Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars stun Chargers in playoffs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars started on the wrong side of history and came out the other side.

Thus, the storybook season continues with an all-ages playoff performance.

Trevor Lawrence erased the worst half of football in his life with one of the best, leading the Jaguars to a somehow-they-did-it-and-you-can’t-believe-it- happened 31-30 comeback over the Chargers on a chilly Saturday night at TIAA Bank Field.

Riley Patterson’s 36-yard field as time expired created an electric celebration that spawned a series of exclamation points on a comeback from a 27–0 deficit.

Yes, 27-0! The Jaguars had five turnovers and were dead in the water in the first half. They roared back and gave Doug Pederson one of the greatest wins of his career.

‘I mean, it’s everything. That’s exactly what I told them at halftime, it’s kind of like our season,” Pederson said. “We have sometimes beat ourselves into a hole and we have sometimes worked our way out. Just to have the resilience and the fight and the desire and the ability to keep playing, because it could have easily gone the other way, which is why I’m so proud of these guys. Everything is on the line and they go out to get the job done.”

Lawrence threw four interceptions in the first half and countered with four touchdowns and a two-point conversion jump, then with 5 minutes and 30 seconds left to put Jacksonville in position for a comeback that seemed unrealistic. The defense forced a punt and Lawrence developed a classic drive from his own 21 to set up Patterson for the dagger to win it.

It was the third-biggest comeback in playoff history and sends the Jaguars into the division playoffs next week. Their opponent will be finalized on Sunday, but will likely be the top-seeded Chiefs or the No. 2-seed Bills barring major setbacks.

“Typical us,” said receiver Marvin Jones. “We know how to throw a good party.”

Receiver Christian Kirk added: “I told them we’re never doing that again.”

For the Jaguars to even sniff the division round was unthinkable when the game was in the first half.

Lawrence threw four interceptions in the first two quarters—half of what he threw in the previous 17 games combined—silencing the crowd of 70,250 almost immediately. That start was historically bad, but Lawrence’s finish managed to turn that into a footnote.

From trailing 27-0 in the second quarter, Lawrence threw touchdown passes in the second half to Zay Jones, Christian Kirk and Marvin Jones, then made a two-point conversion jump over the pile to make it 30-28. bring with 5:30. to go. Lawrence, sensing that the impossible was within reach, shot the ball down as hard as he has ever done after a scoring play and the crowd went wild.

The Jaguars defense came up big after that. Roy Robertson-Harris sacked Justin Herbert for a loss of 8. And Foye Oluokun briefly stopped Joshua Kelly in third to force a punt. Lawrence got it back with 3:09 left on his own 21.

“I mean, the odds, I told the guys, I don’t like my odds, but I like my odds,” said Oluokun. “As long as there is a small chance of winning, we will keep fighting. We saw the reels start to spin, we had momentum, we kept that, we kept getting the ball back to the attack and they started to roll.

Downfield, Lawrence moved the Jaguars and hit Kirk, Marvin Jones and Zay Jones with four passes, though a third-and-1 target for Kirk was off. That made for a game for the game. Fourth and first at the Chargers 41 and too far ahead of Patterson, Pederson called on Travis Etienne.

Instead of moving to the middle, Etienne broke down the right side and had an open field to work with. He was tackled on a 20 gain which set up Patterson for a makeable shot that he did well.

Ball game.

Lawrence’s three first quarter interceptions marked the first time in NFL playoff history that a quarterback was picked three times in the first quarter, according to the Boston Globe.

His four first-half interceptions are a questionable feat only achieved once in playoff history, in the 1978 Super Bowl by Denver’s Craig Morton against the Cowboys. Lawrence finished 28 of 47 for 288 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions.

“For myself, of course yes, definitely the worst half of my football life, also of many people’s football lives,” said Lawrence. “Probably some kind of history in that stat.”

He found a rhythm after that disastrous start, putting Jacksonville within 30-20 on a 39-yard touchdown to Zay Jones late in the third quarter.

Lawrence turned in the worst game he’s had at any level of football, with an interception on the second game of the game, another on Jacksonville’s next drive, and another late in the first quarter. That led to 17 quick points for the Chargers and a lead that was almost too steep to overcome.

“I played with one of the best quarterbacks ever in Brett Favre and there were times when he didn’t have a great first half and came back in the second half and could lighten it up,” said Pederson.

“That’s what I love about Trevor and his demeanor and his aggressiveness and ability to just forget and move on. But he will be the first to tell you that it’s not about him, it’s also about the guys around him. [They] made plays, protection was good, receivers did a good job of being where they needed to be. But from an individual point of view, this is a really great performance from our quarterback.”

Lawrence got out of his funk before halftime and threw a 9-yard touchdown to Evan Engram. He added that 39-yard strike to Jones and a 6-yard pass to Marvin Jones in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 30–20.

That started the thinking process. Maybe, just maybe?

“Hopefully next week we will play a little better. The defence, hopefully they will play like tonight. They did a great job. But offensively you can’t turn the ball around that much and expect to win. We found a way tonight but it’s probably not a good formula to get ahead,” Lawrence said. “So I know for me personally that it doesn’t take such a second half to win the game. If you play better in the first half and take care of the ball .”

The start pulled the power out of the stadium in an instant. After Jacksonville’s first two drives and a punt after that, Lawrence was called for the third time in the first quarter, and the second by Asante Samuel, who set up a six-yard touchdown run by Austin Ekeler. By the time the first quarter ended trailing 17-0, Lawrence had made four passes to his teammates and three to the Chargers.

No one expected the Jaguars to be in this position. Cleaning up the mess of Urban Meyer and years of struggle before that, turning Jacksonville around the corner in 2022 would have been ambitious.

But the Jaguars escaped a 2-6 start and won their last five games of the season to take an unexpected AFC South title.

That’s house money. And the Jaguars are still spending it.

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