The Chargers lost a playoff game Saturday night that they led by 27 points.
A playoff game where one of their players had three interceptions.
A playoff game that ended with a 5-0 lead at takeaways.
The Chargers lost to Jacksonville 31–30 when Riley Patterson kicked a 36-yard field goal after time expired, bringing a sudden and shocking end to a season as inconsistent as their last game.
“I don’t even have words for it at this point,” said safety Derwin James Jr. “I’ve been playing football for 21 years and I’ve never felt like this.”
After taking their big lead, the Chargers slumped through a streak of penalties, an inability to run the ball, and a defense that deflected just far enough before breaking.
Now they are entering an off-season filled with questions, starting with the status of coach Brandon Staley.
While there are no credible news reports, much outside speculation has centered on the idea that the oft-polarizing Staley is in danger of losing his job.
He and general manager Tom Telesco are expected to sit down with owner Dean Spanos and president of football operations John Spanos in the coming days to evaluate the season.
The Chargers lost this wild card showdown despite Asante Samuel Jr. intercepted three passes from Trevor Lawrence in his first career playoff game. Their offense turned the five turnovers into 20 points.
Still, given such a dramatic flying start, the Chargers were unable to put the game aside as the Jaguars completed the third-biggest comeback in postseason history.
“As an attack we need to do more in the second half,” said Justin Herbert. “As a quarterback I have to perform better. I hate it for the defense.”
Going up 27-0, the Chargers gave life to Jacksonville late in the first half, the Jaguars going 47 yards in seven plays for a touchdown. Lawrence hit Evan Engram for a nine-yard score with 24 seconds left before halftime.
That moment helped swing the game with Jacksonville scoring two more touchdowns in the third quarter on Lawrence passes to Marvin Jones Jr. (six meters) and Zay Jones (39 meters).
The Chargers responded with a 50-yard field goal from Cameron Dicker, keeping their lead at 30–20 heading into the fourth quarter.
That inability to run the ball—a problem the Chargers faced all season—made clock control, and thus play, impossible as Jacksonville began its comeback.
“It’s definitely unbelievable,” James said. “Everyone likes to say it’s part of the game, but if you’re up by four touchdowns, you have to win. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have done that today.”
The Chargers did manage to kill some time—6 minutes and 57 seconds to be exact—to open the fourth quarter, but the opportunity was squandered when Dicker missed a field goal from 40 yards.
The 14-play drive also consumed 53 yards as the Chargers converted a third-and-nine (on a 13-yard Herbert scramble) and a third-and-four (on a Herbert pass to Keenan Allen for six yards).
But after possession came to a standstill, Dicker hooked his effort wide left, just his second missed field goal of the year.
“We just didn’t play well enough in the second half,” said Staley. “Especially when you have such a lead, when you can possess the ball well enough, then there is not enough time. We just didn’t do that.”
Dicker’s miss gave Jacksonville lasting hope with 8:47 left. The Jaguars went 70 yards in nine plays—never facing a third down—and scored when Lawrence hit Christian Kirk for a nine-yard touchdown.
With the score 30-26, Jacksonville initially sent the kicking team for the extra point.
But Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa was called for unsportsmanlike conduct – his second such penalty of the game – after arguing with officials about being detained. Bosa slammed his helmet against the turf.
“We can’t lose our cool like that,” Staley said. “We need to make sure we stay on the high side.”
After the penalty, Jaguars coach Doug Pederson opted to go for two, with Lawrence sneaking over the goal line to make it 30–28 with 5:25 left.
Needing extended possession to clear more clock, the Chargers went three and out instead, setting Jacksonville up for his victory drive.
Herbert finished 25 for 43 for 273 yards and one touchdown in his postseason debut. Tight end Gerald Everett had six receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Austin Ekeler scored the Chargers’ other two touchdowns, both on points. As a team, the Chargers finished with 67 yards in 23 carries, averaging 2.9 per attempt.
After leading 27-0 and leading 27-7 after two quarters, the Chargers were outscored 24-3 in the second half.
“It’s pretty obvious why we blew that lead,” Bosa said. “Mistakes, penalties everywhere, certainly me too.”
After a pause, he added: “I don’t know. I’ve been here many times where we get up and kind of get comfortable and then, boom, it’s the fourth quarter and it’s the last drive and they kick a field goal.