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Jaguars continue to win ugly against Browns, but that can't last

CLEVELAND -- The Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Cleveland Browns 19-7 on Sunday to take a one-game lead in the AFC South. And while it was a jubilant locker room, head coach Doug Marrone and several players all said the same thing: Winning ugly is great, but it's not sustainable.

The second half of the season is when teams are supposed to gather momentum for the playoff push, but dumb mistakes and injuries to key players on the offensive line have had the Jaguars (7-3) stuck in survival mode the past two games. They won both games -- which is something multiple players have said wouldn't have happened last season -- but they know they have to start playing better.

"I talked to them afterwards, [and I told them] I think we’ve got to clean some things up to be able to push forward, to start going in that direction," Marrone said. "I told the players, 'I hate to be Debbie Downer, but we’ve got to clean some things up if we want to move forward in the direction that we want to move in.'"

That would be winning the AFC South and making the playoffs for the first time since 2007 -- and doing some damage once they get there. For now, though, the Jaguars will take ugly victories because it obviously beats the alternative.

On offense, quarterback Blake Bortles threw the ball pretty well against the Browns, considering the chilly conditions -- and the fact that he didn’t have No. 2 receiver Allen Hurns -- but he lost a fumble, which has been an issue throughout his career. The offense had 284 yards, but 206 of them came in the first half. The unit sputtered in the second half when the run game couldn’t get going. The offensive line struggled to create much room, and the Jaguars felt the loss of Hurns in the pass game.

Special teams were a mess in the first half, too. The Jaguars gave up a 53-yard return on the opening kickoff, committed an illegal-formation penalty on a punt, got a 21-yard punt from Brad Nortman and had an offside penalty on Donald Payne that wiped out an onside kick that Josh Lambo had recovered.

That's not all. Jaydon Mickens also dropped a punt (which he recovered), and Lambo missed a 41-yard field goal after he had gone 8-for-8 since signing with the team on Oct. 17.

Those kinds of mistakes on special teams didn’t hurt the Jaguars against the Browns, but they will against better competition -- and in the playoffs, when every mistake is magnified.

"At the end of the day, we’ve got to figure something out, because these type of wins, they’re not just going to continue to just roll," safety Tashaun Gipson said. "Every team in this league is capable of winning, but we’re going to start playing these good teams, like Seattle, so at the end of the day ... all phases of our game got to be firing, whether it’s special teams, offense and defense.

"It’s a blessing to be able to get an ugly win like this, but right now, we’ve got to go back to the drawing board. We’ve got to figure something out for sure."

Getting healthy at key spots will help, especially on the offensive line. Right tackle Jermey Parnell (knee) missed his second consecutive game. Left guard Patrick Omameh (quad) left the victory over the Los Angeles Chargers early and didn’t play against the Browns. Bortles was harassed in the pocket all day and was sacked twice.

Running back Leonard Fournette played after he was listed as questionable with a right-ankle injury. While he did rush for 111 yards, he didn’t look as good on Sunday as he did during the season's first six games. He said after the game that the injury was something he was going to have to manage the rest of the season.

The Jaguars are winning ugly, which teams have to do sometimes, but that can’t continue if they’re going to make a deep run in the playoffs.