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A classic football game


It will forever be remembered as a classic; the best prime-time football game of the 2004 NFL season. Two teams deemed unworthy of Monday Night Football gave the league more than it deserved.

The Jaguars and their fans may be hurting too much today to fully appreciate what transpired at Alltel Stadium, but, in time, even they will come to embrace the quality of football that was played on Jacksonville soil last night.

Super Bowl? Yeah, it was played between the Jaguars and the Steelers. The Steelers won, 17-16. So did anyone who was in attendance or who sat in front of their televisions for three hours' worth of pure football action and riveting drama.

Should we have expected anything less? These two teams just keep turning out great football games.

Do you remember the two in 1997? Each ended with a touchdown. How does it get any better? Well, last night, it did.

"That's the way I remember it," Jason Gildon said of those two '97 classics. "Not much has changed. That's the way football is supposed to be played."

Gildon played for the other guys back then. He was one of the hated. The towels waved for him in '97. Last night, he was on the Jaguars' sideline. Does it really matter? When games get as good as this, all that's important is that you can say, "I was there."

What the Jaguars and the Steelers gave us was a game that bordered on war. They hit like hammers. They drew lines in the sand. They played for the right to say, "We were more physical."

In the end, neither team could make that claim, but name a team that has been able to stand toe-to-toe with the Steelers since Ben Roethlisberger took over at quarterback. The Patriots? The Eagles? Well, the Jaguars did.

"I know we stopped the run. The quarterback ran for too much. We did not allow them to pound the ball down our throats. We gave ourselves a chance," a crestfallen Jack Del Rio told reporters.

The Jaguars would take no solace in the quality of their performance, but when their heart stops aching and the pain of this loss eases, they will look back and survey what was won in the trenches against the Steelers last night. The Jaguars may have earned more respect in defeat than they got in all of their six wins combined. It is now official: The Jaguars are a power football team. That's the identity you establish when you play the Steelers off their feet.

"We didn't come in here to play it close. We came in to win. We just weren't good enough to get it done in the end," Del Rio said.

"It was a good football game. I'm just frustrated we lost. Pittsburgh is a helluva football team. We don't back down from anyone," he added.

"I'm sure the viewers got what they wanted," Fred Taylor said.

Oh, yeah, the viewers got what they wanted. ESPN absolutely got what it wanted. The league did, too. This was NFL football at its finest.

Long after the playoff berths are claimed and the wild-card teams have lost and seen their seasons end, this game will endure. It's now part of Jaguars history; maybe the greatest game this franchise has ever played. The hurt will pass but this game never will.

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