In keeping with the "10 things" theme in this "Best of Vic" celebration, here are what I consider to be the 10-most memorable plays in Jaguars history. They are ranked in descending order for dramatic effect.
10. Wilford in Buffalo—The Jaguars trailed, 10-6, in the 2004 season-opener when they got the ball on their 20-yard line with 2:07 to play at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Second-year quarterback Byron Leftwich quickly moved his offense down the field and from the Bills' seven-yard line on the final play of the game, Leftwich found a leaping Ernest Wilford, a rookie wide receiver, in the back of the end zone for a walk-off touchdown that kicked off what would become a 3-0 start to the season for the Jaguars. It was the first time in Jaguars history they had scored a game-winning touchdown on the final play of the game.
9. Titans one-two punch—Not all memories are sweet and there's no erasing the one-two punch the Titans delivered in the 1999 AFC title game in Jacksonville. A crowd of 75,206 watched in horror as the Titans sacked Mark Brunell for a safety that upped the Titans' lead to 19-14 and then, on the ensuing free kick, Derrick Mason ran 80 yards for a touchdown that sealed the Jaguars' fate. The Jaguars never recovered and a season that was one win away from ending in the Super Bowl became a season that will forever be remembered for the Jaguars having lost to only one team, the Titans, three times.
8. Fred goes 90—One week earlier, 75,173 fans watched Fred Taylor lead a 62-7 playoff rout of the Miami Dolphins by going 90 yards down the right sideline in a first-quarter blitzkrieg of points by the Jaguars. Twenty-five seconds later, Tony Brackens picked up a fumble and ran 16 yards for a touchdown that staked the Jaguars to a 24-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.
7. Mathis seals the deal—The 2005 Jaguars were a young team on the rise – especially a young defense on the rise – when third-year cornerback Rashean Mathis stepped in front of a Tommy Maddox pass in overtime at Heinz Field and raced 41 yards for the winning touchdown.
6. Here comes the "Bus"—In celebrating the great history of Three Rivers Stadium, a 1997 game between the Jaguars and Steelers was listed among the top 10 games ever played at the venerable stadium on the banks of the Allegheny. It is one of the very best football games I have ever seen and it was on this day, in the Jaguars' third season, that I came to realize the team I was covering was for real. They fought the Steelers tooth and nail in this late-October classic, a little more than a month after a thrilling victory over the Steelers in Jacksonville. Regulation expired with the Jags and Steelers tied at 17-17. The Steelers won the coin toss and began what would be the game-winning drive at their 23-yard line. The end came on a perfectly executed, 17-yard shovel pass to Jerome Bettis.
5. Don't you punch him—The AFC had a hot new rivalry following the first-ever Monday Night Football game in Jacksonville in Sept. of '97. Norm Johnson's 39-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game was blocked by Clyde Simmons and picked up by Chris Hudson, who returned the block 58 yards for a celebration touchdown. As Hudson ran past Steelers coach Bill Cowher along the Steelers sideline, Cowher took a step forward and saluted Hudson with a mock punch gesture. It is one of the most famous moments in Jaguars history.
4. Scobee's good from 59—The 2010 season didn't deliver a playoff berth but it did deliver high drama. The Jaguars were 1-2, coming off consecutive blow-out losses and in danger of seeing their season washed away early when they hosted the Colts in week four. A Colts-Jaguars classic came down to a 59-yard field goal attempt by Josh Scobee on the final play of the game and Scobee thumped his kick with the force of a driver and then dropped it softly over the crossbar with the softness of a pitching wedge. The season was on.
3. Hail Mary, full of Thomas—The cocky second-year wide receiver with a smile as wide as the ball was the toast of the football world following his Hail Mary catch on the final play of this 2010 week-10 game against the Texans. A 50-yard heave by David Garrard was deflected by Texans defensive back Glover Quin directly into Thomas' waiting hands at the goal line. Thomas secured the catch and then took one step across the goal line and into NFL legend.
2. Garrard's quarterback draw—David Garrard saved the day after the Jaguars had lost the lead to the Steelers in this 2007 season playoff game at Heinz Field. On fourth and two with less than two minutes to play, Garrard ran 32 yards on a quarterback draw play and, four plays later, Scobee kicked the game-winner from 25 yards. This game remains the Jaguars' only playoff win since that 62-7 rout of the Dolphins.
1. Brunell scrambles—Mark Brunell's 29-yard scramble in the fourth quarter of a dramatic 1996 playoff win in Denver remains the symbol of that improbable season and the Jaguars' Cinderella run to the AFC title game. Even more, it is the symbol of the Jaguars' unprecedented success in the first five years of their existence. Brunell's scramble led to a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith that clinched one of the greatest upsets in NFL postseason history.
These are what I consider to have been the most memorable plays I witnessed in my 16 years covering the Jaguars. I'm sure you have your own.