We move on today in the jaguars.com series counting down the all-time Top 10 Jaguars home games to No. 6 – one of the high points of an era.
While the Jaguars of the late 1990s were defined by a potent, play-making offense, the Jaguars of the middle part of the next decade contended for playoff appearances with a ball-control running game and a dominating, bruising defense.
And in a very real sense, defense was the era's calling card.
If that was true, a bruising, nationally-televised 9-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football on September 18, 2006, was what the Jaguars of those years were all about.
"Every time we beat the Steelers is great, but a shutout on national TV is at the top of the list," reader Tom Atkins of Jacksonville wrote.
The victory was emotional on and off the field for players and fans alike.
"What a win," Sam Arthur of Orlando wrote. "I&39;m a small guy and I can&39;t remember hitting too many people in my life. I almost hit a Steeler fan in the Club Section bar after this game. We celebrated all night and into the next morning."
Wrote Brad Joachim of Roanoke, Va., "The Jaguars' defense was spectacular in this classic battle. I&39;ve never seen such an intense game, low- or high-scoring."
This wasn't a division game, and in the end, it didn't result in a playoff berth. But memorable? And physical?
Yes, this game was very much each of those things. And then some.
"I think this game speaks for itself by the score," Kevin Kraemer of Orange Park wrote. "What a truly awesome game it was to attend."
Make no mistake:
This game was about hitting, and five years after the teams' final AFC Central meeting, it was still a big, emotional game with the feeling of a rivalry.
The Steelers had won the Super Bowl the season before. The Jaguars also had made the playoffs the year before, finishing with a 12-4 record to make the post-season as a wild-card entrant.
"Beating the defending Super Bowl champions in a smashmouth, defensive battle and never sitting down for the entirety of the game makes this my number one," Kevin from Jacksonville wrote.
The teams each entered the game with a reputation for hard-hitting defense. On this night, each team lived up to that reputation.
The Jaguars, who entered the game having won nine of 11, just lived up to it a little better.
"Just an amazing and bold statement on national television," Maxwell from Jacksonville wrote. "Established for the nation the Jaguars&39; reputation for physical play and shut-down defense. It was an unparalleled defensive performance and coined the phrase: 'Welcome to Duval. Prepare to be hit!'"
A pre-game theme was the return of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from an emergency appendectomy 15 days before, but by game's end, the storyline was the Jaguars' defense.
The Jaguars held running back Willie Parker to 20 yards on 11 carries, with Pittsburgh rushing for 26 yards as a ream. The Jaguars became the first team since 2003 to shut out the Steelers. It also was just the fifth time a defending Super Bowl champion had been shut out.
"If you come in here with the mind-set of running the ball on us, you may want to rethink that philosophy," Jaguars defensive end Paul Spicer told the Associated Press afterward. "It ain&39;t going to be that easy."
Neither side scored in the first half, and although Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee kicked three second-half field goals, it was still close – 6-0 – with five minutes remaining. The first of two interceptions by Jacksonville cornerback Rashean Mathis put the Jaguars in field-goal range, and Scobee's third successful attempt – this one from 42 yards away – clinched the victory with 4:26 remaining.
"I remember this game just being a defensive dog fight between two of the better defenses of that season," Jeff Puffer from Conneaut Lake, Pa., wrote. "It was a hardnosed battle to the end. The score didn&39;t represent how close this game really was. "
Scobee made a 31-yard field goal in the third quarter and a 32-yarder in the fourth.
Mathis, who had clinched a Jaguars victory in Pittsburgh the season before with a 41-yard return for a touchdown, clinched the shutout Monday Night victory with an interception with 1:44 remaining.
The Jaguars may have secured the victory with a dominant defensive second half, but they were effective offensively in spots, too. Starting quarterback Byron Leftwich completed 26 of 39 passes for 260 yards and Fred Taylor rushed for 92 yards on 22 carries.
Wide receivers Reggie Williams and Matt Jones also had impressive games, with Williams catching eight passes for 95 yards, including a 48-yard gain that set up Scobee's second field goal. Jones finished with six catches for 73 yards.
But mostly, this one was about defense. The Steelers' 26 yards rushing were the lowest in Coach Bill Cowher's 15 seasons, and Pittsburgh did not produce a rushing first down.
"Probably the lowest scoring game I have ever seen and it didn&39;t matter," Jim from Jacksonville wrote. "That game was suspenseful and entertaining from beginning to end. "
And because of that, it still holds a solid place in the history of a franchise, and the fans who attended.
"This was hard-hitting football at its finest," Eric L. of Jacksonville wrote. "The Monday night atmosphere made every play burst with excitement and you could hear the hits and pops after every tackle. I remember Rashean Mathis won the game with a late interception, but in reality this was the peak of the Stroud-Henderson, run-stuffing, double-chinstrap defense that the Jags have sought ever since."
Wrote Jason Hall of Melrose, Fla., "This game was brutal! Best defensive game I ever witnessed. I can still remember the sound of Big John smacking Big Ben late in the game. The look on Big Ben's face was priceless as he got off the ground. Steelers fans leaving before the game was even over is sweet. I told them they could use their 'Terrible Towels' to wipe away their tears.'''