CLEVELAND — Jaguars free safety Tashaun Gipson was willing to make a position change in the final minutes Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Anything to get a win against his former team, save himself a Thanksgiving dinner of crow and keep his lively presence on Twitter and Instagram.
Jacksonville’s front seven came through with two strip-sacks of Cleveland quarterback DeShone Kizer in the final two minutes, getting Gipson the win he predicted, 19-7 over the Browns. He was vindicated after a week of trash talking and even exchanged jerseys with Browns running back Isaiah Crowell.
“I knew we couldn’t leave out of here without a win,” said Gipson, who wasn’t re-signed after playing for the Browns from 2012-15. “I would have had to play quarterback if I had to for us to get a win. I’m telling you that right now.
“They definitely kind of got me nervous a little bit at about the five-minute mark. Blood started rising a little bit like, ‘Man, I can’t leave Cleveland with a loss, man. I’m going to have to deactivate my social media.’”
Gipson has never been shy around a microphone and set the tone for the game last Monday when he ripped Cleveland’s front office and predicted an 0-16 finish. He hoped the Jaguars offense would “hang 40” on the Browns (0-10) and the defense would pitch a shutout.
Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles, the Browns defense and the weather made 40 an impossible target. A second-quarter touchdown drive by Kizer was all that stood between the Jaguars and a shutout, but the game wasn’t decided until the final 74 seconds.
“I feel like this defense can come out and pitch shutouts against anyone in the National Football League, not just the Cleveland Browns,” said Gipson, who had four tackles, including one for a loss, but didn’t intercept Kizer. “It’s been 11 consecutive weeks where I feel like we’ve put out dominant performances and it’s just a blessing to have these types of guys. We’ve got playmakers on every level, from the D-line, linebackers to the corners to the safeties and it’s just overwhelming for any offense in the National Football League.”
The Browns were aware of every word Gipson said during the week and some felt disrespected. They barked back at him during the pregame and players from both teams converged in a shouting match.
“The coach kind of got them riled up with my comments and rightfully so,” Gipson said. “Some of those guys felt the need to address me and, you know, Mama ain’t raised no punk, so at the end of the day things got a little chippy, but that’s the game of football.
“If I was on that side, I probably would have felt the same way. I understand that it could probably get those guys’ blood boiling, but they came out here and played a great game.”
Linebacker Christian Kirksey disputed the notion the Browns were trying to keep up with the Jaguars.
“We’re not trying to match nobody’s intensity,” he said. “We’re trying to do our own thing. We’ve got to bring it. It was more so of we just setting the tone for ourselves.”
Gipson said he was sure he’d get grief for not blanking the Browns. He heard much worse on social media from Browns fans during the week — wishing for him to tear an ACL — and from the half-empty stands.
“Honestly, there were like a bunch of fans calling my name,” he said. “If I would have paid attention, I would have heard something, but it was social media all week.
“I just want to put this on record to the fans, that I will always have love for them. This city, the fan base is like no other, man, and I expected that, man, because I was on the opposite side of it once upon a time.”
The Jaguars rallied behind Gipson and rookie receiver Dede Westbrook, who said he expected 200 yards in his NFL debut. He wound up with three catches for 35 yards.
“When someone on your team says something and makes a claim, you want to go prove them right,” Bortles said. “You make sure you have his back and come out and win.”
Despite the late nerves, Gipson never lost confidence in the Jaguars defense securing the victory and sparing him ridicule.
“If I’m a betting man, it used to be called the Horseshoe Casino, I don’t know what it’s called now, but if I was a betting man, I’m always going to bet on this defense because we got guys up and down and through this defense,” he said. “That’s a blessing and a wonderful thing to have, especially coming down the stretch.”