The Browns defense made the play it thought had won the game Sunday moments before the Jaguars eyed a potential game-tying two-point conversion.
A penalty changed that, and the Browns had no choice but to regroup. Down a number of starters and key players, the defense dug a little deeper and responded with one of its biggest stops of the season.
The Browns slammed the door on a Jacksonville two-point conversion attempt with 2:14 to play and never gave the feisty Jaguars another shot. Nothing comes easy in the NFL — and Sunday was yet another example of it — but the Browns showed the same kind of resilience they've displayed throughout the season to leave Jacksonville with a 27-25 victory.
"A good team win right there. Never easy," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "We made it hard on ourselves there at the end. I think we can be better, but it is a good team win. The guys fought, and we knew they were going to have to fight to get that one."
Sunday's win, the Browns' third in a row and fourth in their past five, boosts Cleveland's record to 8-3 and gives the Browns their most wins in a season since 2007.
"We are just trying to go 1-0 each week," Stefanski said. "We get to eight, and we have a bunch more games here to go. We are really not concerned with the past."
Baker Mayfield threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt only got better as the game unfolded. Jarvis Landry had his best game of the season, catching eight passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Chubb, who cleared the 100-yard mark for the fifth time in just seven games, delivered the official knockout punch in a game that seemingly needed a number of them. Chubb rushed for 144 yards on 19 carries to go along with three catches for 32 yards. His 13-yard catch on a third-and-12 screen pass allowed the Browns to finish off the Jaguars with a couple of kneel downs.
Hunt added 62 tough yards and cleared 3,000 for his career to put the Browns over 200 rushing yards for the fourth time this season.
"We knew that we had to come in here and win, no matter what," said Chubb, who notched the 16th 100-yard game of his career. "I think this team understood that. We knew they were not just going to roll over. They are a one-win team, but they are a very talented team and very good. They were not going to have a wounded-dog mentality so we knew were going to get their best shot. We played a great team, and we are happy to come out with a win."
Cleveland appeared poised to close Sunday's win with yet another dominant fourth quarter, but an unexpected speed bump midway through the final period helped maximize the drama.
Leading 27-19, the Browns began a drive at their own 2-yard line with 11:59 to play and moved all the way to Jacksonville's 22. Faced with third-and-1, Mayfield missed on a short pass to a wide-open Hunt. On fourth-and-1, Hunt was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, and the Jaguars got the ball back with 5:29 to play, leaving the Browns with nothing to show for a possession that spanned 6:30.
"I felt confident in them that we could continue to move the chains and have an opportunity to score a touchdown or run a few more minutes off the clock and kick a field goal," Stefanski said. "We did not get it done, and ultimately, I have to look back and see what I can do better for the guys."
The Jaguars moved into Browns territory but needed to convert a fourth-and-long at the Browns' 25 with 3:43 to play. Olivier Vernon and Adrian Clayborn made quick work of their blockers, swarmed QB Mike Glennon and dropped him to the ground for what appeared to be a game-sealing sack.
Vernon, though, was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, and Jacksonville's drive was given new life.
"Really disappointing that we are can't get off the field and we are off the field," Stefanski said. "I would have to look at it, but it is what it is."
Three plays later, James Robinson plowed into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown, setting up what would be a game-tying two-point conversion.
The Browns had other ideas, as they pressured Glennon out of the pocket and forced him to toss a pass that wound up sailing out of bounds and into the hands of veteran S Andrew Sendejo, who had one of his best games of the season.
"Stopping them on those two-point conversions ended up being a big deal," Stefanski said. "Really happy for (Sendejo) to make that play, and that is what we need. We need guys in the back end that will make plays on the ball."
Jacksonville opted for a traditional kickoff after the touchdown, and the Browns made them pay by converting multiple first downs and running out the clock.
Check out photos of the Browns against the Jaguars
Cleveland was without Pro Bowl pass rusher Myles Garrett for a second straight game and was playing its first without Pro Bowl CB Denzel Ward. LB Sione Takitaki, S Sheldrick Redwine, DE Joe Jackson and DE Porter Gustin were also out. The Browns didn't practice as a full team until Friday because of multiple closures of the team facility.
"It was a different week, but we have said that we adjust and adapt and the best teams this season will have to," Mayfield said.
Glennon, in his first start since 2017, threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson gained almost all of his 128 rushing yards in the first and fourth quarters.
After three straight games of weather-affected offense, the Browns opened it up against the Jaguars and stayed in front for most of the game thanks to a pass-heavy attack.
Mayfield connected with Landry early and often, finding the veteran wide receiver for a 21-yard gain on his first completion and again in the end zone for Landry's first touchdown catch of the year to put Cleveland ahead, 7-3, with 3:40 to play in the first quarter.
Landry was a key factor on the Browns' two other scoring drives and finished the half with five catches for 91 yards, marking the first time a Browns player had hit either of those marks to go along with a touchdown in the first half of a game since Josh Gordon in 2013.
"It has definitely been a challenge for me," Landry said. "That is something that I'm frequently talking to (wide receivers) Coach (Chad) O'Shea about and Coach Kevin about. It is always, I guess in a sense, to have that tough conversation when you are winning and you still feel like you may not be getting the ball.
"I just trusted this team, kept my head up and kept working hard for the guys around me, knowing that it will come. It came today, and I just made every play that I possibly could get my hands on."
The Browns briefly trailed after Glennon's 46-yard touchdown pass to Collin Johnson, but Mayfield got them back on top, 17-13, with his 9-yard touchdown throw to TE Austin Hooper with 1:10 left in the half.
A Harrison Bryant fumble on the Browns' first pass of the second half set up the Jaguars with great field position, and Glennon made Cleveland pay. Glennon's short touchdown pass to TE Tyler Eifert put the Jaguars on top, 19-17, with 11:41 to play in the third quarter. The Jaguars opted to go for the two-point conversion after a Browns offsides penalty on the extra point, and Cleveland held tight, effectively taking a point off the board.
That decision allowed the Browns to take the lead on the ensuing drive after Cody Parkey's 45-yard field goal. They wouldn't trail the rest of the way.
Much like it's done throughout the season, Cleveland extended its lead on the backs of Chubb and Hunt.
Chubb broke off a 29-yard run and Hunt followed with a 27-yarder that put him over 3,000 yards for his career. Chubb capped the 90-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, his sixth of the season, to make it 27-19 early in the fourth quarter.
"I thought both he and Kareem ran really hard," Stefanski said. "I thought we did a nice job up front. We had  yards rushing so great effort by all of the people involved that make that running game go."
The Browns are back in action next Sunday when they face the Titans, who are also 8-3, in Nashville.
"We are finding a way to win games," Chubb said. "They are leaving it on us, and we are finding a way to win."