Last week, I wrote an article about some of the best Jacksonville Jaguars games from the 2010’s, and now for the finale, I have ranked the top 5 remarkable Jaguars’ games during this time period. Part I was filled with crazy finishes and exciting upsets, part II will dive into more crazy finishes, spectacular playoff wins and the bitter sweet revenge game against the New England Patriots.
The 3-8 Giants stumbled upon the 1-10 Jaguars near the backend of the 2014 campaign, most people thought it would be a humdrum game, two bottom dwellers trying to forget an insignificant season yet at the same time trying not to ruin their precious draft stock. After both teams traded three and outs, the Giants thought it was a great idea to take their drive from the 9:48 mark of the first quarter all the way down to the first play of the second quarter. The longest play on that drive was 14-yards, it was a long, methodical, 19 plays, 91-yards and 9:51 off the clock ending with a 2-yard touchdown by Rashad Jennings. The following Giants drive also ended in a touchdown as Eli Manning found Preston Parker from 3-yards out, for the record, this drive went by much quicker. After the Jaguars suffered their third three and out, the Giants scored another 6 points, Jennings ran for his second of the day putting New York in a more than comfortable 21-0 lead. Rookie QB, Blake Bortles wouldn’t go down without a fight as the Jaguars went on a 12 play drive ending in a 28-yard field goal by Josh Scobee, the score would remain 21-3 heading into halftime. Did the Giants snacked on too many Butterfingers during the break? On the Giants first drive of the third, Manning got hit and fumbled the ball which rolled all the way into the endzone when J.T. Thomas recovered it for the touchdown. After Josh Brown missed a 43-yard field goal, Bortles found his fellow rookie, Marqise Lee from 30-yards out, the Giants lead had dwindled down to 5 points. On 3rd & 15, Manning dumped the ball to his TE, Larry Donnell who fumbled it only to be scooped up by Aaron Colvin who returned it from 41-yards out, the Jaguars were up by 1. Brown would hit a 33-yard field goal with under 4 minutes left giving the Giants a slim 24-22 lead but Bortles was destined to earn his first career game winning drive, finding Lee for 22-yards and Bortles leaping for an extra 20-yards, with 28 seconds to go Scobee drilled the 43-yard field goal giving the Jaguars a dangerously close 25-24 game. The game wasn’t sealed until Sen’Derrick Marks strip sacked Manning, Chris Clemons recovered the fumble giving the Jaguars a thrilling victory.
The Bills and Jaguars mutually ended their long playoff droughts in 2017, the Jaguars making the postseason for the first time in a decade and the Bills for the first time since 1999, coincidentally, the Jaguars played their last home playoff game. Both defenses played strong all season which led to a tight defensive battle on “Wildcard Weekend.” The game began with 6 straight drives ending in punts, the only offense mustered was from Blake Bortles and Tyrod Taylor running the ball themselves. Taylor committed the first mistake as he was picked off by Aaron Colvin but the Jaguars went three and out. The Bills figured enough was enough and drove down the field for Steven Hauschka to kick a 31-yard field goal, 3-0. Bortles continued to march down the field with a 20 and 12-yard runs setting up Josh Lambo from 44-yards out to tie the game heading into halftime. After both teams traded punts, the Jaguars would have a well organized drive of 15 plays, 86-yards, 8:52 off the clock ending in a Ben Koyack 1-yard touchdown grab from Bortles on fourth and goal. You would have thought the Bills would strike back? Think again as the next 6 drives ended in punts. The last drive of the game for the Bills started at their own 37-yard line in pursuit for a touchdown with under 2 minutes to go but that was before Dante Fowler Jr. and Taylor collided helmets knocking Taylor out for the rest of the game. Nathan Peterman, the rookie out of Pittsburgh, threw 5 interceptions in a Bills game earlier that year so at this point, Bills Mafia lost all hope. Peterman threw an interception right to Pro Bowl CB, Jalen Ramsey to clinch the game, EverBank Field erupted. To this day, the Bills have yet to win a playoff game since 1995.
The Jaguars were seeking revenge after their gut wrenching loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship the previous year. Emotions were running high for Blake Bortles, Jalen Ramsey, Coach, Doug Marrone and the rest of the team as they were destined not to have the home crowd leave disappointed. The offensive line broke down in front of “Sacksonville” as the defense was in Tom Brady’s face throughout the first drive applying pressure from all angles. Steven Gostkowski missed a 54-yard field goal and the Jaguars wasted no time on offense as Bortles found newcomer, Donte Moncrief for the 4-yard touchdown. The Jaguars next drive was even better, Bortles found Keelan Cole who arguably made the best catch of the season, a one-handed snag over Eric Rowe for 22-yards. Bortles hit Cole once more from 24-yards out for another touchdown, 14-0 Jaguars. The Patriots chewed clock for the majority of the second quarter as a 16 play, 83-yard drive ended in a 29-yard kick by Gostkowski but a wise Bortles used the 3 minute drill and found TE, Austin Seferian-Jenkins from 4-yards out giving the Jaguars a 21-3 lead at halftime. After Lambo hit a 28-yard chip shot, the game became a drag until New England got a touchdown at the end of the third as Brady found Chris Hogan for a 7-yard score. After Gostkowski made another field goal and Bortles threw an interception to Kyle Van Noy, it was looking like it would be a repeat of the AFC Championship Game, a blown lead in the fourth quarter. As the Jaguars fans were bracing themselves for another heartbreaking loss, Dante Fowler Jr. strip-sacked Brady and recovered his own fumble. It wouldn’t be long before Bortles threw his 4th touchdown of the game as Dede Westbrook caught a screen pass and shot past the winded Patriots defense for a 61-yard touchdown clinching the game for the Jaguars. Hogan scored his second TD of the game but it was well out of reach for the Patriots and the Jaguars got sweet revenge in front of the hometown crowd, 31-20.
Both teams came into EverBank Field with a 4-4 record, most people focus on the quarterback matchup but for this game it was all about the dominant rushers in the AFC South running backs, Arian Foster and Maurice Jones-Drew. Despite the running backs showing off their skills throughout the game, it was a Hail Mary that determined the outcome. David Garrard and Jones-Drew burnt the Texans defense early but a sack on third down forced the Jaguars to kick a 38-yard field goal by Josh Scobee. It was Matt Schaub and Foster’s turn to lead the Texans down the field but an incompletion on third and goal led to a 24-yard kick by Neil Rackers to tie the game. After four straight drives ended in punts, Jones-Drew ran the ball 8 plays on a 9 play drive to score the 3-yard touchdown giving the Jaguars a 10-3 lead. On the ensuing Jaguars’ possession, Garrard did his job but it was the “MJD Show” running from 9-yards out to give the Jaguars a 17-3 halftime lead. Returning from halftime, the Jaguars defense didn’t wake up from their nap as Schaub hit Pro Bowl wideout, Andre Johnson for 60-yards, three plays later Foster scored from 1-yard out making the Jaguars lead 7. Schaub followed up on the next drive by going 4-5 passing, finding Johnson for a 9-yard touchdown to tie the game. Garrard kept using his reliable targets, WR, Mike Thomas and TE, Marcedes Lewis when all of a sudden Jones-Drew ran out of gas, Scobee shanked a 39-yard kick on the first play of the fourth quarter, it was panic time in Duval County, or was it? On the next Jaguars drive Head Coach, Jack Del Rio rolled the dice on a fourth and one play which led to a 5-yard scramble by Garrard, the following play he threw a laser to TE, Zach Miller for a 52-yard touchdown. Texans Head Coach, Gary Kubiak didn’t break a sweat as his offense traded touchdown for touchdown, Schaub hit Kevin Walter from 18-yards away to tie the game at 24. Garrard was consistent on the following drive going 4-4 passing but Scobee missed his second kick of the game from 43-yards with 1:39 left, a Texans victory seemed a given. Houston played conservatively first and second down but took a shot on third and fifteen as they were right out of Rackers field goal range. Schaub found TE, Joel Dreessen for an 8-yard pickup until Sean Considine forced a fumble in which Justin Durant recovered. Garrard found Lewis for 11-yards to set up a last second miracle near mid field. Next, Garrard stepped back, pump faked and let the ball fly to the endzone, the pass was originally batted down but Mike Thomas standing right in front of the defender caught it off the deflection for a 50-yard Hail Mary game winner! The Jaguars increased to 5-4 with a bizarre but extraordinary 31-24 victory.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were ready for the underdog Jacksonville Jaguars after their bye week in the 2018 Divisional Round, many considered this game would be a blowout, it made sense, a young, inexperienced team from Florida traveling to Pittsburgh in January would be annihilated by the “Big Bad Black and Gold.” The Jaguars were playing for their first AFC Championship game since 1999 where the Steelers made many AFC Championships dating back to “Big Ben’s” rookie year in 2004. Head Coach, Doug Marrone took a risk, the Jaguars went for it on fourth and goal on the opening drive of the game and along came LSU rookie, Leonard Fournette who saved Coach Marrone’s bacon pounding it in from 1-yard out. Many thought two time Super Bowl winner, Ben Roethlisberger would tie up the game in a flash, that was not the case. Under pressure, he overthrew TE, Vance McDonald resulting in an interception by LB, Myles Jack. The next play, Fournette outran the Steelers defense giving the Jaguars an early 14-0 lead. Late in the first quarter, the Steelers also went for it on fourth down, a wildcat to Le'Veon Bell resulting in a 4-yard loss was truly a head scratcher. Despite the lack of throwing yards for Blake Bortles, he ran the ball twice for 9-yards and 11-yards respectively. If the ground game couldn’t get more dominant, add T.J. Yeldon in the mix who ran in for a 2-yard score, the rout was on! The Steelers were sick of being embarrassed as Roethlisberger found Antoino Brown from 23-yards out. Then the following drive, Roethlisberger was strip sacked and Telvin Smith ran the fumble back 50-yards for the touchdown, Heinz Field was shell shocked as the Jaguars went up 28-7. Martavis Bryant caught a 36-yard touchdown near the end of the first half bringing the Jaguars lead back to 14. The Steelers wasted no time coming out of halftime, Bell caught a 19-yard touchdown, the Jaguars lead was now 7. After 4 straight drives for zero points, Bortles found Keelan Cole throwing a 45-yard dime, moments later Fournette scored from 3-yards away completing the hat trick. Roethlisberger wouldn’t go down without a fight launching a 43-yard touchdown to Brown but Bortles was in a groove and found FB, Tommy Bohanon for a 14-yard touchdown giving the Jaguars a two possession lead once more. Bell scored another touchdown keeping the Steelers in the game but Josh Lambo sealed their fate by drilling a 45-yard field goal. JuJu Smith-Schuster caught one last touchdown but Cole recovered the onside kick, capping off an improbable upset, 45-42.
After a week of euphoria coming off the 2018 AFC Divisional Round against the Steelers the ultimate test was to face the defending champion New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Despite one heck of a run, going 10-6, shutting down a tough Bills team in the Wild Card game and putting up 45 points on the AFC’s second best team in the Divisional Round it just wasn’t meant to be. It seemed destined that the Jaguars would make their first Super Bowl in franchise history, until Tom Brady, aka “The King of Comebacks” led the Patriots to score two 4th quarter touchdowns giving them a predictable but an intense 24-20 victory.
There are a lot of question marks for the Jaguars coming into the 2020 season and many are projecting them to continue to be a bottom tier team. The organization needs to make shrewd moves whether it would be trades, free agency or the draft, if they nail these moves the Jaguars could come back to the AFC Championship or someplace even better within the next few (long) years.