I don't know this for a fact, but I believe somewhere in the Jaguars locker room is a scrap book with the title of "Moral Victories". I further believe that book is mostly filled with press clippings from past games against the Indianapolis Colts.
For a time, this Sunday looked like just another entry.
With eleven seconds left in the game David Garrard dropped back, and under the most pressure he'd seen all day attempted to throw the ball away. Watching from the East side of the stadium time seemed to stand still while David's pass tried to cut through the humid Florida air towards the sideline. As Kelvin Hayden broke on the ball, a step ahead of Tiquan Underwood, the reality of another moral victory seemed to be playing out.
But Underwood caught Hayden, and in doing so the ball fell out of Kelvin's arms and harmlessly to the ground. This gave Josh Scobee the opportunity to kick the Jaguars past the moral victory to an actual one.
To understand the significance of beating the Colts, you have to understand the history. Coming into Sundays game Jacksonville was 4-13 versus them since Peyton Manning arrived in Indianapolis. Of those loses, nine have been by seven points or less.
In his post game comments Manning noted that games in Jacksonville tend to be a battle regardless of team records. That is only partially true. The Colts have been the host to some as well.
2002 in Jacksonville - Mark Brunell leads the Jaguars to a TD and 2-point conversion with 4:11 to play. With 1:11 left they get the ball back but fail to score again and lose 28-25.
2002 in Indianapolis - Manning hits Marcus Pollard with 2:26 on the clock to win 20-13.
2005 in Indianapolis - Jaguars give up 10 4th quarter points and lose a game in which they held Manning to 122 yards passing 10-3.
2006 in Indianapolis - Jacksonville pulls to within a TD but an interception with less a minute to play seals a 21-14 Colts victory.
2007 in Indianapolis - In a game where the Jaguars were just as offensively proficient as the Colts, a late TD and 2-point conversion isn't enough. Indy kills the remaining 2:47 and win 28-25.
2008 in Jacksonville - On an emotional night in which Richard Collier returned, the Jaguars took a 17-3 lead into the half. But Manning continues a stellar night in leading a second half charge. Garrard would lead Jacksonville to the Colts 7-yard line but get sacked to end the game and Indy wins 31-24.
2009 in Indianapolis - Another defensive battle. An early 4th quarter TD but failed 2-point conversion finds the Jaguars on the wrong end of a 14-12 loss.
2009 in Jacksonville - With a chance to hand the 13-0 Colts their first loss, and help their playoff push, Garrard leads the Jags to the Indy 33 but is intercepted when he overthrows Mike Thomas with less than a minute to play. Jacksonville loses 35-31.
What is missing from every one of these defeats is an opportunity for Scobee to play the hero. Against Indianapolis he is 3-0 with the game on the line, including this 31-28 shocker. Of the now three times in which Josh has felled the mighty Manning led Colts, two of them have been to end the game.
In 2008 he ran for the goal posts to get the ball. On Sunday he circled the field like a man who just scored a goal to win the World Cup. Unlike the 2008 game, the fans got to experience it.
2004 in Indianapolis - Jacksonville scores 17 second half points, topped off with a 53 yard Scobee field goal with :38 left and defeat the Colts 27 - 24.
2008 in Indianapolis - With the help of a controversial pass interference, Jacksonville overcame a Joseph Addai touchdown run with 1:07 left in the game as Scobee kicked a 51 yard yield goal with :04 left.
To view the information is very sobering. So many opportunities lost. It is not at all surprising this matchup is a measuring stick for the Jaguars.
Like a little brother struggling to show up his older, more successful sibling, every game against Indianapolis is amplified to an almost playoff level. It is no more evidenced by the 2009 Thursday night game which was the only non-blacked out game for the season.
It basically had gotten to the point where, though consistently disappointed, at least being able to hang with the Colts was considered a step in the right direction. A tough pill to swallow while the Titans began to show glimmers of a new rise to power, coupled with the Jaguar's inability to post a winning record within the conference since its inception.
Jacksonville's history is highlighted as the small market city which won a team over big market Baltimore and was also awarded a Super Bowl. So maybe, in Jacksonville's case, it is appropriate that the majority of victories against the perennial AFC South champion are credited not to a high profile position, but a lesser one.
Yes, there are the memorable wins which reside primarily to the Jaguars lone bright spot, the running backs. The 2003 home game in which Fred Taylor scored the winning touchdown with 1:08 left, and the famous 2006 44-17 ground assault which had Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew combine for 297 yards and four total scores.
But it is the seven year veteran from tiny Louisiana Tech who can claim the title of "Colts Killer" (reference: Paul Kuharsky), as his leg is directly responsible for the majority of those five victories. Unlike watching a long run or a deep pass, for Jacksonville it is snap, place and kick.
What adds additional drama to this story is where he stood coming into the season. Long known for his strong right leg, there has been a question of consistency. When the Jaguars drafted him in the 5th round of the 2004 draft, there was hope he could be the consistent figure Mike Hollis once was.
His first four years saw the promise realized with a field goal percentage of 77.4, 76.7, 81.3 and 92.3 respectively. In 2007, though only playing half the season, his 12\13 success rate was punctuated by his winning kick in Pittsburgh during round one of the playoffs. However, successive years saw that percentage drop to 76.0 in 2008 and 64.3 in 2009.
Thus far 2010 has him perfect, which also includes the preseason. In the loses at San Diego and hosting Philadelphia, he was arguably the lone bright spot.
Maybe if Jacksonville can somehow become a contender, this will be the one position that is reliable such that Jack Del Rio can trust his kicker rather than risk it on fourth down. Even the Patriots, with all the Tom Brady heroics, owe a great deal of their success to Adam Vinatieri.
For the outsider this might seem like just another last second victory: but the Jacksonville story line is much deeper than that. The quarterback and coach, both with one foot out the door, have been given a one week reprieve. A fan base has been rewarded for their financial commitment. More importantly, hope for the season has, if only temporarily, been restored.
These are things that do not come with moral victories. No matter what they may have to deal with in their remaining twelve games, they can look back at week four as a point of reference for winning, thanks to Josh Scobee.
Smile upon the chaos streams, a turning point of calm awaits you.
Son Volt - Chaos Streams
- Brian Fullford