The Jaguars had lived with their anguish for more than a year. They couldn't beat the Titans, not even at Alltel Stadium, a fact Titans coach Jeff Fisher duly noted for no less an audience than the media covering the Super Bowl.
They couldn't beat the Titans in the big game, even after leading 14-10 at halftime. They couldn't match up physically with the Titans, and that one hurt the most.
"It's nice because it'll get you guys off our backs," Tony Boselli said of the Jaguars' dramatic, 16-13, final-play-of-the-game win over visiting Tennessee Sunday.
"We don't have to hear Jeff Fisher say this is their fifth home, and all of that junk," Boselli added.
What about the "physical" thing? Boselli was asked. He smiled. "We won. We had a 100-yard rusher," he said.
The Jaguars took subtle shots at the Titans following Sunday's victory, and who could blame them? However, no one would say the win made up for the loss they suffered in last season's AFC title game.
"That was pretty big, knocking us out of the Super Bowl, so, let's not get too excited," Boselli added.
So, how big was this win over the Titans, which ended a streak of five consecutive victories by the Titans over the Jaguars?
Well, at 5-7 the Jaguars retained slim hope of making the playoffs, but it's likely that record will go to 8-7 and if the Jaguars are still mathematically alive at that point, they'll go to New York to play the Giants in the regular season finale with a postseason chance, which is more than anyone expected a couple of weeks ago.
For now, they'll savor the revenge factor. "To be able to deal a blow to them, after what they did to us, feels good," Boselli said, referring to the fact that the loss left the Titans (9-3) a game behind the Oakland Raiders in the AFC playoffs homefield advantage race.
At 9-4, the Baltimore Ravens trail the Titans in the AFC Central title race. The Jaguars are a game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7). In all, nine teams are ahead of the Jaguars in the AFC playoffs race, but several of those teams are facing difficult finishing schedules. For example, the Indianapolis Colts, 7-5, play at the Jets and at the Dolphins, and host the Bills and the Vikings.
If fortune has turned in the Jaguars' favor, it is due to a tale of two kickers. The Titans' Al Del Greco, in the midst of a nightmarish season, sailed wide to the left a 28-yard field goal attempt with the game tied and just over three minutes to play. The Jaguars' Mike Hollis split the uprights from 38 yards away as time expired.
"You feel alone. You rely on your experience and hope things go your way," Hollis said. "I was very shocked," he added of Del Greco's miss. "I was expecting to have an opportunity to tie the game."
In the past, the circumstances had been reversed. Two years ago, Del Greco began the Titans' five-game winning streak against the Jaguars by booting a game-winning field goal at Alltel Stadium that canceled the Jaguars' first-ever division title celebration.
Then, early last season, the Jaguars appeared to have overtime in the bag when, on a third-and-goal play, Mark Brunell was intercepted by Samari Rolle. By the way, Rolle maintained his mastery of Brunell Sunday, intercepting Brunell twice, the fifth and sixth interceptions in Rolle's career against the Jaguars.
"He should at least send me a fruit basket or something," Brunell said.
Though Fred Taylor turned in his sixth consecutive 100-yard effort, Brunell made the big plays down the stretch, moving the Jaguars 61 yards to Hollis' game-winning kick. In the drive, Brunell converted a third-and-10 play with a 30-yard pass to Keenan McCardell, then threw twice to Jimmy Smith for 15 yards each.
"You ask me, there's no question who the quarterback of the future is. I hope he's the quarterback here for the rest of his career," Boselli said of Brunell, with whom the Jaguars will seek to reach a long-term contract extension this coming offseason.
"This is big for obvious reasons. All we've heard about the last couple of years has been the Tennessee Titans, for obvious reasons. Certainly, a weight has been lifted. We're excited about the win," Brunell said.
The Titans were aware of the Jaguars' revenge factor, but Fisher's team's goals go way beyond division rivalries. They are expected to make it back to the Super Bowl, yet, they haven't played well for more than a month.
"We didn't go into this one thinking it was going to come down to the end. We were expecting to score points and move the ball and try to dominate in the same fashion we had in the last couple of matchups. We just couldn't. They came out to play and they played well. They had a good plan," Fisher said.
The Jaguars' greatest accomplishment was having held running back Eddie George to 69 yards rushing and a 2.9 yards-per-carry average. That put the ball squarely in quarterback Steve McNair's court and, playing with a sore right thumb that made him questionable through pre-game drills, McNair was able to convert only the first of four trips into the red zone into a touchdown.
"Your demeanor has to be that you expect to win against this club because their demeanor is of such confidence," Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said.
Taylor continues to be the Jaguars' offensive star over the second half of the season. He rushed for 104 yards and a 4.3 average, and led the Jaguars with four receptions for 22 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown.
"We played a decent game, but not at our highest level. We won this game. The objective is to win, but we could've won by more points," Taylor said.
As happy as the Jaguars were to finally avenge their AFC title game loss to the Titans, Taylor said it wasn't enough. "Never, never; we were 30 minutes away. We let it go down the drain. Nothing can make up for that, except getting back to the Super Bowl," Taylor said.
It's most unlikely that will happen this season, but at least the Jaguars can say it wasn't the Titans who eliminated them from playoffs contention.