Chargers blow 27 points lead, Jaguars advance into AFC playoffs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite building a 27-0 lead in the first half, the Los Angeles Chargers saw their postseason fall apart in the second half as the Jacksonville Jaguars stormed back for a 31-30 win on Saturday night.

It was the third-biggest comeback in playoff history. The Jaguars now advance to the AFC Divisional Round after their first playoff win since 2017.

Jaguars from Jacksonville

There are plenty of ways to describe the performance of the Jaguars in their wild card victory over the Chargers at TIAA Bank Field, but ridiculous pretty much covers it.

What other way to describe Trevor Lawrence who threw four interceptions in the first half – including three in the first quarter – and then the Jaguars rallied from a 27-0 deficit to beat the Los Angeles Chargers on Riley Patterson’s final second 36-yard field goal?

Nothing summed up how poorly the Jaguars played in the first half more than a punt bouncing off Chris Claybrooks’ helmet that the Chargers recovered and turned into a field goal and a 27-0 lead with five minutes left. Indeed, nothing went right for the Jaguars in the first 30 minutes.

That was Jacksonville’s fifth turnover of the half, and it seemed to put the team in too big of a gap to win, though the Jaguars took a leap in the second half to cut the Chargers’ lead to two points with 5 to go :25 to play.

The last time a team turned the ball over five times in the first half of a playoff game was in the 1999 divisional playoffs — the Miami Dolphins took on the Jaguars on the same field. The Jaguars won that game 62-7 and retired Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.

The Chargers, meanwhile, rolled up 180 yards and Justin Herbert completed 15 of 24 passes for 139 yards in the first half. They short fielded on two of Lawrence’s four interceptions, and the Jaguars managed to pressure Herbert on only four of his dropbacks.

Now the Jaguars, who have won seven games in a row, are waiting for the results of Sunday’s games to see if they go to Kansas City.

QB Breakdown: Lawrence played the worst football half of his NFL or college career in the first half. His first pass was intercepted and he would throw three more in the half, making him the third Super Bowl-era quarterback to throw four interceptions in the first half of a playoff game (Gary Danielson and Craig Morton were the others ). Lawrence became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to throw three interceptions in the first quarter of a playoff game, and on first-half points, he had passer ratings of 0.0 and 0.6.

Biggest Hole in the Game Plan: The Jaguars should have been able to attack the Chargers’ defense at the perimeter in the run game with running back Travis Etienne Jr., who averaged an NFL-best 8.3 yards per carry outside tackles; Los Angeles allowed 9.3 yards per carry on such runs, ranking last in the league. But that went out the window with the big deficit, although the Jaguars occasionally tried to run the ball between tackles in the second half as they moved to the rushing offense.

Chargers of Los Angeles

Ahead of the Chargers’ first playoff appearance in four years, questions swirled about second-year coach Brandon Staley’s job security.

Those questions probably won’t go away after a total meltdown against the Jaguars.

LA got off to a promising start, with cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. grabbing three of the four interceptions Lawrence threw in the first half and running back Austin Ekeler converting two of those takeaways into touchdowns, quickly silencing an excited TIAA Bank Field crowd and giving the Chargers a 27-7 lead at rest.

But behind Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson, the fourth-seeded Jaguars adjusted coming off intermission and scored 24-3, sending the fifth-seeded Bolts into the offseason, where many questions — about Staley, 10th year general manager Tom Telesco and the franchise leadership are waiting.

Two halfs: The Chargers went on a 27-0 run in the first half, powered by five turnovers – including four interceptions and the recovery of a muffled punt. But the Jaguars responded with a run of their own, scoring a touchdown to end the first half, then adding another 24 points for a historic comeback.

QB Breakdown: After warmups, 24-year-old Herbert ran off the field and pumped his fist in the direction of screaming Chargers fans, giving every indication he was ready to make his first NFL postseason start. Herbert, without star wide receiver Mike Williams, who was ruled out on Friday due to a minor non-surgical fracture in his back, played an almost flawless first half. He led five scoring drives to convert every takeaway.

In the second half, Herbert – without Williams and then also DeAndre Carter, who left the game due to an ankle injury – was unable to develop a consistent rhythm.

He finished 25 of 43 for 273 yards and one touchdown.

Statistics that matter: The Chargers had a lead on every offensive play in the second half and lost.

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