Welcome back to another edition of Classic Titans Games. This time we’re taking a look at one of the finest if not the finest moments in Titans history; The 1999 AFC Championship Game.
The 1999 season marked the first by which the team was called the Tennessee Titans, as they were known as the Tennessee Oilers in the previous two seasons after the move to Nashville from Houston. The season was a massive success, as the team went 13-3, second in the then AFC Central behind the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars experienced a franchise best 14-2 record, marked by stars such as RB Fred Taylor, WR Jimmy Smith, and were led by QB Mark Brunell. Interestingly enough, their two losses in the regular season occurred to....the Titans!
The Titans beat the Bills in the Wild Card Round, and the ending of the game was okay I guess, not that we’d know anything about it. A road win at Indianapolis advanced Tennessee to the Conference Title. Jacksonville, on the other hand, cruised to an amazing 62-7 victory over the Dolphins in the Divisional Round in what turned out to be the final game of Dan Marino’s career.
With both future AFC South rivals seeking their first Super Bowl, the fight was on. If the Titans won, they’d pull off a remarkable feat: Being the only team to beat the Jaguars the entire season and doing it a third time.
The Titans got the ball to start, but went three and out, and the Jaguars went on a scoring drive that put them up 7-0.
But the Titans responded immediately with a touchdown drive of their own.
Aided by two impressive looking runs from Steve McNair (one on 2nd and long and the other just to give the Titans better field position on third and short), Tennessee scored on a touchdown from McNair to WR Yancey Thigpen to tie things up at seven.
After a Jaguars punt and McNair interception early in the second quarter, the Jaguars drove all the way to the Titans’ six-yard line, where safety Marcus Robertson came up with a huge end zone interception off of Brunell on a terrible off balance pass.
But the Titans did nothing off the turnover, giving the ball back to Jacksonville, who went up 14-7 thanks to a 33-yard touchdown run from RB James Stewart.
The Titans at the very least responded with a field goal drive as time expired, as kicker Al Del Greco hit a 34-yard FG to cut the Jaguars lead to 14-10 at the half. This was aided by a bobbled punt from Jacksonville’s Reggie Barlow, as the ball was recovered by Steve Jackson to give Tennessee the ball right back.
The Tennessee defense forced a punt to start the second half, and the offense went on a scoring drive culminating in a QB sneak touchdown from McNair to put the team up 17-14. The two teams traded fumbles as Jacksonville’s defense forced a takeaway to put themselves inside their own 1-yard line.
What happened on the next two plays gave the Titans the insurance they badly needed.
Brunell was sacked in the end zone by Josh Evans and Jason Fisk for a safety, putting the Titans up 19-14 and giving them the ball on a free kick. On the very next play, Derrick Mason ran past everyone for a spectacular 80-yard touchdown, and suddenly Tennessee found themselves up 26-14 with a little over five minutes to go in the third quarter.
After a series of stops from both sides extending into the fourth quarter, the Titans lost a turnover on a strip sack from Jevon Kearse that gave the Jaguars the ball back. But Jacksonville could only get to their 48-yard line, as Brunell was intercepted by corner Donald Mitchell.
On the Titans’ ensuing 3rd and 1, McNair put the game away for good with an iconic 51-yard scramble that put him at Jacksonville’s 1-yard line.
McNair immediately got his second rushing touchdown of the game on another QB sneak, putting the Titans up 33-14, which ended up being the final score, as the defense took over for the rest of the game.
Speaking of defense, that side of the ball forced six Jaguars turnovers, with four forced fumbles (including two from Eddie Robertson) and two interceptions off Brunell. While he only threw for 112 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, McNair ended up leading the Titans in rushing, putting up 91 of his own and two touchdowns in comparison to Eddie George’s 86.
Not only had the Titans beaten the Jaguars for the third time all season (once again being the only team to defeat Jacksonville at all in 1999), they also advanced to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
The Titans would not reach the AFC Championship again until 2002, but capped off a memorable 1999 season by winning another road game by scoring 23 unanswered points in the second half against their heated Florida rivals.