@ESPNdirocco Brunell to Jimmy to seal Denver game. Big play, big call
— Paul Prisco (@soflnoles1) June 11, 2014
This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Jacksonville Jaguars history. On Wednesday, we’ll feature David Garrard’s fourth-down scramble to set up Josh Scobee’s game-winning field goal in the 2007 AFC wild-card playoffs. On Monday, we featured Morten Andersen’s missed field goal in the 1996 regular-season finale that sent the Jaguars to the playoffs. Please vote for your choice as the Jaguars’ most memorable play.
Score: Jaguars 30, Broncos 27
Date: Jan. 4, 1997 Site: Mile High Stadium
You could argue that the Jaguars didn’t belong in the playoffs in just their second year of existence. They got in only because Morten Andersen slipped and missed a chip-shot 30-yard field goal in the 1996 regular-season finale.
And you also could argue the Jaguars got a bit lucky in their 30-27 AFC wild-card victory over host Buffalo. Mark Brunell threw an end-zone interception and had another pick returned for a touchdown, but the Jaguars turned a Jim Kelly fumble into the game-winning points.
But you can’t debate that the Jaguars pulled off one of the biggest upsets in playoff history by beating the top-seeded and 14-point favorite Broncos to earn a trip to the AFC Championship Game. The Jaguars outgained the Broncos by 92 yards, didn’t turn the ball over and won the game, thanks to two of the franchise’s greatest players.
The Jaguars trailed 12-0 into the second quarter but then scored on six consecutive possessions. The last in that streak was the most important because it gave the Jaguars a 10-point lead with 3:39 remaining.
The touchdown came on a play that the Jaguars had run countless times: a fade pass to Jimmy Smith. From the Denver 16-yard line, the left-handed Brunell took a three-step drop and lofted the ball down the sideline toward Smith, who had gotten behind cornerback Tory James. Smith caught the ball three steps into the end zone before free safety Tim Hauck could get over to help.
Brunell threw 195 touchdown passes (11 in the playoffs) and Smith caught 74 touchdown passes (seven in the playoffs) in their NFL careers, but none may have been bigger than that one. That touchdown, one of Smith’s three catches in the game, gave the Jaguars a 10-point cushion.
The Broncos scored their second touchdown of the fourth quarter on John Elway’s 15-yard pass to Ed McCaffrey with 1:50 remaining to pull to within 30-27, but Jason Elam’s onside kick attempt traveled only 5 yards and the Jaguars ran out the clock.