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Johnson star of '97 opener

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Week one of the 2003 NFL season finds the Jaguars in Carolina to play the Panthers this Sunday. Here's what happened in past years' season-openers. They're ranked in the order of their prominence in Jaguars history.

Jaguars 28, Ravens 27 (8-31-97)

Rob Johnson turned in a heroic performance in his first professional start, rushing for one touchdown and throwing for 294 yards and two touchdowns. He returned from a severe high-ankle sprain to lead the Jaguars on a game-winning 80-yard drive that culminated in a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith with 5:47 to play in the game.

Johnson staked the Jaguars to a 14-0 lead. He rushed for a 25-yard touchdown, then Natrone Means capped a 93-yard, 12-play drive with a one-yard plunge.

Vinny Testaverde tied the game with touchdown tosses of 17 and 42 yards to rookie wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, but the Jaguars regained the lead with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Smith.

Two Matt Stover field goals and a 54-yard touchdown pass from Testaverde to Michael Jackson left the Ravens to protect a 27-21 lead in the fourth quarter. They couldn't.

Johnson's 83.3 completion percentage was the best-ever by a quarterback making his first start since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. It would be the second and final time the two teams would play in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.

Jaguars 24, Bears 23 (9-6-98)

The Jaguars trailed the upset-minded Bears at Soldier Field, 23-17, with about four minutes to play in the game.

Eighty-seven yards away from the end zone, Mark Brunell began a patient drive that consumed 12 plays and all but 29 seconds of the game clock. Brunell capped the rally with a four-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith.

James Stewart rushed for 115 yards in a game that featured a controversial 88-yard punt return for a touchdown by the Bears' Glyn Milburn. Replay showed Milburn's knee had touched the ground after being tripped up by Mike Hollis.

Jaguars 24, Steelers 9 (9-1-96)

The AFC-champion Steelers were the perfect opponent for a Jaguars team with aspirations of being an AFC Central Division title contender in just their second season.

Mark Brunell touchdown passes to Willie Jackson and Keenan McCardell left the Jaguars with a 14-6 lead at halftime, and the Steelers never threatened that lead in the second half.

The Jaguars held the ball for over 35 minutes, as the Steelers labored in the Jacksonville afternoon heat and humidity.

Jaguars 41, 49ers 3 (9-12-99)

Mark Brunell vs. Steve Young; Jimmy Smith vs. Jerry Rice; new AFC power Jacksonville vs. old NFC kingpin San Francisco.

It was no contest.

A 23-yard fumble return for a touchdown by rookie Jason Craft and a 93-yard interception return for a touchdown by Aaron Beasley highlighted an afternoon of dominance by the Jaguars, in a game that was played in a driving rainstorm at Alltel Stadium.

Brunell threw for 265 yards and one touchdown; Young for 96 yards and two interceptions.

Smith caught six passes for 139 yards; Rice two for 17.

Jaguars 21, Steelers 3 (9-9-01)

The Steelers melted in the first-half heat, then washed away in the second-half rain at Alltel Stadium.

Mark Brunell threw three touchdown passes in the second quarter, erasing a 3-0 Steelers lead with all of the Jaguars' scoring in an eight-minute stretch. Jimmy Smith made touchdown catches of 34 and 15 yards, and tight end Damon Jones capped the scoring barrage with a one-yard touchdown grab.

After the Jaguars took a 7-0 lead, Donovin Darius partially blocked a Josh Miller punt and the Jaguars were back in business at midfield. The Jaguars scored and middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson followed by forcing a fumble rookie Marlon McCree recovered at the Steelers 23.

That was all she wrote for a Steelers team that would go touchdownless against the Jaguars for the fourth time in the last six meetings.

It marked the sixth consecutive year the Jaguars had won their season-opener. At the time, no one expected the Steelers to win 13 of their remaining 15 games.

Colts 28, Jaguars 25 (9-8-02)

It was one of the Jaguars' great what-if games of what would become a season of what-if games. What if Mark Brunell hadn't thrown an interception that was returned 40 yards for a touchdown with 33 seconds to play in the first half? What if punt-returner Damon Gibson hadn't fumbled a Colts punt in the third quarter, allowing a go-ahead touchdown by the visitors?

Those two plays were the major culprits in the Jaguars' first loss in a season-opener since the team's inaugural game in 1995. Brunell, in his 100th career start, threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns, Jimmy Smith caught eight passes for 104 yards in his first action since ending his holdout, and Fred Taylor rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown in his first regular season game in a year.

Jaguars 27, Browns 7 (9-3-00)

Mark Brunell was at his best in dissecting the Cleveland defense for 301 yards passing and a touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith that was an example of the two players' stardom. Smith opened the scoring after he and Brunell communicated a route-adjustment against man-to-man coverage.

Playing without Fred Taylor and with a patchwork offensive line, the Jaguars rushed for 119 yards and put the game away with an 86-yard drive that was capped by Stacey Mack's three-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

Oilers 10, Jaguars 3 (9-3-95)

The event was better than the game.

In the Jaguars' inaugural game at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, the Houston Oilers scored the game's only touchdown on their first possession of the game. The Oilers marched 78 yards in 13 plays, Haywood Jeffires catching a four-yard touchdown pass from Chris Chandler.

The Jaguars were able to mount nothing offensively behind quarterback Steve Beuerlein, who was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of Mark Brunell. Both quarterbacks were under a heavy rush that left them to combine for just 45 net yards passing.

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