41-yard touchdown run to give the Jaguars a 24-14 lead with 10:10 left.
Brunell completed 21-of-33 for 267 yards and a touchdown and added a nine-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
The Jaguars lost linebacker Kevin Hardy to an apparent neck injury in the first quarter after he collided with teammate Tony Brackens helmet-to-helmet making a tackle. He was carted off the field on a stretcher, but X-rays were negative.
Couch, the top overall pick in the draft, suffered a sprained left ankle late in the second quarter after getting sacked by Brackens. He was carted off the field and did not return in the second half, but X-rays were negative. Couch completed 10-of-16 passes for 86 yards before getting knocked out.
Detmer, who was the starter earlier in the season, was 13-of-24 for 153 yards.
Terry Kirby had a one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter for Cleveland (2-13), which dropped to 0-7 at home. The expansion Browns will have a hard time winning its first game at home in four years as they face AFC East champion Indianapolis next week.
"I was proud of our football team," Cleveland coach Chris Palmer said. "We played well against a pretty good football team. It's a tribute to our players. They're giving us everything they have."
A fumble by Couch deep in Cleveland territory on the second play of the second quarter led to Jacksonville's first touchdown. The Jaguars got the ball at the Cleveland 6 and three plays later, Brunell connected with tight end Damon Jones on a three-yard touchdown pass.
Jimmy Smith, who broke his own single-season franchise record for receiving yards, reeled in two passes from Brunell to set up Jacksonville's second touchdown. Smith caught a 34-yard pass to the Cleveland 31 and added a 10-yard reception on 3rd-and-4 to the Cleveland 15. Two plays later, Brunell ran off left end for a nine-yard score to extend Jacksonville's lead to 14-0 with 8:13 left in the half.
A pass interference call on Jacksonville cornerback Aaron Beasley allowed Cleveland to get down to the Jacksonville 1.
Kirby ran off right tackle three plays later for a one-yard score to cut Jacksonville's lead in half with 2:09 remaining.
Cleveland offensive tackle Orlando Brown was thrown out of the game in the second quarter when he knocked over referee Jeff Triplette. The Browns were called for a false start and Triplette threw a flag, which inadvertently hit Brown in the eye. After receiving treatment, Brown left the field. But after reaching the sidelines, the 350-pound Brown returned to the field and shoved Triplette, received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and was ejected.
"Certainly, there was every effort to apologize because it was totally unintentional and inadvertent," Triplette said. "I have been officiating for almost 30 years and have never had anything like that happen."
Jacksonville moved out to a 17-7 advantage on its first drive of the third quarter as Mike Hollis kicked a 41-yard field goal.
The Jaguars racked up 442 yards of total offense. Smith, who entered today's game leading the NFC in receptions, had eight catches for 134 yards and has 1,367 receiving yards, breaking his mark of 1,324 yards set two seasons ago. Keenan McCardell added eight receptions for 96 yards.
Jacksonville, which entered the game with the NFL's top overall defense, limited Cleveland to 269 yards, including 72 on the ground.
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