JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars were 4-4 when they traveled to play the New York Jets in mid-November 2009.
They were hoping to build on the week before when they beat the Kansas City Chiefs 24-21 to push towards a playoff spot.
Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars' feature back in 2009 after Fred Taylor was released, was coming off a strong performance against the Chiefs. Expectations were high for him to put up a big day.
Ironically, this day would be come down to the one yard he didn't gain.
Pro Bowl cornerback Rashean Mathis made a statement on the game's first play, stepping in front of a deep ball from Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery and returning the interception 29 yards to near midfield.
Jones-Drew rushed for 22 yards on the first four carries. He followed rookie left tackle Eugene Monroe and tight end Marcedes Lewis around the left end on the fifth play, rumbling 33 yards for a 7-0 Jaguars lead.
A touchdown pass from Sanchez to Cotchery and a field goal by Jay Feely gave the Jets a 10-7 lead after the first quarter.
Jaguars quarterback David Garrard took over the second quarter as the Jets dialed in on Jones-Drew. Alternating between rookie wide receiver Jarett Dillard and veteran wide receiver Torry Holt, Garrard kept the Jets off balance – and his 11-yard touchdown run on a draw behind center Brad Meester and left guard Vinny Manuwai gave the Jaguars the lead.
Garrard did the same thing on the Jaguars' next drive, this time mixing in Lewis and wide receiver Mike Thomas. The Jaguars took a 21-10 lead when Garrard passed 26 yards to wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker over the outstretched arms of cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Midway through the third quarter, it looked like the Jaguars would land a knockout blow. Leading 21-13, linebacker Quentin Groves intercepted Sanchez at the Jets 41 and returned it to their four.
Two plays later, Garrard fumbled at the one-yard line. The Jets recovered and the Meadowlands rocked as "J-E-T-S … Jets, Jets, Jets" reverberated and renewed the home team.
Sanchez passed to Braylon Edwards, who made a dramatic leaping catch at the New York 47. But Mathis jarred the ball loose, and Jaguars defensive tackle John Henderson recovered – and the Jaguars had momentum entering the fourth quarter.
The score was 21-16 early in the fourth when Sanchez put together the Jets' best offensive drive of the day: a 16-plays, 77-yarder capped by a touchdown by Thomas Jones for a 22-21 lead with just over five minutes remaining.
Garrard and the Jaguars' offense only needed a field goal and wanted to take as much time off the clock as possible in a drive that began at their 17-yard line.
Short passes game to Sims-Walker and tight end Zach Miller gave the Jaguars possession at the Jets 47 at the two-minute warning. They needed to get 20 yards closer since they were heading into the end zone where the Jets and Giants had become infamous for leaving a door open to create a swirling wind.
Lewis was left uncovered when Garrard found him at the New York 14, setting up a potential 31-yard field goal for Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee.
On first-and-10 from the 14, Garrard kept it for a four-yard gain to the 10-yard line and the Jets burned their final time out. Knowing they couldn't stop the clock and that a Jaguars field goal meant they would trail just 24-22 with time for a final drive, the Jets missed a tackle – willing to let Jones Drew score.
It didn't go as the Jets planned.
Jones-Drew, a smart football mind in his own right, raced to the one-yard line where he took a knee much to the delight of the Jaguars and the dismay of the Jets. Scobee's field goal cleared the uprights with no time left for a 24-22 victory.
It might have been the smartest on-field moment in Jaguars history.