CLEVELAND — Colt McCoy took a knee on Cleveland’s sideline, closed his eyes and the young quarterback asked for some help from above.
This week, the Browns got it.
“There’s nothing wrong with praying,” McCoy said.
Jacksonville rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s pass into the end zone on the game’s last play was incomplete, allowing the Browns to escape with a 14-10 win over the Jaguars on Sunday.
As McCoy watched helplessly, Gabbert rifled a 3-yard pass high over the middle that was off the mark and caromed off wide receiver Mike Thomas’ outstretched hands, and the Browns (4-6) celebrated a win they nearly gave away.
“We deserved this one,” McCoy said. “Our team deserved this.”
Last week, the Browns lost 13-12 to the St. Louis Rams when Cleveland botched a snap and reliable kicker Phil Dawson missed a 22-yard field goal try. This one nearly ended under similar circumstances as Jacksonville’s final drive was set up by Dawson missing a 38-yarder that sailed over the top of the right post.
“Everybody played their hearts out and it’s about time it went our way,” said Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who covered Thomas tightly on the final play. “We knew it was up to us. Right there. We had to make the play and we did.”
McCoy shook off an apparent shoulder injury and threw a 3-yard TD pass to Josh Cribbs in the fourth to give Cleveland a 14-10 lead. But Dawson’s stunning miss with 2:49 left gave the Jaguars (3-7) a final chance and Gabbert, who had some good and bad moments, nearly pulled off the comeback.
“It’s not the ending we were looking for,” said Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, who defended his use of the clock in the final minute. “It’s not the first time this year we’ve had the opportunity. We’re really looking for that breakout, game-winning drive. We had a chance for our quarterback to take us down. He took us down. We were knocking on the door. We just couldn’t close it out.”
Chris Ogbonnaya rushed for 115 yards and scored on a 1-yard run for Cleveland, ending a TD drought at home that lasted more than 158 minutes. The Browns had scoring drives of 87 and 85 yards, rarities in the offense’s first season under coach Pat Shurmur.
But Shurmur knows he can count on his defense, and the Browns’ didn’t disappoint.
“I did trust that we would get them stopped,” Shurmur said. “I trust our defense.”
The Browns appeared in control when Dawson booted his 38-yarder toward the goal post. However, the officials standing directly under the uprights ruled the high kick went wide right. Dawson argued that his kick should have counted, but referee Terry McAulay announced the attempt could not be reviewed because it sailed above the post.
“The way we saw it was part of the ball was outside of the outside edge of the upright,” said McAulay, whose crew had a few other tough calls to make.
Gabbert then drove the Jaguars down the field and Jacksonville caught a break when Browns cornerback Joe Haden was called for interference in the final minute on third down.
Maurice Jones-Drew was stopped twice inside the 5, and the Browns were fortunate when Gabbert’s pass on second-and-goal went off wide receiver Jason Hill’s chest in the back corner of the end zone with 3 seconds left. Haden believed he got a hand on Gabbert’s throw.
That set up a dramatic finale, and this one went Cleveland’s way, giving the Browns a much-needed win before their schedule gets rougher.
Jackson said he was ready for the pass.
“I anticipated the play and that’s a tough route to cover because he’s kind of going away,” Jackson said. “He came into my zone and I went with him. His arms went up, I saw that. I put my arms up. He didn’t catch it, that’s all I know and all that matters.”
Del Rio was asked why he didn’t hand the ball to Jones-Drew on the last play.
“You can make a case for doing that,” Del Rio said. “You can guess any number of plays when you don’t connect. We had two guys with the ball in the air in the vicinity — missed opportunities.”
McCoy completed 17 of 24 passes for 199 yards. And while his numbers were efficient, the second-year QB again showed he’s a gamer by staying in despite hurting his right shoulder. Afterward, McCoy said his shoulder was “OK” but didn’t know if he would need an MRI.
Shurmur doesn’t need any proof that McCoy, who was down on himself following a key interception near Jacksonville’s end zone in the third, can handle himself physically.
“Colt has taken some licks this year,” Shurmur said. “He bounced back well. He is learning to forget a bad play and move on.”
Gabbert was 22 of 41 for 210 yards, and Jones-Drew rushed for 87 yards on 21 carries.
Josh Scobee kicked a 42-yard field goal to bring the Jaguars within 14-10 with 5:39 left.
The Browns finally found their way into the end zone in the second quarter, when Ogbonnaya’s first career TD, a 1-yard run, tied it at 7.
It was Cleveland’s first touchdown at home since Oct. 2, a drought of 158 minutes, 15 seconds — or 2 hours, 38 minutes and 15 seconds, nearly the length of time it takes to play an entire NFL game.
“We’re starting to do things right,” McCoy said.
Jones-Drew powered up the middle for a 6-yard TD run, capping Jacksonville’s 92-yard scoring drive that devoured 9:32 off the clock. Jones-Drew dragged two defenders into the end zone and followed with a celebration designed to irk Cleveland fans by imitating the powder toss NBA superstar LeBron James started while he played for the Cavaliers.
Notes: Browns rookie WR Greg Little had 5 catches for 59 yards. ... Browns WR Mohamed Massaquoi had 2 catches after missing the previous two games with a concussion. ... Jaguars LBs Clint Session, Matt Roth and RB Kevin Rutland left with head injuries. Del Rio provided no details on the injuries.