JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One can count on so few things in life. One wobbly wheel on the shopping cart. A traffic jam at rush hour. A Morten Andersen chip shot.
Well, check that last one.
Andersen, one of the greatest kickers in NFL history, missed a 30-yard field-goal attempt with four seconds left yesterday, ushering the Jacksonville Jaguars into the playoffs with a 19-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Jacksonville (9-7), winner of five in a row, hits the road Saturday for an AFC wild-card game against the Buffalo Bills (10-6).
"It was a blessing," Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell said. "I was standing there and I thought, 'There's no way Morten Andersen misses this kick.' Then it went wide.
"It's the best feeling I've ever had on a football field."
Andersen, a 15-year NFL veteran, had made 59 consecutive kicks from 30 yards or closer -- a streak dating to 1989. On yesterday's try, his plant foot slipped, and the ball sailed wide left by a yard.
"That's a kick I make in my sleep," Andersen said. "But good things don't happen when you end up on the ground as a kicker."
Andersen's miss sparked a wild celebration on the Jaguars' sideline that spilled onto the field and -- after Brunell took a knee to end the game -- into the stands, as cornerbacks Aaron Beasley and Bucky Brooks jumped into the end zone bleachers like a couple of Cheeseheads.
"You've just got to believe in destiny when something like that happens," wide receiver Jimmy Smith said.
The Jaguars entered the game controlling their destiny. All they needed was a victory to advance to the playoffs. But time after time, they squandered opportunities to put away the Falcons -- only to receive Andersen's gift.
A delirious crowd of 71,449 at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium watched the Jaguars take a 16-3 lead midway through the third quarter, but Atlanta scored touchdowns on consecutive possessions to get to 19-17 with 5: 39 left.
The Jaguars, who had scored on four consecutive drives, went three downs and out on their next possession, and the Falcons took over at their 30 with 3: 57 left. They quickly moved down the field.
As Andersen lined up with eight seconds remaining, coach Tom Coughlin said he was confident the Jaguars could block the kick.
"We had an opportunity," Coughlin said. "[Defensive end] Tony Brackens had come free the time before" and nearly blocked Andersen's 46-yard field goal in the second quarter.
The game probably should not have come down to that last kick. On three possessions inside the 10 and one that reached the 23, the Jaguars failed to score touchdowns, settling for four field goals by Mike Hollis.
Pub Date: 12/23/96