The biggest chip-on-the-shoulder attitude between the Jaguars and the Colts used to belong almost exclusively to Jacksonville linebacker Mike Peterson. The former Colts linebacker was told to seek employment elsewhere if he wanted a huge contract, and he landed in Jacksonville with a team that was rebuilding after being in salary cap hell.
But over the past two and a half years, that chip has been getting bigger. And increasingly more players are entering the field with bad attitudes when the Colts and the Jaguars are forced to share the same turf.
In 2003, the big ruckus was between Colts safety Mike Doss and Jaguars running back Fred Taylor. In their first meeting, Doss recovered a Taylor fumble. According to the Jaguars running back, Doss pushed his head into the ground. And he also alledgedly said, "Hey, Fred, you forgot something."
So in November, Taylor vowed, "I'm going to punish him. If he hits me, fine, but if I catch him, believe me, I'm going to get the better shot."
And the words turned out to be prophetic as Taylor blew through Doss en route to a game-winning 32-yard touchdown.
Last October, the rivalry continued to gain steam. The Jaguars were undefeated and leading the AFC South heading into week four of the season. The media referenced the game as the true measure of whether or not Jacksonville was a playoff-caliber team. They were at home and hosting the defending AFC South Champs, the Colts.
The Jaguars amassed over 400 yards of offense, had the advantage in time of possesion and third-down conversion percentage, but fell short in a 24-17 loss in front of their home fans. The Colts stopped Jackonville twice on fourth-and-one plays, including one that allowed the Colts to wrap up the victory inside the two minute mark. The bitterness from that loss stung the Jaguars as some fans and media threw up their hands and declared them to be a second-tier team, a day after talking about the possibility of a playoff berth and run at the Super Bowl.
The Colts had changed them from potential champions into also-rans after just 60 minutes of football. And they didn't like it one bit.
Three weeks later, they got their revenge in Indianapolis, grabbing the AFC South lead back with a 27-24 win that included plenty of controversy. With a 17-16 lead and just over 9 minutes left, the Colts watched Byron Leftwich lead his team through a 5-play 68-yard drive that put Jacksonville up by six with 6:14 left. Manning drove the Colts right back down the Jaguars' throats, 82 yards in six plays for a 1-point lead. Emotions were running high, both teams determined to claim the win.
The Jaguars were stopped short on their final drive, but managed to position their kicker, Josh Scobee for a chance at a 53-yard field goal with 38 seconds left.
After feeling his foot meet the pigskin, Scobee didn't know if that kick had gone through the uprights. Colts safety Bob Sanders was blocked into him. So for good measure -- in hopes of drawing a penalty and another chance to kick again in case he had botched it -- Scobee pathetically rolled around on the turf trying to look worse than former Redskins quarterback Joe Thiesmann did when he suffered his career-ending multiple leg fracture on Monday Night Football back in 1985.
The referees ruled there was no penalty on the play. Of course, after learning that his kick was good, Scobee practically skipped out onto the field to kickoff to the Colts, with a hearty round of boos roaring down from the fans in the RCA Dome.
If that wasn't bad enough, there was another moment of controversy that was hotly debated.
Early in the fourth quarter, it appeared that Marvin Harrison had caught a nine-yard touchdown pass at the back of the end zone. But former Colt linebacker Greg Favors ran over to head coach Jack Del Rio, fervently trying to convince him that Harrison had stepped on the chalk line at the back of the end zone. Just as Mike Vanderjagt was about to go into motion to kick the extra point, Del Rio took a chance and tossed the red challenge flag onto the field. Did he get the flag out before the snap? That's still debated today, but the officials allowed the challenge and took the Colts' points off the board after reviewing the play.
This past Sunday, the heat between the teams rose to a new level as Byron Leftwich was punished repeatedly by the Colts' defensive line. Frustrations mounted and both Leftwich and Colts defensive line coach John Teerlinck alledgedly made gestures towards one another that will likely draw fines from the NFL if substantiated.
And on the final play of the game, controversy broke out as Jimmy Smith and Del Rio lodged their claims that the Colts should have been called for pass interference in the end zone. The play stood and the scoreboard coronated the Colts as the victors of a 10-3 slugfest.
A war of words. Two proud, talented teams. All-out take-no-prisoners hitting. Drama and controversy.
Ah, yes....it is most definitely on.
December 11th, the best rivalry in the AFC South continues at ALLTEL Stadium in Jacksonville.
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