Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MASTERS OF DEFENSE; Ngakoue Leads Sack Party; Jags Alone atop AFC South

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MASTERS OF DEFENSE; Ngakoue Leads Sack Party; Jags Alone atop AFC South

Article excerpt

Byline: Ryan O'Halloran

CLEVELAND | Six times last week against the Los Angeles Chargers, Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue got in the face of quarterback Philip Rivers. Pressured him. Knocked him down. But never sacked him.

And every day leading into Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, those near-sacks gnawed at and motivated Ngakoue. Presented the opportunity against rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who would likely be less judicial than Rivers in avoiding pressure, Ngakoue was going to capitalize.

"Definitely," Ngakoue said. "I didn't feel like that was good enough. I didn't feel like that was up to my standards."

Ngakoue's standard: Getting sacks.

That standard was met in the Jaguars' 19-7 win over the Browns at chilly and windy FirstEnergy Stadium.

Ngakoue tied a career high with 2 1/2 sacks, including half-sack to force a turnover with 1:44 remaining and a sack/forced fumble that Telvin Smith recovered for a touchdown 30 seconds later, allowing the Jaguars to keep the Browns winless (0-10) and avoid the indignity of being their first victim.

A seven-point favorite, the Jaguars did next-to-nothing offensively (two field goals) after Marcedes Lewis' 10-yard touchdown on their second drive, but the defense forced four turnovers (the special teams also had a takeaway) and had five sacks.

The Jaguars (7-3) escaped with solo possession of the AFC South lead. They have their best 10-game start and first four-game winning streak since 2007. They lead the division by one game over Tennessee and moved into third place in the conference because of Kansas City's loss to the Giants.

"It's tough for you to not be excited," Lewis said. "But we have to keep our head down and keep going."

Said coach Doug Marrone: "I told the players I don't want to be a, 'Debbie Downer,' but we have to clean some things up if we want to move forward in the direction we want to move."

Certainly, it wasn't anywhere near pretty or stylish, but the nit-picking could wait a day.

"It doesn't matter how close the score was," defensive end Dante Fowler said. "People have to worry about the Jaguars being 7-3 and being playoff contenders."

Emphasis on the "worry" part.

Which team would want to face this defense and this pass rush in January regardless of where the game is played?

Earlier this month, the Jaguars finally figured out their home-field issues by beating Cincinnati and the Chargers. And the win over Cleveland moved the Jaguars to 4-1 on the road - they won a combined two road games from 2014-16 (29 losses). A pass rush and a run game travels.

The Jaguars' pass rush upped this year's sack total to 40 after getting blanked by the Chargers last week.

Ngakoue posted the fourth multi-sack game of his 26-game career, exceeded his sack total from last year (he has nine this year after eight last year) and had two forced fumbles. …

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