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.
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