Panthers and Jaguars have a long shared history

Ricky Proehl

They’ve only played six times in the regular season.

There haven’t been a ton of player or coaching staff overlap between them.

The fan bases seem to…well…get along mostly.

But there’s just something a little bit different about the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Panthers’ partner in expansion in 1995; the two mascots from the same genus of the animal family tree; just 380 miles apart.

Some seminal moments in Carolina’s 25-year history have happened against Jacksonville or alongside them.

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In 1995, the Panthers donned the blue, black and silver for the first time ever in the Hall of Fame preseason game against the Jaguars. It was that day that Bob Christian scored the first-ever touchdown from Frank Reich on a short out route. Carolina won that game 20-14 and went on to have the most successful expansion season in league history.

The next year, the Panthers jumped out to a 3-0 start punctuated by a 23-7 win against San Francisco, the reigning Super Bowl champions. But then they traveled to Jacksonville and were mightily humbled in the stifling Florida heat, 24-14. It was a tough loss and one that Panther fans bristled over at the time.

But it helped refocus a Carolina team that ended up 12-4 and advanced to the NFC Championship game after a monumental home playoff win over Dallas.

Of course, Carolina’s run was contextualized by Jacksonville’s own unlikely success in 1996. The Jaguars made it to the AFC Championship game the same year and many hoped the two young franchises would meet in the Super Bowl.

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Seven years later, in 2003, the Panthers opened the season at home against Jacksonville with Rodney Peete at quarterback. Expectations were growing after new head coach John Fox had brought the Panthers from a 1-15 team in 2001 to a respectable 7-9 in 2002.

But things started poorly against the Jaguars, as Carolina trailed 17-0 at halftime.

The rest is history.

Jake Delhomme replaced Peete at quarterback to open the second half, and was literally so pumped up that teammates had to get him to slow down and repeat the play call because they couldn’t understand his Louisiana accent in the huddle.

After two second-half touchdown passes, Delhomme drove the Panthers inside the red zone with less than 20 seconds remaining and Carolina still trailing 17-14. On fourth down, he pumped and lofted a ball to Ricky Proehl in the far corner of the end zone for the game-winning score to beat Jacksonville. It marked the first of a franchise-record seven game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime as the Panthers improbably marched to an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Starting to see the trend here?

In 2011, the Jaguars came to Charlotte on a cloudy afternoon with the Panthers still looking for the first win of the season and first wins for rookie quarterback Cam Newton and first-year head coach Ron Rivera.

What ensued was a meteorological anomaly. The skies opened up in the second quarter and buckets and buckets of rain dumped on the field. Cameras could barely follow the ball, not to mention players trying to hang onto it. Ball carriers slid nearly 10 yards after being tackled on the 100-yard long slip and slide that was the field.

Carolina mounted a fourth-quarter comeback with a touchdown catch and two-point conversion from Cam Newton to Greg Olsen and the Panthers recorded the first win of a new era.

The 2015 season had so many moments. So many great wins as Carolina set franchise and NFL records, winning the NFC Championship.

But it all started in Jacksonville in Week 1. On a day when the Panthers were outgained in net yards and clinging to a 10-9 lead in the third quarter with starting wideout Kelvin Benjamin already lost for the season, nobody was thinking about an eventual Super Bowl appearance.

And then Josh Norman intercepted a Blake Bortles pass, ran into the end zone and showed off his signature…personality. It was a defining play in a game that set the table for the season to come.

This Sunday, the Panthers look to climb back in the win column at home as some of the stars of those contests are inducted into the Panthers’ Hall of Honor.

Maybe we’ll be talking about Panthers-Jaguars 2019 contest for years to come.

Carolina is 3-3 against Jacksonville all-time.

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