The New Orleans Saints, L.A. Rams, Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots will all be battling for spots in Superbowl 53 on Sunday afternoon/evening. And, that gives us the opportunity to reminisce about the last time that each of the state NFL teams play for a spot in the biggest football game on the planet.
One of them, the Jaguars, is still fresh from 12 months ago, while the other two, the Bucs and the Dolphins have gone through long droughts, since being on the doorstep of playing for it all.
As you are probably aware, the Jaguars we’re playing 52 weeks ago in New England for the chance to be in Super Bowl 52. Jacksonville had a 10 win season to make the post season and had won an ugly home Wildcard game with the Buffalo Bills. But then, they played the game of their young lives in an upset win in the Divisional round at Pittsburgh.
Between QB Blake Bortles’ solid play, Leonard Fournette’s tough running, and a Jacksonville defense creating lots of sacks and turnovers led by Calais Campbell, Telvin Smith and Jalen Ramsey, the Jags rolled into the title game with the Patriots.
That Sunday in Foxboro, they jumped out early and actually led most of the game against Hall of Famer to be Tom Brady and the Patriots. However, Brady rallied New England from 10 points down in the fourth and hit Danny Amendola (above with the game-winning touchdown pass in the final minutes to secure the Patriots 24-20 victory and yet another, Superbowl appearance.
The Jaguars had been in the AFC championship game one other time, and also, lost to New England in the mid-1990s. They obviously have never been to the big game.
Meanwhile, for the Buccaneers, Saturday was the 16th anniversary of their NFC Championship game win over their hated post season rival, the Philadelphia Eagles. And, that is the last time that any of the Florida teams has made the Super Bowl. Jon Gruden was the first-year coach of the Buccaneers having been traded by the Oakland Raiders to Tampa Bay for four draft picks and $8 million.
Veteran quarterback Brad Johnson threw a short touchdown pass to Keyshawn Johnson, Fullback extraordinaire’ Mike Alstott scored on a short touchdown run and the Bucs defense did the rest.
They stymied Donovan McNabb and the Eagles throughout the final three quarters of the game and when DB Ronde Barber intercepted McNabb with just under three minutes remaining and raced 92 yards the other way for a touchdown, the Bucs had clinched their first ever birth in the Super Bowl 27-10.
Re-live that moment, here:
The Buccaneers would go on to smash Gruden’s old team, the Raiders, the next week in San Diego and capture Super Bowl 37 for their first, and only, World Championship.
Wondering about the last time the Dolphins, the most famed of the three franchises in the state, played in the AFC title game?
It was January of 1993. And, that day their AFC East rival, the Bills, stuffed Dan Marino and the Dolphins offense, as Buffalo shocked Miami 29 – 10 to go to the Superbowl for the third consecutive year.
That Buffalo team had turned to Frank Reich at quarterback due to injury to star Jim Kelly in there dramatic Wildcard win, and Reich rallied them from 35-3 down to the Houston Oilers to win in thrilling overtime 41-38. Miami had blown out the Chargers behind three Marino touchdown passes the previous week, 31 -0.
However, the Bills defense, led by Hall of Fame DE Bruce Smith, LB Darryl Talley and others intercepted Marino twice, forced three fumbles and held Miami to under 40 yards rushing in a dominant performance. The Bills would go on to lose the Superbowl (for the third time in a row) to the Dallas Cowboys two weeks later.
If you are wondering the last time the Dolphins won an AFC Championship game? That was January of 1985, when Marino, who had broken numerous NFL passing records that year, lit up Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers in 45-28 win at the Orange Bowl.
That put Miami in the Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers, however, they lost to Bill Walsh, Joe Montana and San Francisco two weeks later. Marino never made it back to the big game again.
So, enjoy the action this afternoon in “The Big Easy,” and in K.C., as the NFC and the AFC crown a champ.
The Jaguars, Bucs and Dolphins all had losing seasons a year ago, but are dreaming to be back in this game, soon.
Injury concerns for Bucs RB Jones and WR Evans
The start of fourth week of training camp has a couple of concerns for Buccaneers offensive stars, receiver Mike Evans and running back, Ronald Jones.
Neither player participated in the Bucs latest workout Monday, and now there’s some doubt as to whether either will play in Friday night’s third preseason game with the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium?
The Bucs are not required by the NFL to give any update on injuries at this point, unless they choose to, but head coach Bruce Arians provided a brief one after practice.
“Ronald’s knee swelled up a little bit and just trying to take it day to day with him. Mike tweaked yesterday…it’s nothing serious.”
Traditionally, the third preseason game is the final time where starters for the regular season play significantly.
When asked if both would be held out Friday night, Arians briefly said:
“We’ll see how it is. We still got a few more days. I think Ronald’s gonna be ok. I’m not sure about Mike.”
First, on Evans, the Pro Bowl wide receiver from a year ago pulled up on a pass drill Sunday during practice and although the Bucs aren’t saying anything, there’s concern that he may have sustained a hamstring injury of some type. Tampa Bay is heavily counting on Evans to be their go-to weapon, especially on third down. A year ago he caught for 1,524 yards and a career high 17.7 avg with 8 TDs.
Evans previously dealt with a hamstring injury in the 2015 preseason and missed the season opener with Tennessee but returned the following week.
As for Jones, he appeared to have suffered some kind of left knee hyper-extension returning the opening kickoff on a rain-slicked turf against the Dolphins Friday night. That’s what can be seen this photo on social media from Tampa Bay sports reporter Kevin O’Donnell showing Jones knee clearly in an awkward spot when he planted.
Wondering why #Bucs runningback Ronald Jones knee is sore? This is the opening kickoff Friday night against the Dolphins. Rojo didn’t practice yesterday. Looks like a hyperextension to me. pic.twitter.com/mVmW86E96x
— Kevin ODonnell Fox13 (@ODonnellFox13) August 19, 2019
Jones did carry the ball twice for 7 yards leader in the first quarter of the game before being shut down for the night.
Jones has been one of the standouts of the Bucs offseason and training camp with glowing updates repeatedly from Arians about his progress and his chances of seeing significant playing time. Jones missed three games with a hamstring injury in a disappointing rookie year.
Now, we wait to see how long he and Evans will be out.
Positive injury update news for Bucs DT Vita Vea
Bucs coach Bruce Arians gave another positive update Sunday on one of his star defensive players he’s counting on to come back from injury. It looks like hulking defensive tackle Vita Vea is still on track to potentially play in the season opener September 8th.
After the Buccaneers Sunday morning training camp workout, Arians was asked, if there was any new news on Via resting and rehabbing the sprained ligament in his left knee? He told the media:
"Obviously, when you’re put in game-winning situations and your young players perform, you’re proud of them, and they did exactly that."
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) August 18, 2019
“He’s getting better and better everyday. No pain (in the knee). So, I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’s gonna be ready (opening day),” Arians said plainly.
The former first-round pick a year ago out of the University of Washington was injured almost two weeks ago in a one-on-one pass blocking drill, crumbling to the ground with the Bucs and their fans holding their breath. However it turns out it was only a sprain ligament that did not require surgery and Vea could still possibly play at the beginning of the regular season, including the opener with the 49ers.
Vea was seen walking on the sideline Friday night during the Bucs preseason game with the Dolphins with the aid of a heavily braced left knee.
This is the second straight training camp that Vea has been sidelined with a significant injury. Last year, he suffered a torn calf muscle on the second day of workouts and missed all of the preseason and the first three games of the regular season recovering from the injury and getting into playing shape.
When he did comeback, Vea came on strong in the second half of the season and began to show signs of promise, as to why the Bucs had picked him in the top 15 of the draft. He had a career high nine tackles in a December game in Baltimore and was all over the line of scrimmage and the backfield causing disruptions.
Then, in Dallas the following week, he was once again making plays early in the game. Although, he had a first-half sack Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott nullified by a face mask penalty, he got another one that counted by blindsiding Prescott on the final play of the first half.
Vea finished with three tackles, the sack and one tackle for loss in that game. And, in the second half of the season, he ended up with 28 tackles with three sacks and five tackles for loss in eight games.
Vea is being heavily counted on to help the interior of the Bucs defensive line in new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ 3 – 4 defense. He along with new free agent pro bowl veteran Ndamukong Suh are going to be the guys relied upon to get pressure up the middle for the defense.