Jaguars hoping for better results against Browns
The Jacksonville Jaguars easily could have forgotten about their last game against Cleveland.
It came in the 2009 season finale, with both teams out of postseason hunt. It came on a frozen field in negative wind-chill temperature. It came with several players and coaches who are no longer on the team.
Instead of brushing that 23-17 loss aside, the Jaguars have brought it up repeatedly this week. And with good reason.
''If you ever get beat up in a fight and you fight the guy again, I don't think there will ever be a letdown, even if you win two fights before,'' running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. ''They beat us up pretty bad. I remember leaving that game sore.''
The Browns manhandled Jacksonville on both lines in January. They held Jones-Drew to 82 yards rushing, sacked David Garrard three times and ran at will. The Browns finished with 214 yards on the ground.
The Jaguars (5-4) don't want it to happen again when the Browns (3-6) visit Sunday.
''We got whooped. We got beat down pretty bad,'' Jones-Drew said. ''That definitely adds to the preparation, knowing what happened last year and how they beat us.''
The win may have been even more pivotal for Cleveland. The Browns ended the season on a four-game winning streak and likely saved coach Eric Mangini's job.
The rematch could have considerably less intrigue. Both teams are coming off dramatic finishes, although they ended up on opposite ends of those games.
The Browns took the New York Jets to overtime, but lost on Santonio Holmes' 37-yard touchdown reception in the closing seconds of the game.
Although the tough loss could make it tough for the Browns to get into the postseason hunt, especially with four of their next five games on the road, running back Peyton Hillis believes it shows the team is on the right track.
''I think our team is finally hitting full stride,'' Hillis said. ''I think that we are coming together as a team, as a group and we are starting to feel each out a lot better than we did at the beginning of the year. I don't see any signs of a letdown.''
With recent wins against New Orleans and New England, the Browns feel like they're playing their best football since the end of last season.
''I think we've done a lot of good things,'' Mangini said. ''You go through a progression with the team: You learn how to grow, you learn how to compete, you learn how to win and you learn how to win consistently. We've made a lot of those steps, but for us, there's a type of football that we want to play and I think that we're getting better at doing that each week.''
The Jaguars, meanwhile, have won two in a row and four of their last six. They beat Houston 31-24 on Garrard's desperation pass to Mike Thomas on the final play Sunday, the fourth time in NFL history that a regular-season game ended on a pass play of at least 50 yards.
Garrard and Thomas have gotten extra attention all week, but coach Jack Del Rio doesn't anticipate it being a problem or leading to a letdown against the Browns.
''I don't think too much notice is a problem with the Jaguars,'' Del Rio said. ''For the most part, we fly fairly low below the radar, and I don't think that's an issue for our guys. You've got to go to some of the bigger markets for some of that.''
Another victory and a three-game winning streak could get the Jaguars more notice.
But another loss to the Browns would be a significant step back for a franchise that has playoff hopes. Last year's finale still resonates with general manager Gene Smith, Del Rio and players.
''They took it to us pretty good up there,'' Del Rio said. ''They're a physical unit and they were able to basically not even throw the ball all day, so that's not a good feeling defensively. We'll have to respond and find a way to get that slowed down.''
But Del Rio refused to blame anything - the weather, nothing to play for, being on the road - aside the Browns for the way things unfolded.
''I thought our guys fought hard through all of that,'' Del Rio said. ''I went back and looked at the tape again. I wouldn't lay it on any of that. I think they just out hit us and out played us.''