Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The best of Stiths, the worst of Stiths

Today's post is a tale of two Stiths (while showing off two cards).  One Stith, paired with the first card, represents Stith's best game of all time, a 12/3/00 matchup with the Browns where the Jaguars won 48-0.  The other Stith represents Stith's worst pro game, a last second 17-14 lost to the Bengals two weeks later (on 12/17/00).  I thought it'd be an interesting take on a brief career.

First the good, represented by Stith's 2000 Pacific card:
Stith had the first touch of the game on 12/3/00, returning Phil Dawson's opening kickoff 25 yards to the Jaguar 46.  He also had two special teams tackles in the second quarter, both on kickoff returns.  But he didn't touch the ball on offense until the 4th quarter started, with the Jaguars already up 41-0 thanks to a huge game from Fred Taylor (30 carries for 181 yards and 3 TD) and rough QB play from Spergon Wynn (when it was all said and done he went 5 of 16 for 17 yards, which is like all time bad awful).  Jamie Martin had already come in at QB near the end of the 3rd quarter, but Stith joined him as the Jags took the field with 14:51 left in the game.

The first drive was nothing much, two carries for five yards on a 3 and out.  And the beginning of the second wasn't either (another five yards on two carries, with the drive only continuing because Anthony Johnson then broke off two carries for 24 yards on consecutive plays).  But Stith then brought it home.  Starting at the Cleveland 5 yard line, Stith took the next four carries, and on 4th and 3 he put it in for a touchdown to seal the score at 48-0.  He also ran for 12 yards on the final drive to get one final first down and kill the clock, but it's the touchdown I'm sure he remembers, even if it did come in crunch time versus a reeling defensive squad.  When the dust settled, Stith finished with 11 carries for 27 yards a touchdown, plus that one kick return and the two special teams tackles.

A pretty good game, but I said I'd mention the bad too.  So here it is, represented by his 2000 Skybox card (especially his anguished face on the back side):
12/17/00 against the Bengals started innocently enough.  Stith actually had no statistical impact in the first half, as the Jaguars didn't score until there were 32 seconds left in the half and the Bengals didn't score at all.  So when Stith returned the 2nd half kickoff 19 yards to the Jaguar 40 yard line, that was his first touch of the game.  At the end of that drive Bryan Barker punted it inside the 20, but Peter Warrick returned the punt 82 yards for a touchdown, tying the game at 7.  So Stith had his second touch on the ensuing kickoff, returning it 25 yards to the Jaguar 43 on a drive that put the Jaguars up 14-7 thanks to a Fred Taylor TD run.  So far, so good.  Midway through the 4th quarter, Stith was even given a carry to give Fred Taylor a breather during a clock kill drive, one which Stith ended up taking for two yards.  The drive ended up being all for naught though, as Mike Hollis missed a 28 yarder at the end, keeping the score a one touchdown game.

And maybe that's where it all unraveled.  Getting the ball back at his own 20, Scott Mitchell (who looked awful during the rest of the game) ran a 12 play, 80 yard drive that included four completions with a 38 yarder on a 3rd and 19.  He finished the drive itself off with a 12 yard touchdown run on 3rd and 12, officially knotting the game up at 14 with 1:24 seconds left.  The Jags would have a chance to march down and win the game...depending on the ensuing kickoff.

This is the bad news story, so you can probably guess how things went, but I'll still write it down.  Neil Rackers kicked the ball 51 yards to the 19 yard line, most likely a squib kick given the situation and the yardage, but it's hard to know without the video.  Stith returned it 15 yards to the 34 yard line where he was met by Tremain Mack, and Mack must've hit Stith like a Mack truck because the ball came loose and was recovered by the Bengals Canute Curtis.  Stith did make the tackle on Curtis, but the damage was done.  Starting within range of a 51 yard field goal, the Bengals were able to march 26 yards in 4 plays, thanks most to a 12 yard Kevin Hardy unnecessary roughness penalty.  Neil Rackers kicked a 27 yard field goal with 3 seconds left and the game was over, Bengals win.  And it wouldn't have been possible without the late turnover from Stith.

So that second story is probably a bad memory for Stith, but they can't all be good ones.  At least he has that Browns game to fall back on if the Bengals game ever keeps him up at night, since the Browns game was definitely his shining moment as an NFL player on so many levels.

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