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WEEK SEVEN CRYSTAL BALL - THURSDAY: Remembering a Remarkable Play
Saints-Jags gave us a signature moment in 2003
My friends, the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-2) visit New Orleans (3-3) this evening in one of those interconference matchups that don’t quite meet rivalry status. In fact, the teams have faced off just seven times since Jacksonville joined the National Football League in 1995 and, as near as I can tell, no one has complained about it.
Still, there’s one game that stands out - a contest that includes one of the NFL’s most dramatic plays. The date was December 21, 2003, THE FAIR CLAUDINE was roughly seven months from walking the plank to wed yours truly and the Jaguars (4-10) were hosting a Saints (7-7) team in the thick of the playoff race.
NOLA took an early 3-0 lead on a John Carney field goal and the teams battled back and forth before Jacksonville asserted itself behind running back Fred Taylor, who rushed for 194 yards on the day. It was the sixth 100-yard performance of the year for Taylor, who was on his way to the most prolific rushing campaign in Jags history.1 Surely, it looked like a victory for the Jaguars.
With only seven seconds remaining, and Jacksonville holding a 20-13 lead, the Saints were in desperation mode, pinned on their own 25-yard line. The ball was snapped and New Orleans QB Aaron Brooks & Co. made a throw that wide receiver Donte Stallworth caught near midfield.
Here’s the call by play-by-play man Curt “Big House” Menefee:
“Brooks…Donte Stallworth catches it and stays in bounds…he’s gonna have to score on this one…and he’s got a chance…getting a couple of blocks…lateraling over to Michael Lewis…back to (Deuce) McAllister…still alive…and they’ve got it! Jerome Pathon with the catch…and he dives into the end zone!”
NFL.com ranked the dramatic sequence 55th on its list of 100 Greatest Plays but it was what happened immediately after Pathon’s touchdown that many remember the most: uber-reliable kicker Carney missing the extra point, securing the 20-19 victory for Jacksonville.
The kick, which sailed wide right, was a rare occurrence for Carney, who played 23 years in the NFL and still ranks among the league’s most accurate in extra points and field goals.
Years later, Carney said “That was a turning point in my career. I had to reassess my training, my preparation and my concentration. It really inspired me, motivated me to get back to work and to prepare better than I ever had so I could continue my career.”
Impressively, Carney played seven more seasons, leading the league in field goals and points scored in 2008 with the Giants and returning to New Orleans with the Saints to win Super Bowl XLIV during the 2009 season. That’s how you bounce back and cap off a 23-year professional football career, folks.
After a loss in Houston last week, New Orleans seeks to bounce back in tonight’s game at 8:15 pm ET on Prime Video. Tonight’s contest may not provide the thrills of the rivalry’s signature play but it should be a fun one to watch.
Jacksonville lost its opener but has since won four of five games and leads the AFC South with a 4-2 mark. New Orleans is 3-3 under head coach Dennis Allen and new QB Derek Carr, late of the Raiders.
The “X” factor tonight is Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who was cleared to play within the last hour after suffering a left knee sprain against Indianapolis last week. That’s enough for me. No analysis needed. Let’s say Jacksonville, 23-17.
Taylor’s 1,572 yards in 2003 are now second in Jacksonville annals, topped by Maurice Jones-Drew’s 1,606 yards in 2011. The two men hold the top nine single-season rushing marks in franchise history and Taylor is the #1 runner in the Jaguars record book with 11,271 yards. Jones-Drew second with 8,071 yards and holds the edge in rushing TDs over Taylor, 68-62.