JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars have a fun interdivisional rivalry with the Denver Broncos thanks to one big playoff victory 25 seasons ago that has so pained folks out west that they bring it up every time the teams meet.
But it has been a series of big moments, defined by great players coming through in the clutch to deliver late-game heroics that have made the games among the most memorable in Jaguars history.
The Broncos couldn't quite shake the Jaguars in the Jaguars' 1995 inaugural season. The Jaguars didn't really threaten to upset Denver and quarterback John Elway at Mile High Stadium, but thanks to a then-little-known wide receiver they refused to fold. Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone on the final play of the first half to give the Jaguars life headed into the locker room. Instead of being down 21-3 they felt like they had a chance. The Broncos tried to end the game with a touchdown at the end of the third quarter, but Smith took the ensuing kickoff on a lateral from wide receiver Desmond Howard and raced 95 yards to make it 28-17. A few minutes later, after the Broncos hit a field goal to extend the lead, Smith scored his third touchdown of the day on a 14-yard strike from quarterback Steve Beuerlein. The Jaguars lost 31-23, but gave the AFC West-leading Broncos a scare in December.
It would be more than a scary situation for the Broncos a little more than a year later in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Mile High. A surging Jaguars squad with six consecutive victories had overcome an early 12-0 Denver lead and were furiously trying to hold off a Broncos comeback by Elway, who had done it time and again in his brilliant career. The Jaguars led 23-20 with just over four minutes to play and had the ball second-and-10 at midfield. The Broncos were desperate and sending everything at quarterback Mark Brunell, who rolled to his right and with a head and shoulder fake left All Pro linebacker Bill Romanowski absolutely standing still as he raced back to his left and down the Jags' sideline for 29 yards and a huge momentum boost to the Broncos 21-yard line. Two plays later, Brunell hit Smith on a gorgeous 16-yard rainbow pass over the defender into the receiver's out-stretched hands to deliver the touchdown that sealed the victory. The game remains perhaps the signature victory in Jaguars history and those two plays remain among the top five plays in franchise history.
In a playoff rematch in 1997, reserve running back Derrick Loville finally dispatched a scrappy Jaguars team with a dramatic 25-yard touchdown right between rookie defensive tackles Seth Payne and Renaldo Wynn.
In October 1998 Denver kicker Jason Elam tied the-then-NFL record with a 63-yard field goal at the end of the first half to give the Broncos some breathing room in an otherwise closely contested game. It was the first time the record had been matched since Tom Dempsey set it in November of 1970 to beat the Detroit Lions at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.
Jaguars running back Fred Taylor nursed a sore hamstring most of the 1999 season; though he dressed for a Monday Night Football game against the Broncos, he didn't play until the fourth quarter. But head coach Tom Coughlin needed his best offensive player. So, with game tied at 10 and less than four minutes to play, Taylor took a second-down handoff and, making a dramatic cut, reversed his field and raced through the Denver defense for a huge 38-yard touchdown and a 24-17 lead. But Taylor wasn't done. The Broncos quickly tied the game on a touchdown pass from quarterback Brian Griese to tight end Byron Chamberlin. Brunell moved the Jaguars into field-goal range, but Coughlin needed to run the clock. Enter Taylor once again. Taylor went up the middle for a 14-yard gain on second-and-12 with 1:11 remaining and posted a seven-yard run with :34 to play that allowed kicker Mike Hollis to kick the game-winner with no time left. That earned the Jaguars their 10th consecutive victory and kept them in the driver's seat for home field advantage in the post-season.
Let's fast forward past a big victory in Denver in 2008 when tight end Marcedes Lewis made two huge catches – including a 30-yard touchdown – and running back Maurice Jones Drew scampered 46 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to give the Jaguars a commanding lead en route to a victory.
Most recently, in 2019, rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II made his third consecutive start and had the Jaguars in position to steal a victory in Denver. But Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco's touchdown pass to wide receiver Courtland Sutton with 1:38 remaining gave the Broncos a one-point lead. Enter Minshew Mania. He found wide receiver Dede Westbrook open for 32 yards to the Broncos 27 and then a few plays later found Chris Conley alone for 17 more, setting up a 33-yard field goal by Josh Lambo for the victory as time expired.
The Jaguars lead the regular-season series 6-5. If history is our guide, we can expect someone to do something big and provide another heroic highlight.
WEEK 2 · Sun 09/19 · 1:00 PM EDT