Most scary stories begin with the cliché phrase, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Well, on October 26, 2008 shortly after 4:00 PM in Jacksonville, FL, it was actually an almost perfect afternoon for football.
It appeared as if the Jaguars would be able to pull out a win over the Cleveland Browns.
Brad Meester and Chris Naeole were both going to be big boosts to the offensive line, the team was coming off of a win over the Broncos before their restful bye week, Fred Taylor was expected to reach a career milestone and break a record held by Jimmy Smith, Kellen Winslow would not be playing for the Browns (although jaguars.com Senior Editor Vic Ketchman stated that, “Winslow being inactive for today's game will make the Browns a better football team.”), and they would do it all at home against an underdog.
All of those positive were the quiet before the storm.
During pre–game warm–ups, Naeole broke his hand and will be out for the rest of the season. Bad omen? Maybe, but it was not as bad as the things to come for the Jaguars.
A blocked field goal, a nullified interception, a total of 113 rushing yards (59 of which came from QB David Garrard), and the infamous incomplete pass that had Jaguars fans everywhere holding their breath to see if Matt Jones could somehow hold onto the ball to give the Jags a win in the last nine seconds of the game were all things that made the game a nightmare for the Jaguars and their fans.
While the Jaguars are having nightmares about those misfortunes, I am certain that Shaun Rogers will haunt their thoughts and dreams this entire week. He was a dominant force for the Browns' defense, as well as on special teams.
The Jaguars’ own teammate, Quentin Groves, will also be a frightening thought to them.
Rookies, Derrick Harvey and Groves, were supposed to assist in fixing the pass-rush problems of the Jaguars. They were aggressive during the draft, trading up to get these guys for that reason. It has not helped much (if at all) thus far. Not only are they not helping, but Groves had two offside penalties against him on Sunday.
One of those two penalties was especially devastating because the interception made in the fourth quarter could have changed the entire outcome of the game, but it was nullified because of the penalty on Groves.
Coach Jack Del Rio was obviously upset (to say the very least) during his press conference following the game. He seemed to be most upset with his defense, but during the Monday morning press conference, Del Rio show his discontent with the team as a whole.
When asked if he felt that his team’s back was to the wall, Del Rio responded by stating, “I felt that way last week. I felt that way the week before.”
Del Rio had set a goal for the team during the off–season to win their division. Now, they are hoping for a miracle to somehow slide into the playoffs. They need to forget about a 10-6 record to get in and should be aiming for at least an 11-5 season (although 12-4 would be ideal).
A tiebreaker would be another horror story that the Jags do not want to deal with. They have lost to the Bills, Steelers, and the Browns, so the tiebreaker would go to one of those teams. They are in must-win situations at this point.
No team wants to be in this situation going into November, but if they want to turn this horror story into a fairytale, they have to begin by winning this Sunday in Cincinnati. Maybe after Halloween passes this Friday, their curse (or string of misfortunes) will be lifted and turn into good look.
We have witnessed other Cinderella sports stories; here’s to hoping that the Jaguars will turn into one as well.
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