Jaguars credit improving defense for 1st win
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars call it the ''Sweet Six.''
It's a list of goals coach Gus Bradley has established for his defense: stop the run, affect the quarterback, limit third-down conversions, force field goals in the red zone, avoid explosive plays and create turnovers.
The Jaguars accomplished each one in Sunday's 24-6 win against Cleveland.
''All those things were check-marked,'' Bradley said. ''I thought that was a pretty good illustration to say if you just go out there and play hard, fast, together, somehow these things take care of themselves.''
It shouldn't have surprised anyone, either.
The Jaguars (1-6) have played well enough on defense to win their last three games. They allowed a combined 32 points in games against Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Cleveland, giving up just two touchdowns and surrendering an average of 309 yards.
''Guys are understanding the whole game plan,'' defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said. ''Nobody was trying to go out of their way to make a play. Nobody was trying to be Superman out there. We understand that the defense will take care of itself if everyone just does their job.''
Jacksonville held Cleveland to a season-low 266 yards, stuffing the league's third-best rushing attack and harassing Brian Hoyer early and often. The Jaguars allowed 69 yards on the ground, sacked Hoyer three times and held Cleveland to 4 of 17 on third down. They limited the Browns to two field goals on two trips inside the 20-yard line and stopped them on a fourth-and-1 play at the 24.
Throw in two turnovers - Hoyer fumbled and threw an interception - and Jacksonville's defense played about how many, including Bradley, expected it would going into the season.
''I think we really got back down to the fundamentals,'' linebacker Paul Posluszny said. ''In the beginning of the year, we just got off to a tough start and we were trying to do too much and that got us out of whack a little bit. It took a couple games of getting beat up pretty bad to realize we have to calm down, stick to the basics, take care of our job, handle the fundamentals and collectively we'll play great as a whole.
''That's what we're starting to do now.''
Sustaining it could be the difficult part, especially after injuries to Posluszny and defensive end Andre Branch.
Posluszny tore a pectoral muscle in his chest and was placed on injured reserve. He will have surgery in the coming days.
''It's not easy, especially when you get the feeling now that we're just starting to pick things up and the team's going to roll a little bit and get on a nice winning streak and play some good ball, so you want to be a part of that,'' Posluszny said. ''It's tough to get hurt now and know that I'm not going to play football for a long time.''
Posluszny sustained the injury while making a sack early in the fourth quarter, but stayed in the game. He finished with 12 tackles and a fumble recovery. The eighth-year pro leads the team with 69 tackles and has been the team's top tackler the previous three years.
The Jaguars plan to replace him by moving fourth-year pro J.T. Thomas from outside to middle linebacker. Dekoda Watson will take over for Thomas.
''Poz is the guy that jells our defense together,'' Marks said. ''He's the leader of our unit, so losing him will be huge.''
Branch, meanwhile, is expected to miss six weeks with a groin injury. He has 13 tackles and three sacks this season. With Branch sidelined, the Jaguars signed rookie Chris Smith, a fifth-round draft pick from Arkansas, off the practice squad.
''Any time you have injuries with guys that are playing well, it stings you a little bit,'' Bradley said. ''We talked about being developmental coaches and allowing guys to develop within our system, so when opportunities like this present themselves guys can step in and we can move on.''
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