We move today in the jaguars.com series counting down the all-time Top 10 Jaguars home games to No. 2, a game that ranks among the more exciting in team history.
Its ending certainly was among the most improbable.
So, while the Jaguars' 31-24 victory over the Houston Texans at Everbank Field on November 14, 2010, didn't lead to a playoff appearance, it came in such a heart-stopping fashion that it will long be remembered for a last-second, improbable play.
The Jaguars call the play "Rebound."
And at least one reader figured that was a pretty good name for a memorable game.
"Finally a game where the Jags find themselves having a game named after a famous play such as The Catch, Sea of Hands, or The Immaculate Reception," Marcus Olivares of Fresno, Cal., wrote. "It will forever be known in NFL history as simply The Rebound."
Mike Thomas, the smallest player on the field and a Jaguars wide receiver in his second season, caught a 50-yard Hail Mary pass from quarterback David Garrard for the game-winning touchdown, giving the Jaguars a crucial victory during a strong November surge.
"This has to be the most exciting finish for us ever," Ray Wortherly of Jacksonville wrote. "Many fans had started to leave the stadium, but we hung in there as we always do, and sure enough fate was on our side that day."
Fate – and as running back Maurice Jones-Drew put it later, a touch of luck.
The Jaguars, after squandering a 17-3 halftime lead, stopped a Texans possession by recovering a fumble on their 34-yard line with eight seconds remaining. At the time, it seemed to many relatively meaningless: had Texans tight end Joe Dressen not fumbled, Houston would not have had time to spike the ball and set up a long field goal.
As it turned out, it wasn't meaningless at all.
On the first play after the fumble, Garrard passed 11 yards to tight end Marcades Lewis, with Antonio Smith of Houston jumping off-side when the teams lined up for the next play. That gave the Jaguars possession at the 50.
With three seconds remaining, Garrard threw high pass down the left side of the field. The pass was intended for wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker, but Texans cornerback Glover Quinn deflected the pass, and Thomas caught the deflection.
He stepped into the end zone for a touchdown.
"These plays just don&39;t happen," Tim from Jacksonville wrote. "At best I was hoping for a pass interference, so we could try a field goal. I sit in the North End Zone. When I saw Mike Thomas cradle that ball and step over the goal line, I couldn&39;t believe what happened. Great moment."
Wrote Kevin Peffer of Jacksonville, "As the ball sailed skyward, my view from the south end zone in the Terrace Suite gave me a perfect angle. I said to my friend, 'Well, at least we&39;ll get to play overtime.' I didn&39;t even believe he caught it. But as the wave of excitement flooded the stadium like a tidal wave, I knew I had witnessed something special. "
In this case, players were as surprised as fans.
"You don&39;t expect that kind of play to go the way it&39;s supposed to go," Thomas said afterward. "I was shocked and a little stunned."
Said Jones-Drew, "We definitely lucked out on that one. Mike Thomas was in the right place at the right time."
Lucky for the Jaguars or not, the game helped define the seasons of each team.
The Texans, who led the AFC South early, slipped to last place in the division with a third consecutive loss and never seriously contended for the postseason in the final half of the season. For the Jaguars, who started 3-4, it was a second consecutive victory during a 5-1 stretch that moved them into first place in the AFC South with three games remaining.
Luke of Lewiston, Maine, saw the victory over the Texans at home as symbolic of the "hope and joy of unexpected success that was the 2010-2011 season. End-of-the-year-running-out-of-gas aside, what a great season!"
The play capped a game that the Jaguars had a chance to put away early, taking a 14-point halftime lead after a first half in which they produced 200 yards and 15 first downs. Josh Scobee of the Jaguars and Neil Rackers of the Texans each kicked first-quarter field goals before Jones-Drew scored on runs of 3 and 9 yards in the second quarter.
The Texans tied it 17-17 entering the fourth quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run by Arian Foster and a nine-yard pass from quarterback Matt Schaub to wide receiver Andre Johnson.
The Jaguars re-took the lead with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Garrard to tight end Zach Miller and the Texans tied it 24-24 with an 18-yard pass from Schaub to Kevin Walter.
The Texans scored on three second-half drives of 80 yards, with the Jaguars missing a chance to take the lead with 1:34 remaining when Scobee missed a 43-yard field goal. The Texans drove toward the Jaguars' goal line before Dressen's fumble set up the Jaguars' final drive and what Lance from Jacksonville called the "greatest finish to any sporting event I have ever attended."
"I remember the fans going to the bathroom and concession stands thinking the game was going into overtime," Robert Wilson of Jacksonville wrote. "Little did they know what magic was about to happen. I was sitting in the section right next to the end zone. The joy that overcame me is something I could not describe to you in words. It is something that I will never forget for the rest of my life. "
The game was the second home game of 2010 the Jaguars won on the last play. Six weeks earlier, Scobee's 59-yard field goal with no time remaining beat Indianapolis, 31-28.
For Brian "Biff" Fullford of Jacksonville, the moment was special – and meant more than just a mid-season victory.
"Are you kidding me?" Fullford wrote. "Two last-second home game wins in one year? While beating the Texans doesn&39;t carry the same weight as beating the Colts, when your team becomes a member of the Hail Mary club...that is something special. . . .When [Thomas] caught the ball the joyful disbelief was just as emphatic as the Scobee 59-yard field goal.
"Adding to the moment was the realization that all the attendance issues were slowly being put to bed as the team was clawing its way through the season to remain a playoff contender."
Wrote Tim from Jacksonville, "I was in the stands watching as Garrard threw the ball with no time left on the clock. As soon as the ball was swatted into Mike Thomas&39; arms, I felt the entire stadium erupt in amazement. I knew at that moment that I had witnessed history."