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First home playoff game


We move on today in the series counting down the Top 10 Jaguars home games of all-time, and at No. 9, we come to a game that might be easy to overlook.

It wasn't a game that drew a ton of national attention.

It wasn't part of the improbable run in 1996, and it wasn't part of the oh-so-close 14-2 season of 1999.

But a 26-10 victory over the New England Patriots in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Alltel Stadium on January 3, 1999 was the Jaguars' first playoff victory at home, and it was also further proof that the team's rookie running back was special on a level that he only had begun to show.

"Freddy T, all day," reader Chris Westphal wrote.

And indeed, if there was a theme to the Jaguars' victory that sunny January afternoon, that was it:

All Fred Taylor, pretty much all the time.

Taylor, a rookie selected No. 9 overall by the Jaguars in the 1998 NFL Draft, rushed for 1,223 yards and 14 touchdowns that season, starting 12 games. If not for an otherworldly season from wide receiver Randy Moss of Minnesota, Taylor almost certainly would have been the league's rookie of the year.

As it was, a storyline entering the game was a match-up of premier rookie running backs, with Robert Edwards also having rushed for more than 1,000 yards that season for New England.

The match-up wasn't much of a match-up at all.

The Jaguars limited Edwards to 28 yards and Taylor helped the Jaguars establish control early, rushing for 115 of his 162 yards in the first half.

"Remember watching this one as a kid and being blown away at how Fred Taylor moved," Luke from Lewiston, Maine wrote.

The Jaguars, who made the playoffs as the AFC Central champions with an 11-5 record, took a 12-0 lead at halftime, and Taylor was responsible for much of the lead. He broke loose on a 46-yard run in the first quarter to set up a 24-yard field goal by Mike Hollis that gave the Jaguars a 6-0 lead.

In the second quarter, his 21-yard run keyed another long drive, with this one ending four players later with a 13-yard touchdown run by Taylor that gave Jacksonville a 12-0 lead.

With Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell struggling much of the game after sustaining an ankle sprain late in the season, the Patriots cut into the lead in the second half.

The Patriots made it 12-7, Jaguars, when a 1-yard run by Edwards late in the third quarter capped an 85-yard drive that consumed 8:48. The Patriots then cut the lead to two early in the fourth quarter with a 27-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri.

Brunell, a Pro Bowl selection that season who finished the game 14-of-34 passing for 161 yards, then combined with Pro Bowl wide receiver Jimmy Smith for the game's key play.

On the first play after Vinatieri's field goal, Brunell threw to Smith, who dropped a pass on the right sideline. Five plays later, Brunell found Smith with another perfect pass. Smith caught this one in the back of the end zone, beating Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law for a 37-yard touchdown and a 19-10 Jaguars lead.

"Anytime we get press with Jimmy Smith, we feel it&39;s to our advantage," Brunell told the Associated Press later. "I gave him the &39;go&39; signal and he made a nice catch."

It was the Jaguars' first victory over the Patriots in four meetings, and came two seasons after the Patriots beat Jacksonville, 20-6, in the AFC Championship Game to end the Jaguars' memorable playoff run following the 1996 season. The victory over the Patriots in the '98 post-season set up an AFC Divisional Playoff between the Jaguars and New York Jets in the Meadowlands the following week.

The Jaguars lost, 34-24, in a game the Jets dominated from the start and a game in which wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson caught an early touchdown and also ran for another. The Jaguars trailed in that game, 17-0, early, and although they rallied to within a touchdown in the fourth quarter, New York controlled momentum much of the game.

That wasn't the case in Jacksonville the week before. Against the Patriots, the Jaguars maintained the momentum much of the game, and much of the game they did so by doing something they hadn't always been able to do to that point in the franchise's development.

They did so by controlling the line of scrimmage and by running effectively. Taylor that season had had big games. He rushed for more than 100 yards in five games, and had set a franchise record with a 183-yard, two-touchdown game against the Lions. Still, the Jaguars were hardly considered a running team entering the New England game, something Taylor said afterward provided at least a degree of motivation for a team still establishing a post-season identity.

"There were rumors coming out of New England that we were a finesse team," Taylor told the Associated Press afterward. "When you think of finesse, you think of divers and all that swimming-type stuff. That was an insult."

The team&39;s response to the insult provided a memory that makes the game one of the Jaguars' most memorable in their home stadium.

"The air was electric," Janson Collins of Des Moines, Iowa, wrote, and John C. Johnson of St. Johns, Fla., called it the Jaguars' most important victory, adding that it had, "The greatest impact, along with the Denver playoff victory."

Added Chad T. Cox of Jacksonville, "This was the first playoff game I attended in any sport and we kicked their butts. We need to get back to that level and beat the Pat&39;s in the playoffs again."

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