Sunday’s game in Jacksonville will be a true “grudge” match for some of the New York Jets, who remain upset over an incident from last season.
It might not rival the basketball war of the late 1990s, but a new athletic rivalry between squads from New York and Florida may soon brew in Jacksonville.
The New York Jets head to the Sunshine State’s central regions in an attempt to get their season back on track against the local Jaguars (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS). It marks the Jets’ second consecutive schedule with a visit to TIAA Bank Stadium.
Last year’s meeting was a Week 4 showdown. Jacksonville, then-defending AFC finalists, entered at 2-1. One of those wins came over the mighty New England Patriots, offering them a quantum of revenge for their loss in the previous January’s conference title game.
Steaming over an ugly 9-6 home loss to Tennessee the week prior, the Jaguars pounced early and often. Three Josh Lambo field goals and a T.J. Yeldon touchdown reception contributed to an 18-0 start. The Jets were able to erase their scoreboard goose egg with a Sam Darnold touchdown pass and Jason Myers field goals, but the hosts still led 25-12 in the game’s dying stages.
Rather than run out the clock, Jacksonville opted to go all-out for one last touchdown. They even used two timeouts to break into the end zone, a goal accomplished when Yeldon punched it in from one yard out. To truly drive the point home, Jacksonville even went for two, but Blake Bortles‘s pass to Dede Westbrook went incomplete.
“That’s just what they felt that they wanted to do,” linebacker Jordan Jenkins said at the time, per NJ Advance Media’s Matt Stypulkowski. “Whether it was a statement or not, we’ll never know. But we won’t forget.”
True to Jenkins’ word, the Jets haven’t forgotten the incident over one year later. According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, veterans of last year’s matchup haven’t forgotten the Jaguars’ greed.
“I thought it was pretty disrespectful,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams told Cimini. “The game was already won. There was only a minute-and-a-half left to go. Not only did they keep running the ball to try to score again; they also went for two points, which was even more over the top.”
Both Williams and linebacker Brandon Copeland hinted that the perceived slight has served as motivation for the Jets’ weekend visit.
“Simply put, it was disrespectful as hell,” Copeland said, per Cimini. “I don’t want to say anything that’s bulletin-board material, but, yeah, it doesn’t sit well with us.”
Reasons for the score inflation were never truly revealed. Some speculated that Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone did so in an act of revenge against the Jets, who denied Marrone their own top coaching job in 2015. The Bronx native instead joined Jacksonville’s staff as the offensive line coach. He took over head coaching duties upon the midseason firing of Gus Bradley in that same year and has held the position ever since.
After the game, Marrone was mum about his reasoning to run up the score.
“We had a lot of guys banged up for the PAT/field goal (unit), and on the chart it just said 19 (points),” Marrone said, per Michael DiRocco of ESPN. “On the chart, it says go for two. I’m one of those guys, I never try to take anything for granted in an NFL game. Try to keep working those mechanics and doing it, so just went for two.”
Marrone later remarked, “We’re not good enough to send a message right now.”
Football karma seemed to afflict the Jaguars after that unusual move. The ensuing victory moved them to 3-1, but seven consecutive losses followed en route to a final ledger of 5-11.