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Jags' big chance, again


Jaguars fans have been talking about their special hate for the Tennessee Titans since the Titans beat the Jaguars for the third time in the 1999 season, in that year's AFC title game. It cost the Jaguars a trip to the Super Bowl.

Oh, how I hate you.

Well, that's nice, Titans fans might say, but when are you going to do something about it?

It's a valid question. The Jaguars have had opportunities to exact revenge against the Titans, but haven't been able to get it done.

Hate? Yeah, that's usually what happens when someone is abused and, make no mistake about it, the Titans have abused the Jaguars. The Titans have won the last five games between the two teams and, more impressively, 10 of the last 12.

The Jaguars had a real chance to drive a stake into the Titans' heart in 2002. After an upset win over Philadelphia, the Jaguars were 3-1 and the talk of the NFL. They were the surprise team of the early season. Meanwhile, the Titans were 1-4 and in danger of seeing their season, heck, their modest dynasty, ended.

Titans players admitted they were facing a must win against the Jaguars. Titans owner Bud Adams was even sniping at his coach, Jeff Fisher. The situation in Nashville was desperate. A loss to the Jaguars might've even sent the Titans into salary cap surrender.

Nobody, and that includes the Titans themselves, thought Fisher's team would rally as it did. Since that game, the Titans are 23-6, which is the best record in the NFL during that period.

Oh, the hate. They did it to the Jaguars again. Just when it appeared the Jaguars would have the satisfaction of ending the Titans' run, the Titans turned the tables on the Jaguars and used them as a springboard to another era of dominance.

You remember the game, don't you? Samari Rolle knocked Mark Brunell out in the first quarter and the Titans cruised to a 23-14 win.

It was another bitter pill for the Jaguars to swallow. Owner Wayne Weaver was furious about the hit on Brunell. He took his complaint to the league office which, in turn, hit Rolle with a big fine. Then Fisher fired back, and expectations are he'll probably say something sarcastic about the Jaguars again this week. It's what he does when these two teams are about to play.

Last year, Jack Del Rio got his first taste of the Tennessee tablet, when his defense put up the white flag late in the game with the Titans holding a big lead and trying to run out the clock. They succeeded, holding the ball for an unbelievable 11 minutes and 14 seconds in a 16-run, one-pass field-goal drive that left Del Rio standing on the sideline with smoke coming out of his ears.

Say hello to the Titans, coach. Don't you just hate them?

Three weeks later, Del Rio took his team to Nashville, but this was not the same team the Titans abused in Jacksonville. After having read his team the riot act following that earlier embarrassment to the Titans, Del Rio's team was ready to play "Big Boy" football this time. They were ready to stand toe-to-toe with the Titans, and they did. In fact, the Jaguars physically kicked the Titans all over their own turf, and Fisher made no smart remarks in the postgame.

Never mind that the Titans had scored another win (10-3) against the Jaguars. Something profound had happened that day. The Jaguars were mad as hell and they weren't going to take it any more.

All right, we'll see if they still feel that way this Sunday. Talk is cheap. Emotion is useless. Results are what count and this is the Jaguars' opportunity to produce the outcome they have sought for so long.

The Titans are in trouble, folks. They're vulnerable. The injuries have mounted, they're coming off a home loss to the Colts, and a loss to the Jaguars could topple the Titans' whole house of cards because it's a team with severe salary cap problems. When the Titans go away, they will go away for a long time.

Might that journey begin this Sunday?

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