JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars weren't sure what kind of team they had on Opening Day 2010 when the Denver Broncos arrived in Jacksonville.
They had veteran quarterback David Garrard and one of the NFL's best young running backs, Maurice Jones-Drew. They hoped for an improved offensive line with tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton in Year 2. They believed a defense bolstered by former Green Bay pass rusher Aaron Kampman would get after the opposing quarterback and create turnovers.
The opposing quarterback that day was Kyle Orton, which was somewhat of a disappointment to a home crowd who hoped to see local hero Tim Tebow – then a rookie quarterback and the Broncos' first-round draft choice. But Tebow wasn't quite ready.
Orton moved the offense into Jacksonville territory on the Broncos' first drive, but Kampman ripped into the backfield on a key third down and spilled Orton for a 12-yard loss to force a punt.
From there, the game looked like two teams trying to shake off the rust with punt after punt. Then, the Jaguars faced fourth-and-1 at midfield at the two-minute warning of the first half. Head Coach Jack Del Rio decided his defense was playing well enough to take a chance.
A four-yard run by Jones-Drew turned into the spark that started the fire, with Garrard finding wide receiver Mike Thomas for 26 yards down the middle before a dump-off to tight end Marcedes Lewis for a 21-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The Broncos, suffering in the heat and humidity of North Florida in September, then put together a drive of their own. Orton first hit receiver Brandon Lloyd in stride for 41 yards. Wide receiver Eddie Royal then got behind safety Sean Considine on the next play for 25 yards before Orton's eight-yard strike to wide receiver Jabar Gaffney tied the game at the half.
When the Broncos emerged from their air-conditioned locker room for the third quarter, the heat had risen to 105 with the heat index well above that. Del Rio decided it was the perfect time to take a team conditioned to the heat and humidity and deliver a knock-out blow to a team that had no exposure to those elements.
Garrard first handed to Jones-Drew for four yards, then ten, then two. Backup running back Rashad Jennings then rushed for six yards, then two, then 15. The Broncos were gassed when Garrard pulled the play action and found Lewis alone in the corner of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown – Lewis' second of the game.
Would the Broncos answer as they had in the second quarter? Not until they stopped the Jaguars on fourth down at the Jaguars 39 late in the third quarter. A few plays later, running back Knowshon Moreno took it in from one yard and the game was tied.
The teams traded field goals and the score was tied 17-17 when the Jaguars took possession at their 17-yard line. A 15-yard face mask penalty on Denver gave the Jaguars breathing room. Jones-Drew pounded out back-to-back eight-yard runs, and the Jaguars were suddenly at midfield. A 15-yard face mask penalty on Broncos defensive end Ryan McBean moved the Jaguars to the Broncos 35. Garrard quickly found Thomas on a crossing route, and after a run by Garrard the Jaguars were in field-goal range.
Garrard had other ideas. On first down, he dropped a beautiful rainbow pass into the lengthy arms of little-used special teams ace Kassim Osgood, whose 6-feet-5 five frame was perfectly parked in the corner of the end zone for a 24-17 lead.
Rookie returner Perrish Cox fielded the short kickoff at the 15-yard line and raced up the middle to the Denver 43. A 25-yard completion to Lloyd and an 11-yard run by Moreno put the Broncos in position. The Jaguars stopped the Broncos at the Jaguars 14 with 4:47 remaining. Broncos rookie Head Coach Josh McDaniel went for it on fourth down. Orton's pass to Lloyd was broken up by Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis to preserve the lead.
It still wasn't over. The Broncos got the ball back with less than a minute to play but Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith ended the day by intercepting Orton.
The back-and-forth Week 1 win was a pretty good indicator for Del Rio. The 2010 Jaguars would finish 8-8.