The Jaguars and the Titans will say goodbye for another year this Sunday, and unless something dramatic or controversial occurs, the 2004 two-game series between the two teams will have passed without much fanfare.
Something has to happen this Sunday, right? These two teams can't possibly go through a whole season without some kind of controversy, huh?
Well, maybe they can. Maybe this is the end of the Jaguars-Titans rivalry as we have known it for the past several years. Maybe it needs a little cooling-off period before re-defining itself for the future. It won't go away. It'll only take a rest.
So, this would be the perfect time to reflect. Though this rivalry has been one-sided in the Titans' favor, it has not lacked for drama. For an expansion franchise looking for something that might rally its fans, the Jaguars have benefited greatly from what they have established with their Tennessee counterparts.
• 1998—The Jaguars clobbered the Oilers at Vanderbilt in September. It was a game that left most people to believe Jeff Fisher would not make it to another season. Then, late in '98, with the Jaguars needing only a win at home to clinch their first-ever division title, the Oilers pulled the upset. It was the first of many daggers the Titans franchise would stick into the Jaguars' heart. The fireworks set up in the practice fields adjacent to Alltel Stadium, meant to celebrate the Jaguars' division title, went un-fired. In some ways, they're still waiting.
• 1999—On a rainy day early in the season, the Titans gave us a taste of what was to come. They intercepted Mark Brunell in the end zone on third down with but a few seconds to play in the game, securing their second consecutive win at Alltel. Three months later, they would leave Brunell with a knee injury and the Jaguars with their second defeat of the season. A month after that, they did it to the Jaguars for a third time that season and for a second time at Alltel, in the AFC title game; three losses the whole season, but all of them to one team. Ouch!
• 2000—The Titans franchise soared; the Jaguars swooned. Late in the year, however, the Jaguars exacted a rather inconsequential measure of revenge when Mike Hollis booted a game-winning field goal on the final play of the game. The Titans' Alltel win streak was halted at three, but the win didn't ease the Jaguars' pain.
• 2001—The Jaguars scored a rousing win in week two at Alltel Stadium but lost Fred Taylor for the season. In the second meeting, Tennessee rallied for a final-seconds win.
• 2002—The Jaguars were 3-1 and coming off a major upset of the Eagles when they rode into Nashville. The Titans were 1-4 and on the verge of seeing their dynasty collapse. It didn't happen that way. Tennessee won the game and lost only one more time that season. When the two teams met late in the season in Jacksonville, Tom Coughlin was a week away from being fired and the Titans made it clear that would happen.
• 2003—It was a new era in Jacksonville, but the first game between the two teams was eerily the same. The Titans pounded the Jaguars into submission when they met at Alltel in October. Three weeks later, however, something different happened. It wasn't that the Jaguars won the game, because they didn't. It was how they lost that was so telling. In Nashville, in a 10-3 loss, the Jaguars physically manhandled the Titans. The times, they were a changin'.
• 2004—Oh, yeah, they've changed. The Jaguars are 6-3; the Titans are 3-6. With a win over the Titans this Sunday, the Jaguars will have completed their first season-series sweep of the Titans franchise since 1997, when it was the Oilers and they played their games at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Titans this Sunday.
1. Get off to a fast start—The Titans could be a beaten lot. Hopelessness breeds surrender. A fast start has never been more important.
2. Rally around David Garrard—It worked last week.
3. Rush the quarterback—Previously, this had always been a risky proposition against Steve McNair, but he doesn't have the mobility he once did and his offensive line is injured at both tackles. Go get him.
4. Run the ball—It worked last week.
5. Stop the run—If you don't, Fisher won't do anything else.
6. Feel their pain—Maybe the Jaguars' players weren't here in 1999, but the fans were and Sunday's game is about those three games in '99. Do it for the fans.
7. Do it for now, too—This is late November with Thanksgiving just around the corner. This is the playoff race. Win or get out of the way.
8. Improve special teams—Everybody has a bad day, but last week was off the charts. What was that?
9. Be physical—It is the Jaguars' new style and it must be re-established each week.
10. Beware of screens and trick plays—These are the still the Titans and they love to run the screens and the special teams gadgets.