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Best two-game series ever


You could contract the Elias Sports Bureau to do the work for you, and pay them a handsome fee, or you may employ the Ketchman Sports Bureau at no charge.

You say give the work to Ketchman. Good, because I've got the information at the tip of my fingers.

The question is: Which two teams played against each other twice in one season and each game was decided by the final play of the game?

Of course, all Jaguars fans know the answer to that question. It's the Jaguars and Steelers, who in 1997 gave us two of the most terrific football games in NFL history, the second of which was so spectacular that it was voted the eighth-best game in Three Rivers Stadium history. Of course, that list began with the "Immaculate Reception." It is a very impressive list.

The first of those two games was played on a Monday night in September in Jacksonville. The air was charged with drama, as Tom Coughlin had successfully hidden from the media the status of Mark Brunell's injured knee. Would Brunell play? Oh, yeah, and he trotted onto the field in pregame introductions to the roar of the crowd.

Brunell followed with one of the most courageous performances this reporter has ever witnessed. On a knee not fit to play badminton, Brunell threw for 306 yards and a touchdown against one of the NFL's most proud defenses.

Then, the real drama unfolded.

In front of a Alltel-record crowd of 73,016 fans, Steelers kicker Norm Johnson approached a 39-yard field goal attempt with six seconds left on the clock and the Jaguars clinging to a 23-21 lead. The night air was charged.

Clyde Simmons wiggled through the Steelers offensive line and blocked Johnson's attempt. Chris Hudson recovered and raced down the Steelers sideline for a celebration score. Of course, you remember the sight of Steelers coach Bill Cowher making a step toward Hudson with a mock "punch" gesture that only served to further dramatize the event.

But more was on the way.

A month later, the two teams would play an even better football game, with even more drama and more big plays. With first place in the AFC Central on the line, the Jaguars and Steelers squared off at Three Rivers in an October classic that defined the budding rivalry between the two teams and made this a TV event for the next several years.

There was the matter of a Steelers goal-line stand, which culminated in a fourth-and-goal-from-the-one stop of James Stewart. It was the Jaguars' chance to put the game away, but the "stand" gave the Steelers a chance to march 98 yards in 15 plays, which they did to take a 14-10 lead.

Then the Jaguars recovered a Jerome Bettis fumble and scored to take a 17-14 lead. And then the Steelers drove 71 yards in 12 plays, and Johnson didn't miss this time, kicking a 19-yarder to tie the game.

Don't forget Steelers punter Josh Miller. Booting from his end zone at the end of regulation, Miller thundered a punt deep into Jaguars territory that left the Jaguars with no option but to play for overtime.

The coin toss was won by the Steelers and the game ended on a 17-yard shovel pass from Kordell Stewart to Bettis.

According to the Ketchman Sports Bureau, they are the two most exciting games in a two-game seasonal series in NFL history.

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