Senior writer John Oehser’s “oral history” of 25 memorable games in Jaguars history continues with this look at a 62-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins in an AFC Divisional Playoff following the 1999 season – the most one-sided NFL postseason victory in 59 seasons
Date: January 15, 2000.
Records entering game: Jaguars 14-2, Dolphins 10-7.
Site: Alltel Stadium; Jacksonville.
What happened: The Jaguars entered the 1999 postseason as the AFC’s No. 1 seed and backed up that status with one of the most one-sided postseason performances in NFL history, sending Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino into retirement and advancing to the AFC Championship game with a 62-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins in an AFC Divisional Playoff. The Jaguars, who finished the 1999 regular-season 14-2 and won their second consecutive AFC Central title, led 24-0 after a quarter and 41-7 at halftime. Their dominance was total, outgaining the Dolphins 520-131, forcing seven turnovers and outrushing Miami 257-21. The Jaguars took a 7-0 lead on an eight-yard, first-possession touchdown pass from quarterback Mark Brunell to wide receiver Jimmy Smith, then extended the lead with two of the most memorable plays in franchise history on back-to-back plays from scrimmage – a 90-yard, highlight-reel run by running back Fred Taylor and a sack/fumble/touchdown by defensive end Tony Brackens that made it 24-0 entering the second quarter. A 39-yard pass from Brunell to Taylor and a 25-yard run by running back James Stewart extended the lead to 38-0, with kicker Mike Hollis’ 28-yard field goal making it 41-0 late in the second quarter. Quarterback Jay Fiedler threw a second-half touchdown of 70 yards to Smith and 38 to wide receiver Alvis Whitted before reserve running back Chris Howard’s five-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter closed the scoring in what remains the highest-scoring day in franchise history – and the most convincing victory in the franchise’s 25 seasons.
Jaguars leading passers: Brunell (5-9, 105 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions), Fiedler (7-11, 172 yards, two touchdowns, one interception).
Jaguars leading rushers: Taylor (18 carries, 135 yards, one touchdown), Stewart (11 carries, 62 yards, one touchdown).
Jaguars leading receivers: Smith (five receptions, 136 yards, two touchdowns), Keenan McCardell (four receptions, 52 yards).
Dolphins leading passer: Dan Marino (11-25, 95 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions).
Dolphins leading rusher: Stanley Pritchett (two carries, 10 yards), Autrey Denson (six carries, 10 yards).
Dolphins leading receiver: Oronde Gadsen (six receptions, 62 yards).
The victory over Miami is remembered by many for a slew of memorable offensive plays. It also was a devastatingly effective day for a defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL during the regular season.
Linebacker Kevin Hardy: “One of the best things that make a defense is a good offense. That whole year, there were times when we got on the field and it was already 7-0. For a defense like ours, and for a coordinator like Dom Capers, that changes the game. Dom was a very aggressive play-caller. We had so many blitzes. Once we got up, we blitzed the hell out of Marino. He was a statue back there because he couldn’t move like somebody would need to move against a defense like ours. We just put pressure on him, put pressure on him and they couldn’t do anything. And the offense just kept scoring. Once that happened, that thing got out of hand real quick. It was almost like, ‘Man, Dom, call the dogs off because this is getting crazy.’’’
The Jaguars scored seven offensive touchdowns that day, but two stand out – Taylor’s weaving, stop-and-start-again-and-again touchdown reception and his magical 90-yard first-quarter touchdown run. Both plays featured Taylor’s ability to make defenders miss.
Taylor: “When I was young, I was a shy kid. I walked with my head down a lot. Walking around Belle Glade, we were poor. I didn’t have a bike until much later. I always felt it was a challenge walking down the sidewalk. I got a kick out of weaving through cracks and gum without touching it. That was a joy for me, not paying any attention to anything else around me, just kind of going through the cracks. You couldn’t let me into a store with white-and-black tile floors: Oops, can’t touch that. That was where the awareness developed and set in. By high school, they were calling me Shake – Shakedown and Shake. I could outrun everybody, but it was exciting to try to shake someone and make them miss.”
It wasn’t until late in his time at the University of Florida that Taylor further developed the miss-ability that made him one of the best backs in the NFL.
Taylor: “In college, I was more of a downhill speed guy. I would try to run through arm tackles. [Florida] Head] Coach [Steve] Spurrier would say, ‘Hey, Freddy, if you want to make the big money on the next level, you’ve got to make them miss.’ The last couple of games at Florida, it just set in. It just clicked. I stopped making multiple jukes. I became one-cut, shake and explode. I got better at it. The other part wasn’t as much fun as making people miss. You learn when and where. You learn that stuff as you grow in the position.”
Taylor used that ability to dazzle his way to the end zone on a 39-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter against Miami, but it’s his 90-yard first-quarter touchdown run in that game that lives in the memory of many Jaguars fans – and that of many of Taylor’s teammates.
Hardy: “The one thing that really, really stands out is when Freddy T ran that 90-yard touchdown. When he did that, he was running away from [cornerback] Brock Marion – who was a fast guy. They just couldn’t catch him.”
Taylor: “Coach called a draw play from the 10-yard line – a draw. I was able to press the line of scrimmage and they didn’t have a whole lot of penetration. I was behind [right tackle] Leon [Searcy] on the right side. Their end collapsed, so I bounced it out to the right, toward the Dolphins sideline. I saw [middle linebacker] Zach Thomas coming, so I was able to stutter heavy on Zach. He fell like he was diving into home plate. He just ate all of the dirt. When Zach fell, he took another defender with him. I think the safety’s knees crumbled right there. He fell into line. [Wide receiver] Keenan [McCardell], who always was a great blocking receiver, had the corner tied up. I was able to jump outside him and I was off to the races with Brock Marion in chase. I wasn’t healthy that game. My hamstring was still bothering me, but we had a week off, so I was probably as healthy as I’d been the entire season. On that play, I didn’t want to over-stride. I was running fast, but I wasn’t necessarily running full speed – just enough to make sure Brock doesn’t close in. That was the reason for me not running straight sideline but angling back. That increased the margin a little.”
Wide receiver Jimmy Smith ran Taylor down on the play. Taylor was asked if the injury was the reason.
Taylor (laughing): “No. No, no, no, no, no. I was running fast, but Jimmy was running lightning fast. The way he closed in on me and got in front of Brock, I think Jimmy probably would have caught me anyway. Jimmy … that particular play ... Jimmy was running a 10.1, 10.2 100-meter split. He was rolling.”
Smith: “I don’t think I was necessarily faster than Fred. I just think at that moment, on that particular play, I was faster than everybody in the NFL. I was excited that Fred got in the open field – I was probably more excited than he was. It was just excitement and adrenaline. I didn’t like Brock Marion. We played with the Cowboys together. He wasn’t one of my favorite people. I wasn’t going to have Brock Marion catching my teammate. I knew Fred had utilized so much energy into getting open. He used that jump cut about three or four times. That takes a lot of energy out of you. I was thinking, ‘You’re not catching my boy today.’’’
Early in the second quarter, Taylor turned in another remarkable play when he turned a short screen pass from Brunell into a 39-yard touchdown.
Taylor: “The screen play … it was actually a great call by the coaches. They said, ‘They’re going to run an all-out blitz. This is how we’re going to receive the ball if in fact it is a blitz.’ I chipped through my blitzer and turned around and received the ball. I think it was three guys in the open field I had to beat to the end zone. I think [Dolphins defensive end] Jason Taylor missed three times on that play and [safety] Shawn Wooden missed twice. There were maybe 10 missed tackles or something like that. That was definitely one of my more exciting plays in terms of just making guys miss. I didn’t open stride a bit that particular play. I didn’t burst. It was five percent effort: jump cut, squat, miss. There was no burst at all – I mean, at all.”
The 55-point margin of victory was stunning at the time. Two decades hasn’t changed that.
Brunell: “That was an anomaly. That doesn’t happen. The Dolphins were a good football team. Every call, every play we had – everything they did against us – set up perfectly for us. We had a blitz coming from the right side and we happened to have a little screen to Fred on the left; it was perfect: the perfect front, the perfect coverage. Everything just came together, and we got on a roll. I don’t see it like we were so ready to play, or so much better … we got a lot of early breaks that we just built on. Fred had a long run, a 90-yard run. That doesn’t happen. Everything just clicked that day. I played 19 years. I’ve been on both ends of a lot of blowouts, but not in a playoff game with two good teams. That game was just amazing.”
Hardy: “You’re going against Hall of Famers: Dan Marino at quarterback, Jimmy Johnson coaching … That season – even though it was Dan Marino, I thought we would win convincingly just because of the team we had that year. But I didn’t think it would be like that.”
Safety Donovin Darius: “It was one of those games where if anything could go wrong, it did for Miami.”
Jaguars right tackle Leon Searcy: “It seemed like nothing could go wrong for us. I almost hate to say it, but it seemed too easy. I remember the game just flowing: pass sets, running, offensive line. I had never been in a game where it seemed like whatever we did, they couldn’t stop it. They took me out like the middle of the third quarter, but I remember being on the sideline saying, ‘We’re scoring too many points. We’re going to need some of these points.’ It got to 43, then 55, then 62 … I was like, ‘Damn.’ It was crazy. Everything was going right in that game offensively, defensively. We weren’t even full health and we still played pretty good. It was just one those crazy games where you never expect it to be that easy and it was. Everything the Dolphins were calling, they were a step behind.”
McCardell: “We just played solid football. We made plays. We made things happen. Guys were just playing football. We were just making plays. We were just that good. Miami wasn’t that bad. We were just good.”