Entering the 1996 season the Jaguars were only one year removed from being a expansion team, and ending their first season with only four wins. The 1997 season didn't start out much better. After nine weeks into the season, they had only three wins, and after splitting the next two weeks, it looked like they were going to head back home at the conclusion of the regular season. But, something strange occurred.
Jacksonville went on a five game winning streak, and in their last game of the season, needing a victory to get into the playoffs, Morten Andersen of the Falcons missed the game winning field goal to put Jacksonville in the postseason. Jacksonville Jaguars entered the playoffs as a wild card team. In the opening round they faced the fourth seeded Buffalo Bills, in Buffalo. Even though this was a close game, the Jaguars came on top with a 30-27 victory. This set up a match-up with the Denver Broncos. The Broncos were the number one seed, losing just three games on the season. Very few gave the Jaguars an even small chance of victory over the best team in football, who were favored by 14 points.
As predicted, the Broncos were dominating in the first quarter. They scored two touchdowns while disallowing the Jags from getting a first down. Vaughn Hebron scored the first touchdown on a one yard gain. On the Denver's second possession they scored again. This time John Elway connected with Shannon Sharpe for a 18-yard touchdown pass. This gave the Broncos a 12 point lead, due to one missed extra point that was blocked, and a failed two point conversion.
The second quarter, held redemption value for the Jaguars. They went on to score 13 points to take a one point lead (13-12). Mike Hollis connected on two field goals, and Natrone Means had a 8 yard run for a touchdown.
The third quarter saw more defense from Jacksonville. Denver only had 37 total yards on 14 plays. The Jaguars added a touchdown, when Mark Brunell hit Keenan McCardell for a 31 touchdown pass, taking a 20-12 lead into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter, Hollis put up another field goal, a 22 yarder, to increase their lead 23-12, with 11 minutes remaining in the game. The Broncos fought back with a touchdown of their own, as Terrelle Davis scored on a 2-yard touchdown. Denver went again for the two-point conversion and this time they were successful, shrinking the lead to 23-20. The Jaguars on their next possession drove down the field, and with just 3:39 remaining Brunell hit Jimmy Smith with a 16-yard touchdown pass, making the score 30-20. Elway led Denver down the field again, this time hitting Ed McCaffrey for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 1:50 left. Due to no timeouts remaining, and the Broncos unable to recover the onside kick, Jacksonville went on to upset the Denver Broncos 30-27.
This was probably the best performance of Marc Brunell's career. He threw for 245 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He also rushed for 44 yards. Natrone Means was also a key componet. He rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown, while catching 7 passes for 24 yards. This was a crushing blow for the Broncos as they were good enough, and believed they were Super Bowl bound. "I'm just going to go home, sit on my couch and probably cry," Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe said afterward.
Even though the Jaguars lost the following week to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship, the victory over the Broncos will be something that the fans and team will always feel as a great accomplishment.