CLEVELAND (AP) — With a smack-talking, quarterback-sacking defense, Jacksonville is all alone atop the AFC South.
The Jaguars intend to stay there.
Blake Bortles threw a touchdown pass , linebacker Telvin Smith recovered a fumble for a TD with 1:14 remaining on Sunday and the surprising Jaguars won their fourth straight, 19-7 over the winless Browns to move into sole possession of first place in their division.
Jacksonville’s top-ranked “Sacksonville” defense forced five turnovers, including two in the final two minutes when the Browns were still within six points.
“We’ve got some good players on that side of the ball,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said of a defense that has recorded 40 sacks and allowed a league-low 141 points. “There’s not really a lot you can do, trying to win the game on the other side. It’s hard to sit back there. I see it in practice.
“You’ve got those cats coming at you and those guys covering. They did a nice job.”
The Jaguars (7-3) built a 10-0 lead and turned things over to a defense gaining confidence and developing a nasty reputation. They intercepted Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer twice, recorded five sacks and blanked the Browns (0-10) in the second half.
Cleveland’s last hopes ended when Yannick Ngakoue swarmed Kizer and knocked the ball into the end zone, where Smith recovered . Earlier, Ngakoue and Calais Campbell combined to sack Kizer, who fumbled as he fell and it was recovered near mid-field by Dante Fowler with 1:48 left.
With the win, Jacksonville is leading its division after 10 games for the first time since 1999, when the Jags were atop the AFC Central at 9-1.
It’s a stunning turnaround for a team that went 3-13 last year and wasn’t expected to do much.
Josh Lambo kicked a pair of field goals for the Jaguars, who have held six opponents to seven points or less.
On a blustery, rainy and snowy afternoon along Lake Erie, the warm-weather Jaguars were unable to move the ball with much success. But their defense came through again with another impressive performance, and backed up safety Tashaun Gipson’s prediction that Jacksonville would keep the Browns winless.
Earlier in the week, Gipson, a former Pro Bowler in Cleveland, ripped the Browns’ front office and said his former team will “probably go 0-16.” He also predicted a shutout.
While his forecast was slightly off, the Jaguars extended their longest winning streak since 2007 and continued their climb.
“I would have had to play quarterback if I had to for us to get a win,” Gipson said. “I knew we couldn’t leave out of here without a win, but they definitely kind of got me nervous a little bit at about the five-minute mark. Blood started rising a little bit like, ‘Man I can’t leave Cleveland with a loss, man.’ I’m going to have to delete my social media.”
The Browns fell to 1-25 under coach Hue Jackson and are 4-43 since Nov. 30, 2014 — the worst 47-game stretch in NFL history.
“I am trying to win,” he said. “These players are trying to win. … This team is in games. This team is hanging around games. The defense is playing good. The offense will make a play here and there. We just do not make enough NFL plays to win the game. That is what we have to do, and we have to do it better.”
With the wind affecting every pass, the Jaguars stayed on the ground. Rookie Leonard Fournette, who has been slowed by a sore ankle, finished with 111 yards on 28 carries.
“He’s a tough kid,” Bortles said. “He’s a guy that everyone loves to have on their team. The offensive lineman love blocking for him. I love giving him the ball as much as possible cause he runs his tail off.”
Browns DE Emmanuel Ogbah will likely miss the rest of the season with a broken foot. Jackson said the second-year pro will be out for “some significant time.” Ogbah has been playing well lately.
“I hate that for him, I really do,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “I saw the look in his eyes at halftime, and it was tough. He’s been playing really well and you just want to see him continue to grow.
Browns: WR Sammie Coates sustained an injury to his right knee and ankle in the first quarter and did not return. … DT Jamie Meder’s day was ended by a left ankle injury in the first.
Jaguars: WR Marqise Lee limped off the field in the first quarter but returned after having his left ankle re-taped. … WR Kellan Cole bruised his ribs in the first quarter but came back.
Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon worked out on the field before the game. Gordon was recently re-instated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being suspended for the past two seasons. He can begin practicing this week and will be eligible to play for the first time since 2014 on Dec. 3 when Cleveland visits the Los Angeles Rams.
A Pro Bowler in 2013 when he led the league with 1,646 yards receiving, Gordon has missed 53 of Cleveland’s last 58 games.
Jaguars: At Arizona.
Browns: At Cincinnati.
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