One of the most stunning and dramatic wins in Jaguars history was marred only by Fred Taylor's groin injury. The Taylor watch begins, again. How bad is the injury? How long will he be out?
"I thought my body split in half," Taylor said of what he experienced on a nine-yard run in the second quarter. The run ended with Taylor dropping the football and grabbing his groin area.
"I'm on pain-killers now. It hurts like crap," Taylor said following the game, as he leaned on crutches. "I'm determined to get back. I've been here before. I know the routine," he added.
He is the major concern now of a team that is 2-0 and having defeated two of its major AFC Central Division rivals. Today, it was the Tennessee Titans, 13-6, in a game that featured two late-game stops by the Jaguars defense.
"Both teams came in here to honor America and there's no question we honored … the heroes," Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said, referring to those who perished in the tragic events of Sept. 11.
Coughlin wore a cap that bore the initials "FDNY," which stands for Fire Department of New York. "The hat is in recognition of all the people who served with great valor," Coughlin said.
His son, Tim, had escaped from the 60th floor of the World Trade Center. "My son told me that as they were going down, the firemen were going up; 800 degrees and they were going up," Coughlin said.
Coughlin confessed to overwhelming emotions at the start of the game, as the NFL conducted a league-wide pregame ceremony to commemorate the Sept. 11 tragedy. A Jacksonville crowd of 65,994 waived flags on a day that will forever be remembered for its display of patriotism.
It will also be remembered for the game that was played at Alltel Stadium. The Jaguars and Titans staged an AFC Central classic.
"This was pageantry at its very best," Coughlin said.
The same could be said of the football.
Tennessee moved the ball with relative ease in the first half, but was held to two field goals. The Jaguars put together a nine-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that culminated in an impressive 22-yard touchdown dash by Stacey Mack, who replaced Taylor and finished the game with 80 yards on 18 rushing attempts.
"There was a point when Fred (Taylor) got hurt that we felt we needed to be a little more pass-conscious and (Mack) creased us a couple of times. Then we went back to balancing our attack and we settled down a little bit. We missed tackles on the long run. He's a load. He's a downhill runner and he brings it. It's unfortunate for them that it looks like they've lost Fred for some period of time, but they've always had a way of adjusting to injuries," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
"He made some tough yardage in the second half and, when we look at the tape, he'll probably agree with me that we could've made some more," Coughlin said of Mack.
Meanwhile, Titans star running back Eddie George finished the game with 79 yards rushing, after a 76-yard, first-half start. George and the Titans seemed to wear down in the second half, the result of the heat and humidity.
George was stopped for no gain on a critical fourth-and-one play at the Jaguars 15-yard line in the fourth quarter. "We just penetrated and grabbed one of those big legs," said defensive tackle Gary Walker, who was credited for the stop.
The next time the Titans had the ball, they moved to the Jaguars nine-yard line. Neil O'Donnell, who was playing in place of the injured Steve McNair, converted a fourth-and-four pass to Kevin Dyson for 19 yards. However, O'Donnell threw four consecutive incompletions, his final pass having been knocked away from Dyson by cornerback Fernando Bryant.
"I was breaking on the ball. I have as much right to the ball as anybody," said Bryant, who came close to having committed pass interference when he bumped Dyson's left shoulder before the ball arrived.
The Titans got one more shot at a game-tying touchdown drive, but O'Donnell was sacked by Renaldo Wynn on second-and-one at the Titans 42, and O'Donnell threw incomplete on third and fourth downs.
"You've got to start fast. That's been our thing; start fast. We've got another division game coming. We've got to win them all," wide receiver Keenan McCardell said.
With the Cleveland Browns set to play at Alltel this Sunday, the Jaguars find themselves tied for the AFC Central lead with the Cincinnati Bengals, who upset the defending Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens today.
"Our defense dominated the game and kept us in it. Sometimes we try to get too picky about wins; it has to be pretty. It's a win," offensive tackle Tony Boselli said.
"I thought Neil O'Donnell played good enough for us to win," Fisher said. O'Donnell was 21 of 36 for 215 yards.
Surprisingly, the Jaguars seemed to target Titans cornerback Samari Rolle, who was the Jaguars' chief tormentor in 1999 when the Titans handed Jacksonville its only three losses of the season.
"I think, right now, we haven't gelled. It's the little things that are killing us. We have to find a way to fix it because this team is too talented to be 0-2 right now. I certainly don't think it's the end of the season or anything like that," Rolle said.
The Jaguars could've put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, but tight end Damon Jones had the ball punched out from behind by former Jaguars linebacker Eddie Robinson during a 40-yard pass-and-run play from Mark Brunell to Jones. Rolle returned the fumble 26 yards, but appeared to have even more open field.
"I didn't have any legs left at that point. The heat kind of got to me today," Rolle added.
The emotions of the day seemed to get to everyone. There was a noticeable decline in trash-talking between the two teams, and the Titans showed a great deal of concern for Taylor as he lie injured on the field.
Now, Taylor's injury is the Jaguars' major concern.
Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.