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Way Back Wednesday: A tale of two games vs. Jacksonville

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The most notable part of the Broncos' history against the Jacksonville Jaguars is actually a two-part series — the first game being "The Jacksonville Game" and the second being part of the "Revenge Tour" that culminated with a win in Super Bowl XXXII.

In 1996, head coach Mike Shanahan set a goal for his Broncos to have the best record in the AFC and hence secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Broncos accomplished that with a 13-3 mark and secured a first-round playoff bye. In just their second season as a franchise, the Jaguars won their last five regular season games and secured a wild-card berth.

They brought an uninspiring 9-7 record into Mile High Stadium and fell behind the Broncos 12-0 in the first quarter.

Then, it happened.

In an emotionally crushing sequence, the Jaguars scored on five consecutive possessions to take a 23-12 lead.

The final was Jacksonville 30, Denver 27. It was as big as playoff upsets come.

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Twenty years later it is hard for the reader to comprehend the emotional valley Broncos fans were in, but if you were here then, you certainly understand.

But it took just one year for the team to recover.

Shanahan gave the team a new goal for 1997: to win the Super Bowl.

"I had given them a goal that they reached with best record in 1996," Shanahan said. "I knew we were the best team and wanted to avoid a letdown for any reason, so our 1997 goal was to win the Super Bowl, no matter how we got there."

The Broncos again had a great team in 1997, but the team went 12-4 and did not secure home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Denver had a wild-card game against Jacksonville at home, and then, if they won, the Broncos would head out on the road.

Denver defeated the San Diego Chargers in the final game of the regular season at home, and in the postgame CBS radio commentator Pat Haden pronounced that Denver would win the Super Bowl as a wild card.

"We have been watching them all season," Haden said on the air, "and Denver is the best team. They will win, no matter who or where they play."

It began with the Jaguars at home. Jacksonville came to the thin air of Denver on Dec. 27, 1997, and so began "The Revenge Tour" for the Denver Broncos.

The Broncos left little doubt as to their talent or attitude in crushing the Jaguars, 42-17.

Denver ran Jacksonville out of town as the team piled up a club postseason record 310 rushing yards before 74,481 raucous, revenge- and championship-seeking fans.

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The Broncos set numerous team postseason records during the contest, including new standards for rushing attempts (49), total yards (511), points in a quarter (21 in the fourth), total points (42), first downs (28), rushing first downs (18) and third down efficiency (75%), while the 237 yards allowed by the Denver defense was the second-lowest in the Broncos' 21-game playoff history.

So dominant was the Denver offense that the following week the National Football League named our entire offensive line as "NFL Offensive Player of the Week."

Those starters were tackles Gary Zimmerman and Tony Jones, guards Mark Schlereth and Brian Habib, and center Tom Nalen.

Terrell Davis ran for a stunning 184 yards, but just as remarkable was the fact that backup Derek Loville also had a 100-yard game, finishing with 103.

The team featured five future Hall of Famers (so far) in quarterback John Elway, Davis, Sharpe, Zimmerman, and team owner Pat Bowlen, the emotional architect of the franchise.

The Broncos went on to win at Kansas City the following week and then won the AFC Championship over Pittsburgh in the Steel City.

Although heavy underdogs to defending world champion Green Bay, the Broncos were a great team with absolute focus and certainty of purpose and won Denver's first Super Bowl, 31-24 in San Diego, to close out an ultimate championship season.

But both defining moments in the Broncos' first championship run came in Denver against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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