A week after their miraculous victory on the final play of the game, the Jacksonville Jaguars try to jump off Cloud Nine to get ready to host the upstart Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
The Jaguars won a memorable 31-24 decision over the Houston Texans last week when David Garrard’s “Hail Mary” heave on the final play of the game was caught by receiver Mike Thomas. The touchdown encompassed 50 yards and could play a huge role in both team’s playoff aspirations.
Jacksonville moved to 5-4 on the season with the victory. After losing two straight, the Jags are back over the .500 mark with two straight wins and are currently tied for second place in the AFC South, a game behind Indianapolis.
Thomas was having a strong game even before the stunning final touchdown. He finished with eight receptions for 149 yards and the touchdown pass that Houston’s Glover Quin batted right into the diminutive wide receiver’s hands. Thomas leads the team with 536 yards and 41 catches.
Maurice Jones-Drew leads Jacksonville with 745 yards on 186 carries. He’s scored five touchdowns, two them coming in last week’s win.
The Jaguars are without leading pass rusher Aaron Kampman, who was placed on season-ending injured reserved last week. Kampman’s loss showed immediately as struggling Houston quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s game. Andre Johnson ran wild on against the Jaguars, catching nine passes for 146 yards.
The Browns (3-6) don’t have that type of passing game. Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy has played well but Cleveland has been banking on the burly shoulders of running back Peyton Hillis.
Hillis shredded New England’s defense two weeks ago as Cleveland shocked the Patriots 34-14. Last week, Hillis scored once as the Browns nearly tamed another AFC East powerhouse before losing to the New York Jets in overtime 26-20.
Unlike the Jaguars, who won on the last play of their game, Cleveland lost when Santonio Holmes scored a 37-yard touchdown with just seconds remaining in overtime.
While Hillis piles up the yardage - he is 12th in the NFL in rushing with 726 yards - McCoy has efficiently managed the game for Cleveland. In four games he has thrown two touchdowns and two interceptions while passing for 183 yards a game.
While those numbers are certainly not Pro Bowl worthy, they are well ahead of the pace set by Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme, who are both battling injuries.
And perhaps more impressive is that McCoy has beaten New Orleans and New England this season while losing close decisions to the Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Jags are ranked 28th defensively in scoring and 29th against the pass.
Cleveland has won the last two meetings between the two teams, including last season when it defeated the Jags 23-17 at Cleveland. Jones-Drew rushed for 80 yards in the game without a score. Jerome Harrison, then the starting back for the Brown, rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown in the game.