Jaguars vs. Chargers score, takeaways: Trevor Lawrence leads 27-point comeback to earn historic playoff win
The Jacksonville Jaguars came back from a 27-0 deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Chargers on Super Wild Card Weekend, 31-30. After a rough start, Trevor Lawrence and the Jags went on a 24-3 second-half run, capping the comeback with a 36-yard field goal by Riley Patterson as time expired. It marked the third-largest comeback in NFL postseason history.
It was a tale of two halves for the Jaguars, and Lawrence had about as rough a first half as it could have. On his first 16 attempts, the quarterback completed four for his teammates and four for the Chargers. Former election no. 1 overall had four stops in the first half — three recorded by Asante Samuel Jr. Lawrence became the fifth quarterback to throw three interceptions in a playoff quarter since 1991, but he was the first to do so in a first quarter. However, Lawrence came out of the first half rejuvenated.
Lawrence led three straight drives, the last of which included a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to just two points with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter. After the Jaguars defense forced a three-and-out, Lawrence had a chance to write his own ending. With the game on the line, he led the charge 61 yards down the field in 10 plays, setting up Patterson to send the ball through the uprights when the clock hit triple zero.
Lawrence ended up completing 28 of 47 passes for 288 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions, while his college teammate Travis Etienne Jr. rushed for 109 yards on 20 carries. Evan Engram was the Jaguars’ leading receiver with 93 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Marvin Jones Jr. also caught a touchdown in the win.
As for the Chargers, Justin Herbert completed 25 of 43 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown. Austin Ekeler was mostly ineffective, as he rushed for 35 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries. Gerald Everett led the Chargers in receiving with 109 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.
So what in the world happened in this game? Let’s take a look.
Why the Jaguars won
Short memory. It’s something that all quarterbacks need to be successful at. But how can you have a short memory after four tackles in the first half?
Have we ever seen this before in the NFL? A quarterback who looks like he should be benched turns it around and is nearly perfect in the second half. On Lawrence’s first seven drives, he completed 5 of 18 passes for 35 yards and four interceptions. On his last five drives, he completed 23 of 29 passes for 253 yards and four touchdowns. It was extraordinary.
Lawrence’s return will be the talk of this game, but the rest of the Jaguars deserve credit as well. The offense went as did its quarterback, as Engram, Etienne and others made big plays down the field. And then the defense played aggressively in the second half, stopping the Chargers on three of their four drives.
At the same time, should we be surprised that the Jaguars made this comeback? They have now done so in their last five home games.
In Week 9 against the Las Vegas Raiders, the Jags fell behind by 17 points. Jacksonville came back to win. In Week 12 against the Baltimore Ravens, the Jags fell behind by nine points. Jacksonville came back to win. In Week 15 against the Dallas Cowboys, the Jags fell behind by 17 points. Jacksonville came back to win. In Week 18 against the Tennessee Titans, the Jags fell behind by 10 points. Jacksonville came back to win. In the wild card round of the AFC against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Jags fell behind by 27 points. Jacksonville came back to win.
It was always the Jags!
Why the Chargers lost
The Chargers looked like the better team in the first half. The offense scored points on four of its first five possessions, while the defense forced five turnovers. The “turnover” stat is of course the headline, but the Chargers defense did a great job of making Lawrence uncomfortable and then holding on to it on third down. The Jags went 0-for-7 on third downs in the first two quarters! So what happened?
LA lost its way in the second half. The Chargers played to not lose the game as opposed to playing to win the game – which ultimately ended their season. Defensively, the Chargers shut down all routes downfield and kept pressure on Lawrence for most of the first half. However, the same unit played on its feet throughout the second half, allowing the Jaguars’ offense to score points on all four of their possessions after the halftime break.
In attack, it was no better. Herbert threw for just 134 yards and zero touchdowns in the second half, while Ekeler didn’t gain a single yard on the ground in the final two quarters. The offense scored just three points in the second half compared to 27 in the first half. Just check out their drive charts after the first half:
7 plays, 37 yards, punt (2:32) 7 plays, 45 yards, field goal (2:13) 14 plays, 58 yards, missed field goal (6:57) 3 plays, 5 yards, punt (2: 16)
This was a major collapse in more ways than one. No one play or decision decides the outcome of a game, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Joey Bosa’s penalty. The All-Star pass rusher slammed his helmet to the ground and drew a flag after Lawrence hit Christian Kirk for a touchdown to cut the lead to four points. That penalty made it easy for Pederson to go for two, and Lawrence hit it himself to cut the lead to two points. After all, that’s what made Patterson’s field goal the game-winner five minutes later.
Turning Point/Game Play
Pederson called it “Philly Special” in Super Bowl LII for the Philadelphia Eagles. On Saturday, he called it the “Duval Special” — from the “T!” While the play wasn’t as exciting as the Philly Special, it set up the Jaguars for their game-winning field goal.
Facing a fourth-and-1 with 1:28 left in the game, Pederson lined up three players behind Lawrence. In today’s NFL, pushing the QB from behind on a steal has become commonplace. It was fair to assume that was what was going to happen, but instead, Pederson called a sweep on Etienne!
This play went for 25 yards, and practically won the game for Jacksonville.
What is expected next?
Barring an AFC upset on Sunday, the Jaguars will be scheduled to play the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead next weekend. The Chiefs defeated the Jaguars, 27-17, earlier this season in Week 10. As for the Chargers, they will now turn their attention to the offseason.