The NFL Playoffs don’t begin until Jan. 14, but that doesn’t mean some teams aren’t already fighting for their figurative lives.
Case in point, while not a playoff game per se, the Saturday night slugfest between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans pretty much had the stakes of a playoff game. The winner of that game would claim the AFC South and (by virtue of winning their division) immediately qualify for the playoffs.
Given the enormous, playoff-like stakes of this game, you would assume the players would spend every waking moment immediately preceding the game getting ready for their opponents.
While there was surely plenty of that, that wasn’t the main takeaway from the pre-game.
— ESPN (@espn) January 8, 2023
“What you’re seeing now is what [Jacksonville head coach] Doug Pederson talked about, that we felt the whole NFL as a community came together this week, and he talked about this,” ESPN sideline reporter Suzy Kolber. “Both teams, coming together in prayer, before this game starts.”
“It’s just an unbelieveable deal for both teams to get together, pray, and thank God for what’s happened this week,” ESPN analyst Booger McFarland added.
As the ESPN tweet noted, the Jaguars and Titans joined each other in prayer over the continuing improvement of injured Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered a terrifying cardiac arrest scare during Week 17’s Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Based on the size of the prayer circle, even accounting for the photographers embedded in it, it appears the vast majority of both the Jacksonville and Tennessee rosters were out there for the mid-field prayer.
It was an awesome moment for all to see. In fact, the gesture was moving enough to even have some notable conservatives chime in on the moment.
This is awesome. Damar Hamlin is putting God back in football. Thank you, Damar.
— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) January 8, 2023
“This is awesome,” conservative sports pundit Jason Whitlock noted on Twitter. “Damar Hamlin is putting God back in football. Thank you, Damar.”
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) January 8, 2023
“There is power in prayer!” Rev. Franklin Graham tweeted out.
Interestingly, as one Twitter user pointed out in response to ESPN’s original tweet, it actually is somewhat surprising that ESPN even showed this.
“The Worldwide Leader in Sports” has built a bit of a reputation in recent years as being a largely left-leaning organization. Things like promoting Obama (and pushing NFL viewers to a DNC-funded website) and a constant stream of race-based grievances have made it rather easy for viewers to be confused if they’re watching ESPN or CNN on a given night.
However, to give credit where it’s due, ESPN seems to have rediscovered the power of prayer in the wake of Hamlin’s shocking injury.
As for what happened after that powerful prayer circle, the Jaguars completed quite the single season turnaround by beating the Titans 20-16 and going 9-8 en route to an AFC South title. Just last year, the Jaguars were 3-14, and 1-15 the year before.
The Titans, meanwhile, enter an offseason filled with question marks, given that rookie quarterback Malik Willis hasn’t quite panned out and superstar running back Derrick Henry is racking up an insane amount of mileage (and also approaching the age range when many running backs fall off a cliff).
One thing that neither team can question?
There is indeed “power in prayer.”
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