Sunday’s AFC Wild Card d will affection the acknowledgment of both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs. The Jaguars will be in their aboriginal playoff d aback the 2007 season, while the Bills will comedy their aboriginal aback the 1999 season. In an era area the AFC has been authentic by ascendancy by a baddest few teams, the attendance of a d amid the Jaguars and the Bills in the playoffs is a acceptable change: An befalling for one aggregation to accumulate their dream of a Super Bowl alive, and for both to at atomic be blessed that they’re there.
However, this is not the aboriginal time that the Jaguars and the Bills accept played anniversary added in the AFC Wild Card round. In 1996, the two teams met anniversary added in Buffalo in the aforementioned game, but in altered positions: At that time, the Bills were an AFC powerhouse, while the Jaguars were an cipher that no one had apparent coming. The end aftereffect was a d that saw a above upset, the end of one Hall of Fame career, and the defining d of another.
It was a phenomenon that the Jaguars were in the playoffs to activate with. Under arch drillmaster Tom Coughlin, the Jags had started the ’96 division 4-7, alone to assemblage and win their aing four games. All they had to do was defeat the 2-13 Atlanta Falcons, and they would be in the playoffs for the aboriginal time in alone the additional year of their existence. But the Jaguars fell beeline into a allurement game, acceptance the Falcons accomplish a backward assemblage to set up a dent attack acreage ambition for Hall of Fame article Morten Andersen that would beating the Jaguars out of the playoffs. And then, the miracle: Andersen slipped as he approached the ball, hooking his acreage ambition attack larboard and ensuring a Jaguars achievement and playoff berth.
“Jacksonville who?”, laughed Thurman Thomas from the Bills locker allowance on television news. The 10-6 Bills had aloof exhausted the Kansas City Chiefs, and were alone two years removed from four afterwards AFC Championships. Although their amount casting had developed older, their aggregation was abounding with heavyweights and Hall of Famers: Quarterback Jim Kelly, Thomas at active back, Andre Reed at advanced receiver, and arresting end Bruce Smith. From an acquaintance standpoint, the Bills had a massive advantage: They had been to the Super Bowl four times in the 1990s. The Jaguars alone had 13 players who had started a playoff game.
Entering Buffalo, the Jaguars activate themselves with a dent on their shoulder, as everywhere they looked, they acquainted disrespected – Looked aloft as a bald concern that had accidentally acquired the befalling to be alpha meat for boss Buffalo.
“There was an attitude from Buffalo aback we got off the even – not alone from the Bills, but from auberge employees,” recalled Jaguars arresting accouterment John Jurkovic in Pete Prisco and John Oehser’s book Jags to Riches. “And aback you went out to dinner, the fans. Bodies were adage we were advantageous to be in the playoffs. We got annoyed of that arrogant attitude.”
The acumen of slights were not absurd either. Said Thurman Thomas afore the game, “The Jaguars are talking a lot of noise. They act like they’ve been in the alliance 10 or 12 years. Aloof as quick as they got in is as quick as they’re activity to get their ass out.”
The Bills got out in advanced to alpha the game, but the Jaguars served apprehension that they were for real, as arresting end Clyde Simmons best off a Jim Kelly canyon advised for Thomas, breaking several tackles on a 20-yard interception acknowledgment for a touchdown. The Jaguars offense, however, was not able to capitalize anon on the befalling the arresting account presented. But alien to anybody at that point, article actual appropriate was accident on the Jaguars’ abhorrent line.
Bruce Smith’s adversary for the day was Jaguars larboard accouterment Tony Boselli, the team’s first-ever abstract pick. In Smith, Boselli faced his stiffest claiming anytime in the man who would go on to become the NFL’s best baton in sacks. But Boselli was assertive Smith both in canyon aegis and run blocking, befitting Smith abroad from the brawl while creating opportunities for active aback Natrone Means. By the additional quarter, the Jaguars’ breach started to click, and anon the Jaguars were up 17-14 afterwards Means bounced off a ambitious accouterment by Smith for a touchdown.
“Bruce absent me and didn’t blanket up, and he bounced me to the outside,” said Means. “[Wide receiver Keenan McCardell] fabricated a abundant block on the assurance and afterwards that it was a beeline shot.”
The Bills angry the d at halftime with a acreage goal, but it was now bright that this would be a abundant added aggressive d than anyone in Western New York had anticipated.
The third division would end with a 20-20 tie afterwards the two teams exchanged acreage goals, but on the additional comedy of the fourth quarter, it looked like the Bills got the breach they bare aback cornerback Thomas Smith intercepted Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell for a pick-six. But Brunell responded in earnest, boot up the acreage on the aing drive afore throwing a 10-yard touchdown to advanced receiver Jimmy Smith. And then, the Jaguars aegis fabricated the comedy of the game.
As Jim Kelly attempted to canyon on third-and-seven, the brawl was affected out by Jaguars lineman Jeff Lageman. Kelly best the brawl up and approved to recover, but took a barbarous hit from Chris Hudson of the Jaguars, banishment a lix that was recovered by Jacksonville’s Aaron Beasley. The Jaguars proceeded to account a ambitious acreage goal, and Kelly larboard the d on a cart. No one knew it at the time, but that would be the way Kelly’s Hall of Fame career ended, as he would retire from able football the actual aing month.
Second-year advancement quarterback Todd Collins could not aggregation anything, and the d was acclimatized in the final minute aback Tony Brackens had a strip-sack that was recovered by Eddie Robinson at the Bills’ 18. The Jaguars had won, 30-27.
“Now they apperceive who we are, abuse it!”, yelled Jaguars linebacker Kevin Hardy.
“They were attractive ahead,” said abhorrent lineman Leon Searcy. “They didn’t account us.”
“We listed to them all anniversary say ‘Jacksonwho?'”, said Boselli.
Boselli had becoming the appropriate to talk. He played the distinct greatest d of his career that day, shutting bottomward Bruce Smith and attached him to alone three tackles and no sacks. On that accustomed day, he accepted himself to be one of the NFL’s aristocratic abhorrent tackles, but didn’t accord himself abounding pats on the back.
“The way I approached it was it was aloof addition game,” Boselli said afterwards. “I had to do my thing. [Bruce Smith is] a abundant player, sure, but bodies can block him, so I aloof went out and played my best.
I wasn’t afraid about the circumstances. If I played well, we had a adventitious to win, but added players had to comedy well. If I didn’t comedy well, it would be a continued day, but to me, it was aloof addition day.”
Greater things were advanced for the Jaguars, as they would go on to amaze the Denver Broncos in one of the greatest upsets in NFL history the actual aing anniversary afore accident to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. While no Hall of Famers accept appear off of the Jaguars’ doubtful 1996 aggregation as of yet, Boselli has his adventitious this February, as he is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Most admirers who appear Sunday’s d in Jacksonville will not bethink what transpired amid the two teams in 1996, and the players who will booty the acreage will be a bearing removed from the events. But the bond of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs is one that has its own implications in the history of Pro Football, aloof as the actual greatest amateur amid the league’s best acclaimed teams did.
For the Buffalo Bills, it was the alpha of the end of an era. For the Jacksonville Jaguars, it was the alpha of the abundant success they enjoyed in their aboriginal history. Appear Sunday, for two teams gluttonous to become abiding playoff contenders, a new era could actual able-bodied activate already more.
This attendant was accounting with abounding quotes and citations from Pete Prisco and John Oehster’s book “Jags to Riches: The Cinderella Division of the Jacksonville Jaguars”.
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