Editor’s note: The Jaguars will try to win their second game in Pittsburgh this season when they take on the Steelers on Sunday in an AFC divisional playoff. Here is a story from October on the only team ever to beat the Steelers twice in one season on their home turf — the 2007 Jaguars.
The Jaguars, who return to Heinz Field to face the Steelers on Sunday nearly a decade later, appeared headed for an easy victory after beginning the fourth quarter with a 28-10 lead. But when the Steelers faced a fourth-and-12 at the Jacksonville 37-yard line, QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Santonio Holmes hooked up for a touchdown and jump-started Pittsburgh’s comeback.
The Steelers took a 29-28 lead with a little more than six minutes to play. The Jaguars got the ball back with 2:38 remaining.
Here’s a look back at what happened next through the eyes of the Jaguars players who were on the field.
When the two-minute warning sounded, the Jaguars faced a third-and-2 from the Steelers’ 43-yard line.
“[Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter] wanted to attempt a pass on third-and-2. I thought, ‘If you just give me a chance to do a draw here, I’m pretty sure I can get 2 yards,'” quarterback David Garrard said. “I mentioned that to him and he said, ‘Let’s try to get it with a pass on third down, and we’re definitely going for it for sure on fourth down.’
“I’m thinking, ‘If this guy isn’t wide open, I’m missing him high and wide and let the ball go out of bounds. I believe it was Ernest Wilford I was throwing the ball to. I threw it at his feet to get to fourth down because I knew I could pick it up.”
Fourth-and-2 with 1:56 to play. Koetter listened to Garrard and made the call: Trips right 13 quarterback draw.
“I was in the shotgun,” Garrard said. “I saw, wow, they’re kind of giving it to me because they didn’t really have a linebacker lined up over there. That’s what happens when you do the trips. You put everybody to the right and everybody slides to stop the pass. They’re thinking, ‘They’re trying to throw a short quick pass to get somebody open.’ They did extra covering those guys and basically left the middle open.”
The Jaguars were concerned about safety Troy Polamalu. They didn’t want him in the middle of the field.
“We wanted to get Polamalu out of there,” said tight end Marcedes Lewis, who is still with the team. “Normally I was in a hit position, and I would normally help the tackle, chip, and then get out to the sideline, get out to the flat. But I remember on that particular play they wanted me to get out there super-fast so Polamalu would follow me. So once he did that, Dave kind of cut off that block and we were able to get up on the safety, and Dave did the rest.”
In addition to Lewis, three other players threw key blocks: center Brad Meester sealed linebacker James Farrior on the inside, left guard Vince Manuwai drove defensive end Brent Keisel backward, and right tackle Maurice Williams took down nose tackle Casey Hampton.
“It’s definitely at a point [now] where people are ready to want to be able to move on from it and to some newer big wins and playoff wins, but we still aren’t quite there yet.”
Former Jaguars QB David Garrard
That opened a huge hole for Garrard, who ran up the middle and cut left. He put a stutter-step move on safety Tyrone Carter and ran by him at the 30 before running toward the numbers on the left. Carter finally ran him down at the Pittsburgh 11-yard line.
“Mojo [Maurice Jones-Drew] was lined up next to me. He goes through and takes his linebacker out,” Garrard said. “All I had to do was make it through the line and basically fall forward for 2 yards. When I get through there’s nobody there and there’s only the safety [Tyrone Carter] coming down. I knew I had the first down and I thought, ‘We’re good right now.’ I thought, ‘I’m going to win this thing all by myself here.’ Then I realized I’m not that fast and the safety caught me from behind at the -yard line. …
“I felt him grab me from behind and I thought, ‘Don’t fumble the ball. Hold on to the ball; squeeze it tight.’ My wife was telling me all year long, protect the ball like it’s our son. We had just had our son in Week 4, so you can see me cradling the ball and putting two arms around it.”
First down at the 11, although the run should have been called back. The officials missed what appeared to be a blatant hold by left tackle Khalif Barnes on linebacker James Harrison. Barnes got his feet crossed as Harrison went outside and then back inside, and the tackle grabbed Harrison’s jersey by his shoulders. By the time Barnes let go, Garrard was already past the first-down marker.
Steelers players and fans were irate about the non-call. Their complaints were eventually validated when the NFL’s head of officiating admitted the following spring that the crew working that game missed the holding call.
The game-winning kick
When the Jaguars got the ball back at their own 49-yard line with 2:38 to play and trailing by a point, kicker Josh Scobee could think of only one thing: redemption. He missed a 46-yard field goal late in the first half and was eager for another chance.
In fact, he didn’t want Garrard to lead the team to a touchdown, and when Garrard broke loose on his 32-yard run, Scobee found himself silently imploring someone to bring him down.
“One thing I was hoping for was that he would actually get tackled and not run into end zone himself, because I did want to kick the field goal and win the game because I did want to have that on my resume — kicking a game-winning field goal in the playoffs,” Scobee said. “I can just remember warming up on the sideline just praying and hoping I was going to get another opportunity for a field goal. As a kicker, whenever you get a game-winning field-goal attempt when you’re tied it’s a little bit different, because if you miss you know you may possibly have another opportunity to win the game. If you’re down by one or two points, if you miss the season’s over. I just remember hoping and praying for another chance.”
Three plays after Garrard’s run, the ball was on the 7, which gave Scobee a relatively easy 25-yard attempt.
“I can remember being very calm about it,” Scobee said. “It was a short field goal, 25 yards or something. It’s not like it was that long. That field that time of year is really bad. It’s a tough place to kick. Perfect snap, perfect hold, and I drilled it right though.
“The thing I remember about it was how loud the fans were before the kick and how quiet they were after. Only thing you could hear was our sideline and our fans there for the game screaming. It got so loud and then so quiet.”
The Jaguars earned a trip to New England to face the undefeated Patriots the following weekend. Garrard threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, but was hurt by a pair of drops in the end zone. Patriots QB Tom Brady had only two incompletions and the Patriots won 31-20 to advance to the AFC Championship Game.
That was the last time the Jaguars made the playoffs. It hasn’t exactly been a great decade: The Jaguars haven’t had a winning season and are just 44-104 (.297) since.
The victory over the Steelers is the last piece of glory the franchise has had, and fans still cling to it.
“I still get people all the time that refer back to that game,” Garrard said. “They like to tell me where they were, what they were doing, how excited they were. It’s definitely at a point [now] where people are ready to want to be able to move on from it and to some newer big wins and playoff wins, but we still aren’t quite there yet.”