Senior writer John Oehser’s “oral history” of 25 memorable games in Jaguars history continues with this look at a 28-21 victory over the Miami Dolphins in October of 1998 as offensive tackle Tony Boselli won a battle with Hall of Fame defensive end Jason Taylor – and when wide receiver Keenan McCardell turned in one of the best games of his Jaguars career
Date: October 12, 1998.
Records entering game: Jaguars 4-0, Dolphins 3-1.
Site: Alltel Stadium; Jacksonville.
What happened: The Jaguars, in the second Monday Night Football game ever in Jacksonville, did what they had done in their first MNF game the previous season – they beat a high-profile opponent in dramatic, memorable fashion. This time it was by a score of 28-21 over the Miami Dolphins. This game is remembered in Jaguars lore for multiple memorable plays and performances, but perhaps mostly for the matchup between Jaguars left tackle Tony Boselli and Dolphins pass rusher Jason Taylor. The Jaguars dominated early, with rookie running back Fred Taylor making his prime-time debut with a 77-yard run for a touchdown on the game’s first play from scrimmage and Taylor’s two-yard run on the second play of the second quarter giving the Jaguars a 14-0 lead. Miami tied it 14-14 with a two-yard second-quarter touchdown pass from quarterback Dan Marino to tight end Troy Drayton and a one-yard run by running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar, with the Dolphins then taking a 21-14 lead on Marino’s 15-yard third-quarter pass to Drayton. The Jaguars, limited by the Dolphins’ defense much of the night after Taylor’s game-opening run, tied it at 21-21 with a 23-yard pass from quarterback Mark Brunell to wide receiver Keenan McCardell early in the fourth quarter. One play after Dolphins kicker Olindo Mare’s 54-yard field goal missed, Brunell again hit McCardell – this time for 56 yards and a 28-21 lead with 2:36 remaining, a play remembered for Boselli mockingly motioning to Jason Taylor to follow him down the field following the play. The Jaguars’ defense held the Dolphins twice after that, with defensive end Tony Brackens’ sack/fumble ending one drive and Marino throwing incomplete from the Miami 34 on the game’s final play.
Jaguars leading passer: Brunell (12-18, 213 yards, two touchdowns, one interception).
Jaguars leading rushers: Taylor (12 carries, 89 yards, two touchdowns); Tavian Banks (nine carries, 75 yards).
Jaguars leading receivers: McCardell (three receptions, 86 yards, two touchdowns).
Dolphins leading passer: Marino (30-49, 323 yards, two touchdowns, one interception).
Dolphins leading rusher: Abdul-Jabbar (31 carries, 43 yards, one touchdown).
Dolphins leading receiver: Oronde Gadsden (five receptions, 91 yards).
The pregame story was a big story in this game. Jason Taylor, a 2018 Hall of Fame inductee, talked big about his matchup with Boselli before and during the game.
Boselli: “He was a young player who was good, and he talked to the press beforehand. He said something negative about me. I can’t remember, but I remember people saying something about it. My wife asked me about it. That ticked me off. It was on Monday Night, so in the production meeting they asked me about it. So, now I know going into this game the cameras are going to be on us.”
Boselli, a Pro Bowl selection in 1996 and 1997, had become accustomed to such attention since a dominating performance against Buffalo Bills defensive end Bruce Smith in the playoffs following the 1996 season.
Boselli: “That’s the one thing the Bruce Smith game did that was unique for me and was sometimes different than other offensive linemen. All of a sudden, cameras would watch me. People would be like, ‘Oh, they talked about you.’ I’m like, ‘I’m an offensive lineman. That doesn’t happen.’”
Boselli on Taylor’s pregame banter: “I knew it was going to be a topic and they were going to cover it and this guy was a good player. He talked the entire game and never shut up.”
Brunell: “I knew going into that game that as good as Jason was, I didn’t have to worry about Jason. He wasn’t a factor to me. There was never a concern with who he (Boselli) was blocking. There was no guy out there I was ever concerned about. He had everything.”
Boselli was far from the only Jaguars player who turned in a memorable game that night. Taylor, making his first Monday Night Football appearance, didn’t disappoint. His 77-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage remains one of the most electric plays in franchise history.
Taylor: “The trainer, Joe Sheehan, was stretching me on the ground [before kickoff]. Joe was like, ‘Man, why don’t you go break one right now?’ I said, OK. I’ll be right back.’’ I told myself all week, ‘[Dolphins linebacker] Zach Thomas overruns the play.’ Coach called a stretch play, 39 Boss. I was like, ‘All right, coach called the stretch play.’ It was out of two tight ends, one back. I was like, ‘Yes, yes, yes. I’m cutting this back. I don’t care what happens. I’m cutting it back against the over-pursuit.’ Cut back: bang, bang, bang. I straightened up, outran everybody, 77 yards later, spike the ball, run to the sidelines. I got back to Joe and Joe said, ‘Holy ----. I was just kidding, man.’ I was like, ‘I told you.’ But that was the only bright spot that game. The next 11 carries were pretty nightmarish because of that short little son-of-a-gun Zach Thomas. I had 11 carries for 12 yards after that. I’ll never forget it.”
Taylor’s two-yard touchdown early in the second quarter gave the Jaguars a two-touchdown lead, but Marino – nearing the end of a Hall-of-Fame career – was still Marino. He led the Dolphins back and his 15-yard touchdown pass to Drayton gave Miami a 21-14 lead with 3:28 remaining in the third quarter.
Hudson: “I just remember that Marino threw so quick. I remember cheating a lot, trying to get there, but it was so hard to get there on him. You know the play, but there’s this guy and you say, ‘OK, I see why this guy’s a Hall of Famer.’ You understand, ‘That’s why he gets the hype.’ Literally in the game you’re thinking that: ‘OK, that’s why he’s the real deal.’ It was the quickest release I’ve ever seen in my life. You’d be sitting on routes and you knew what he was about to do. You’d say, ‘I’m going to it right here and when I see it, I’m attacking before the receiver gets out of the break.’ And then he throws it at the back of your feet. You’re like, ‘Who does that?’ It happed in the game two or three times. It was like magic. You’re like, ‘OK, this guy’s magical.’’’
Searcy: “Anytime you beat Marino, who was a legend, it was a big factor.”
Searcy: “Boselli was putting work on Jason Taylor. There were a couple of plays where Jason flipped on my side. I said, ‘Bro, I don’t know why you came over here. You’re going to get the same thing you got from over there.’”
Searcy (smiling): “I talked a little bit.”
Not that Boselli was having an easy night. Not even close.
Boselli: “He (Taylor) didn’t get any pressure. He got nothing. He was good. I was challenged. It wasn’t like it was a walk in the park, but he wouldn’t ever shut up. I got a late penalty, a personal foul. I lost it. He wouldn’t shut up, so I tried to kill him after a play.”
The Jaguars pulled even with 11:55 remaining when Brunell passed 23 yards to McCardell. It was McCardell’s first big play of the game. He had been waiting.
McCardell: “We were playing [Dolphins cornerbacks] Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison. We’d been hearing all the talk about how good they were. That’s all we were hearing. They’re going to play man-to-man.”
The man-to-man part piqued the interest of Smith and McCardell.
McCardell: “That’s my game. You want to play man-to-man? I’m a route runner. You’re not going to have a chance. Jimmy? The same way. He was like, ‘They’re going to play man-to-man the whole game? Really? Let’s go.’ For me, that was a fun game. That’s what you expect. It’s what you want and that’s what you’ve got to beat.”
The game turned minutes after McCardell’s first touchdown. First, Mare missed from 54 yards with 2:44 remaining. On the next play, Brunell threw deep to McCardell for a 56-yard touchdown.
McCardell: “It was a Florida game. It was the best of Florida. We knew they were a good team. They were playing well. We get a chance to get after somebody? To really show some people we can play football? It was our time. It was showcase time for us. Me and Jimmy were like, ‘It’s time to really do this.’ It was fun. ‘Just leave it up to us.’ We were having fun. We knew it outside. I was like, ‘Bo (Boselli), we got these guys.’ He was like, ‘I got you, I got Jason. Let’s go.’ Searcy’s over there battling also, and we wanted to make this a statement game for us as two receivers that had arrived: ‘We’re here, bro. You guys can say what you want, but we’re here and you’re going to see it.’”
If the game-winning touchdown was big for McCardell, it became an iconic moment for Boselli. He turned to Taylor after the touchdown and waved for him to follow him down the field.
Boselli: “He (Taylor) had been talking the whole game, but I knew that was it. I knew we were winning the game. I looked back and he was following. I said, ‘Come on, come get some more.’ That wasn’t like me. I didn’t do much of that. But at that point, I had had enough. I was like, ‘You don’t get to talk.’ That was my problem with defensive players my whole career. They can talk and do all this talking and dancing. I can kick their butt for 69 of 70 plays. But if I slip or if they make a good move or have a good play on a sack, they’re a hero, and somehow they beat me. No, if we judge this as a prizefight, I kicked your butt for 69 of 70 plays. I beat you. You had one play.” I think I got back at him because I did like this (motioning) because it was on national TV and it was very unoffensive lineman-like.”
Brunell (motioning with his hands and laughing): “That was awesome.”
McCardell on playing with Boselli: “We had a blast. He was such a competitor. Me and him would walk down the hall and say, ‘I can’t believe he [Head Coach Tom Coughlin] has us playing; we’re hurt. We’re some dummies. We’re playing hurt for Tom.’ I’d be like ‘Bo, we love to play football.’ He’d be like, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ To have him and Searcy – one of the most competitive guys also – I loved it because we had the same fire, same itch to play the game to the highest level. Through pain, we still wanted to show folks that through injury we could still be dominant. Playing with him, Searcy… you can’t find a better tackle combination that could just take over games on either side.”