It would be easy – and probably correct – to say that the play of the game in the Browns' 23-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium actually occurred Saturday afternoon about a half-hour into the Jags' two-hour flight to the North Coast, somewhere over the state of Georgia.
That's when the Jaguars, upon hearing Sunday's frigid forecast for Cleveland (it was 16 degrees at kickoff, with a wind-chill of minus-10), being aware that they've struggled on the road all season, and fully realizing they had about as much chance to make the playoffs as a sumo wrestler does of being a Chippendale, said, "Thanks, but no thanks" to giving it their all against the Browns. If there had been a post office on the plane, then they would have mailed it in via air-mail, turned the plane around and headed back to the relative warmth of the Sunshine State.
But because the OBR wants the play of the game to be about what guys do on the football field and not what crosses their minds when they sitting in coach, we can't go there.
So with that in mind, then, we go to the second half.
The Browns had vaulted to a gaudy 20-3 lead with Jerome Harrison's six-yard touchdown run into a wide-open end zone to complete a 10-play, 67-yard drive, and for maybe the first time all year in this nightmarish season, they got bored.
Ho-hum. The Browns were certain they were going to win, so they quit playing.
And who could blame them? It looked to everyone – probably even to the disinterested Jaguars -- like they were going to win.
But then the Jaguars woke up – at least temporarily – and took advantage of the Browns' lethargy and showed some spunk offensively for the first time all day. Beginning at the Jacksonville 21, they marched the 79 yards for a TD in nine plays, the score coming as David Garrard threw six yards to tight end Zach Miller, who was standing all alone in the back of the end zone.
When Josh Scobee kicked the extra point, the Jaguars had cut the lead to 10 points, at 20-10, with 10:30 left in the game.
That got the Browns' attention – and also got them irritated, for now they had to go to work again.
And so they did.
But it didn't happen immediately.
After Joshua Cribbs returned the ensuing kickoff nine yards to the Cleveland 25, the members of the Jaguars defense huddled near the line of scrimmage while the Cleveland offense was huddling about eight yards away and seemed to be saying to one another, "This is our chance, guys, to get back into this game. Let's dig in and force them to go three plays and out and get the ball back for our offense."
The plan worked on first down, as Jerome Harrison ran over right tackle for just one yard to the 26.
That set up an important third-and-4, and if the Jaguars stopped Cleveland from converting, you could just sense the momentum that would build within the visitors.
Anderson, who was very pedestrian all day in completing 7-of-11 passes for 86 yards for a 49.8 quarterback rating, made his biggest throw of the day – and the play of the day – by threading the needle to tight end Evan Moore for 14 yards on the left side.
The Browns had a first down at their 45 with 8:28 remaining, and the Jaguars were done. Their "comeback" plan had been foiled.
Jacksonville's return to passiveness showed on the next play when Harrison spurted for nine yards over right tackle. Four plays later, the Browns put an exclamation point to it all when rookie wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi made his only catch of the day, hauling in a 14-yarder from Anderson to convert a third-and-11 from the Jacksonville 44.
That eventually led to Phil Dawson's third field goal of the day – a 33-yarder – to make it 23-10 with 2:17 left.
Sure, the Jaguars took the ensuing kickoff and drove 95 yards in 16 plays to get a score – on Garrard's 15-yard pass to Miller again – as time expired, but the Browns didn't care that that happened. All they wanted was for the clock to run out, which it did – along with the season, as the Browns won their fourth straight to finish 5-11 and make the year a little more palatable.