JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The tension was palpable at Culhane's Irish Pub on Sunday as Ross Matiscik snapped the ball, Logan Cooke placed it on the ground and Matthew Wright stepped into a 53-yard field goal-attempt as the single second left the Jaguars' game against Miami in London expired.
Would this be the kick?
Would this be the day?
Would the streak finally end?
Before the snap, Janice McIntosh covered her eyes with her hands, dropped them to her mouth, then put them together in a prayerful moment.
When Wright swung his leg and the two officials under the goalposts an ocean away raised their arms as the kick went through the uprights at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for a 23-20 victory over the Dolphins, McIntosh slid off her chair, her knees buckled and she buried her face in her hands.
When she stood up, one of her friends, New Orleans Saints fan Doug Strough, was there to high-five her — and help her up, if needed.
"It's over," she said a few moments later. "It's been a long time."
Jaguars fans around her exploded with cheers, shouts, hugs and "Duuuvvaaalllls" as a full house at the popular Southside Boulevard sports bar and restaurant celebrated the team's first victory in 399 days — and cared not a whit that it happened more than 4,000 miles away.
"It's like we won the Super Bowl," said Bryan Pettitt. "I'm elated. I'm relieved. We won't have to listen to any more stuff about breaking the Tampa Bay Bucs record [for the longest NFL losing streak in history, 26 games]. We overcame everything and won it with a guy [Wright] who wasn't on the team two weeks ago."
Velita Welch echoed many Jaguars' fans about their only reward for finishing 1-15 last season and losing the first 15 games of the 20-game streak.
"We're always going to have hope with Trevor," she said of quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who completed 4 of 7 passes for 49 yards on the final two drives that ended in the tying and winning field goals for Wright. "He's getting better every game. We love his attitude and he can carry the team."
Watching the morning unfold with a fans' heart and a business eye was Mary Jane Culhane, one of the five sisters who own the two Culhane's pubs on the First Coast.
She admits she was unprepared for the number of Jags fans who began arriving as soon as she opened at 9 a.m., 30 minutes before kickoff.
"We didn't ask for reservations because we didn't think it would this good of a turnout," she said. "Last week, we had 10 times more Packers fans here than Jaguars fans [the pub is a noted Packers fans destination] but the Jaguars fans really turned out. This is a great morning for us."
And a great outcome for the Jaguars. Maybe it was the first cool morning of the fall. Maybe it was knowing the Dolphins have struggled nearly as much as the Jags this season.
But the Jags fans turned out in such force that when the game was still going on, Packers fans arriving for the 1 p.m. kickoff against Chicago had to wait until the early game was over — and until after the Jags fans were done celebrating.
"I'm a fan," Culhane said. "I loved the atmosphere today. "We're getting better, right? This is a good sign? It’s amazing. You could feel the energy and excitement today."
It didn't start out that well. As the Dolphins dominated the first half, the crowd settled into a feeling of resignation that the Jags were playing the same old song as Miami took a 13-3 lead and the Jaguars offense was floundering.
Even Lawrence's TD pass to Marvin Jones near the end of the half to cut the lead to 13-10 brought cheers, but not necessarily more optimism.
"We don't know if Urban can take it from college the pros," said Kelly Wheeler. "And his personal life became a distraction. I think it's on the players' minds."
But when Lawrence guided the Jaguars on a quick TD drive to begin the third quarter that ended in James Robinson's touchdown, the mood changed when the lead changed.
"We need to let James Robinson carry this team sometimes," Tommy Welch said.
The peaks and valleys of the rest of the game, in which the Jaguars somehow overcame the usual laundry list of false starts, failure to cover the tight end, dropped passes and protection breakdowns, played with the fans' emotions.
But they finally had a happy ending.
"I'm over the moon," McIntosh said, as Strough and her friends, Bills fan Shannon Saunders and Eagles fan Teresa Schoffert put their allegiances aside to enjoy the moment with her.
And the Jags are over the streak.
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