BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
What a football season it’s been!
I mean it literally and figuratively.
Try scrambling to finish the end of MLB and then work NASCAR into a busy Fall.
Before going to Cooperstown, NY in August with My wife Candy, I was able to attend the Miami Hurricanes Media Availability and got a lot a lot accomplished!
By the end of August, College Football began a demanding schedule that saw us cover the majority of the FAU Owls Home Games and all of the Miami Hurricanes Home Games.
I’m thinking that I wonder if I’ll have the opportunity to cover NFL Games this year.
The answer to that question was yes!
The break in my schedule came on December 18, 2022 when I made the five hour trek up to Jacksonville to see the Jaguars host the Dallas Cowboys.
Finding a hotel was practically impossible as the Cowboys fans invaded Northern Florida.
But we did manage to find one in nearby St. Augustine.
Things didn’t look good for the Jaguars, who trailed by 17 points, but this team coached by Doug Pederson and quarterbacked by Trevor Lawrence showed no quit and came away with a walk off 40-34 win in overtime.
Lawrence would amass 318 yards and threw for four touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Dak Prescott showed why he’s the most scrutinized QB in the NFL.
He had three touchdown passes, but also tossed two interceptions including a costly pick-six in overtime that saw Dallas remain winless at TIAA Bank Stadium at 0-2.
The Jaguars would proceed to win the next two road games against the New York Jets and Houston Texans 19-3 and 20-16.
This set the stage for the next game we’d cover that occurred on Saturday, January 7th as the Jaguars played in a Nationally Televised flexed prime-time contest that would decide the AFC South against the Tennessee Titans.
Before I get to the particulars, we spent the previous two weeks in Racine, WI., visiting family during the holidays, then had a quick turnaround heading back to Jacksonville.
The Jaguars outscored Tennessee 13-3 in the second half to win 20-16 in front of 70,050 fans.
Lawrence had a solid night by going 20-32 with one touchdown and zero interceptions. WR Christian Kirk had six receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown.
The Cardiac Cats would live to see another week.
They would face an opponent they they dominated in Week 3 by thrashing the LA Chargers 38-10.
Going into the game, this marked the Jaguars fifth home postseason game and first since they defeated the Buffalo Bills, 10-3 on January 7, 2018, a game which I covered and the QB was Blake Bortles.
Jacksonville has recorded a 3-1 record in home playoff games while head coach Pederson, has served as the head coach in three home playoff games and recorded a 2-1 record.
This game turned out to be the second time the Jaguars had played a home post-season game on Saturday.
In their lone Saturday home postseason contest, they thrashed the Miami Dolphins, 62-7. The Jaguars entered the game 7-7 all-time in the postseason.
Forty players on the Jaguars active roster made their postseason debut.
Thirteen current players have been on an active roster for a game in the postseason.
Cornerback Darious Williams leads the Jaguars with six playoff games, including the 2022 Super Bowl with the Rams.
I’ll take a phrase from the legendary late broadcaster Jack Buck when he called LA Dodgers outfielder Kirk Gibson’s legendary home run in the 1988 World Series against the Oakland A’s in the first game.
“I can’t believe what I just saw.”
What we saw was the Jaguars fall behind 27-0 late in the first half.
I had the same feeling that I had from the Dallas game, how are they going to pull out this win?
The Jaguars scored a touchdown late in the first half, trimming the deficit to 27-7.
Lawrence was downright dreadful to begin the game as he became the third quarterback in the Super Bowl era to throw four interceptions in the first half of a playoff game joining Detroit’s Gary Danielson and Denver’s Craig Morton.
But he bounced back as well as anyone in NFL history. Jacksonville’s comeback goes down in post-season lore behind only Buffalo’s rally on January 3, 1993 (32 points against Houston) and Indianapolis on January 4, 2014 (28 points against Kansas City).
After throwing four interceptions, the former Clemson signal caller finished 28-47-288 yards and threw for four touchdowns.
Lawrence engineered the final drive, highlighted by Travis Etienne’s 25-yard run, that would subsequently lead to a Riley Patterson 36-yard field goal on the final drive, giving Jacksonville an epic 31-30 win in front of 70,250 jubilant fans.
The Jaguars (10-8) won their sixth consecutive game and fifth straight at home, all five in come from behind fashion.
Amazingly enough, dating back to college, Lawrence is 38-0 on Saturday’s.
The Jaguars improved to 8-7 in the playoffs and 4-1 at home.
During the week, Kansas City Chiefs Coach Andy Reid has been complimentary of Pederson’s work in what’s been an unbelievable season for Jacksonville.
Pederson got to know Reid as a backup quarterback in Green Bay and as a starter in Philadelphia, before coaching under him build the Chiefs into the juggernaut they are today.
Pederson has said that 30 years of his professional life that he’s been influenced by them.
But the stage is set, the Jaguars have a chance to avenge a 27-17 loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Saturday’s match-up has the Jaguars as 8.5 underdogs but in the grand scheme of things, the Chiefs enter the contest 14-3 and have won five straight.
After the Dallas Game, when I asked Pederson a question that the late Yogi Berra said, ‘it’s not over until it’s over,’ he smiled and said, “My players are a resilient group and they play hard for 60 minutes. I don’t need to give halftime motivational speeches.”
To defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville will have to play a turnover free football game.
The Jaguars are matched up against Patrick Mahomes, who was born in 1995, the same year Jacksonville entered the league.
Mahomes has eight playoff wins while the Jaguars have eight in franchise history.
The last time Kansas City was in the AFC Conference Championship was on 1-30-2022. Jacksonville appeared on 1-21-2018. Mahomes has won one Super Bowl, while Jacksonville hasn’t made a Super Bowl Appearance.
Time will tell how this ends for Jacksonville, but what looked like an impossibility worked out quite well as we were able to be around for the “Jaguars Home Hat Trick” and all three contests were won in dramatic fashion!
Scott Morganroth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.
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