But the Jaguars believed, and in early January 1997, they were the ones who mattered when the team pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NFL history. They also pulled off perhaps the biggest victory in franchise history, beating the heavily favored Denver Broncos, 30-27, in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colo.
The Broncos, led by quarterback John Elway, were heavily favored for a reason, having finished the regular season 13-3 and holding the AFC's No. 1 seed.
The Jaguars, a wild-card playoff team with a 9-7 regular season record, had beaten the Buffalo Bills in an AFC Wild Card game the week before, but few believed the Jaguars had a chance at Mile High. Denver Post Columnist Woody Paige wrote a column that morning referring to the Jaguars as "Jagwads," dismissing the Jaguars hopes.
He was far from alone, and it appeared the majority was right as the Jaguars fell behind, 12-0, early.
After that, all the Jaguars did was make history – and shock the NFL world.
Jaguars running back Natrone Means rushed for 140 yards, and the Jaguars as a team rushed for 203. By halftime, they led 13-12, and they extended that lead to 23-12 with a 31-yard third-quarter touchdown pass from quarterback Mark Brunell to wide receiver Keenan McCardell.
The Broncos cut the lead to 23-20, but Brunell on the ensuing drive scrambled 29 yards – a play many believe the biggest of Brunell's lengthy career and perhaps the biggest in franchise history – to set up a 16-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jimmy Smith that clinched a trip to the AFC Championship Game.