And we all thought we’d seen the peak of “Chargering.”
Not even close. What the Los Angeles Chargers did Saturday night makes all their other weird losses look tame.
You can’t lead 27-0, after forcing four first-half interceptions, and lose. But this is the Chargers. It’s a franchise that finds ways to surprise us, and not in a good way.
The Jacksonville Jaguars came all the way back from one of the worst starts to a playoff game you’ll ever see, with Trevor Lawrence shaking off four early interceptions to throw four touchdowns and also lead a game-winning drive in the final minutes. On a great call, the Jaguars didn’t sneak it on fourth-and-inches but gave it to Travis Etienne on an outside run for 25 yards. That set up a field-goal attempt and Riley Patterson nailed it as time expired. Unbelievably, the Jaguars are moving on in the playoffs after the 31-30 win in the wild-card round.
According to NFL Research, it’s the third-biggest comeback in NFL playoff history, the biggest comeback win in Jaguars history and the biggest blown lead in Chargers history.
Late in the first half, the Chargers could never have imagined that their season would end Saturday night in Jacksonville. But, “Chargering” happened, and to an extent we’ve never seen before.
Chargers have a dream 1st quarter
The game couldn’t have started better for the Chargers. Lawrence’s first career playoff pass was tipped at the line, tipped again and picked off by linebacker Drue Tranquill. The Chargers took over deep in Jaguars territory and Austin Ekeler scored on the Chargers’ second offensive play, getting in the end zone on a 13-yard run. The game wasn’t two minutes old and the Chargers led 7-0.
On the Jaguars’ next drive, they went for it on fourth-and-7 instead of trying a 51-yard field goal. And Lawrence was picked off again. Samuel held up Zay Jones, but no penalty was called. Jones was slow to turn around and Samuel intercepted Lawrence’s pass. The Jaguars held the Chargers to a field goal on the ensuing drive, but it was still 10-0 a few minutes into the game.
The avalanche kept coming. Lawrence threw a terrible interception to Samuel that turned into another Ekeler touchdown. Samuel got a hat trick in the second quarter. Lawrence was the first quarterback to throw three interceptions in the first quarter of a playoff game since play-by-play data was first tracked in 1991, according to Jeff Kerr of CBS.
By the time the Chargers recovered a muffed punt that bounced off the helmet of a Jaguars player, which led to a field goal and a 27-0 lead, plenty of TV viewers were finding a movie to watch. Lawrence’s line at that moment was 4-of-16 for 30 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions. It didn’t seem like there was any way the Jaguars would make it a game in the second half.
Then, those who kept the game on had a reason to be interested.
Jaguars have a huge rally
The Jaguars got back in the game. They scored near the end of the second quarter and again early in the third quarter to cut the Chargers’ lead to 27-14. Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson missed the chance to challenge a 25-yard catch by Gerald Everett that he dropped but officials missed it. Pederson didn’t challenge and it set up a field goal. Lawrence hit Zay Jones for a long touchdown but the two-point conversion was unsuccessful and the Chargers still led 30-20.
It seemed like the Jaguars might not get over the hump, but the Chargers couldn’t put them away. Kicker Cameron Dicker missed a 40-yard attempt. The Jaguars drove downfield and, with the help of a missed false start call, Lawrence hit Christian Kirk for a touchdown. Joey Bosa threw his helmet after the missed call and drew a penalty. That brought the ball half the distance to the goal line and the Jaguars went for it. That was a huge play because the Jaguars trailed by two points with plenty of time left. Then the Chargers had a quick three-and-out and punted.
The Jaguars had 3:09 to go, starting at their own 21. For all of the early interceptions, Lawrence had a chance to lead one drive and complete one of the biggest comeback wins in NFL history. Lawrence hit some passes. Etienne had a huge 25-yard run on fourth-and-inches. That set up Patterson for an easy field goal.
The Jaguars are moving on in the playoffs. The Chargers won’t get over this loss anytime soon.