JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – The Jaguars started on the wrong side of history and came out the other side.
Just like that, a storybook season continues with a playoff appearance for the ages.
Trevor Lawrence erased the worst half of football of his life with one of the best, leading the Jaguars to somehow do it, and you still can’t believe it happened in a 31-30 comeback at the Chargers. on a cold Saturday night at TIAA Bank Field.
Riley Patterson’s 36-yard field goal as time expired set off an electric celebration that set up a series of exclamation points after coming back from a 27-0 deficit.
Yes, 27-0. The Jaguars had five turnovers and stayed in the water in the first half. They roared back and gave Doug Pederson one of the most amazing wins of his career.
“I mean, that’s all. That’s exactly what I told them at halftime, it’s like our season,” Pederson said. “Sometimes we put ourselves in a hole and sometimes we pulled ourselves 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, and for that I’m very proud of these guys. It’s all on the line and they go out, get the job done.”
Lawrence had four interceptions in the first half and responded with four touchdowns and a clutch two-point conversion layup before playing 5 minutes, 30 seconds to put Jacksonville back in a position that didn’t seem realistic. The defense forced a punt and Lawrence engineered a classic drive from his own 21 to set up Patterson for the game-winning touchdown.
It was the third-largest comeback in playoff history and sends the Jaguars into the divisional playoffs next week. Their opponent will be finalized on Sunday, but will likely be either the top seed or the No. 2 Bills, barring a major upset.
“Typical of us,” receiver Marvin Jones said. “We know how to throw a good party.”
Added receiver Christian Kirk. “I told them we would never do that again.”
That the Jaguars even had a sniff of the divisional round was unthinkable when the game was in the first half.
Lawrence threw four interceptions in the first two quarters, half of his previous 17 games, which immediately silenced the crowd of 70,250. That start was historically bad, but Lawrence’s finish managed to make it a footnote.
From a 27-0 deficit in the second quarter, Lawrence threw touchdown passes to Zay Jones, Christian Kirk and Marvin Jones in the second half, then added a two-point conversion jumper over the mound to make it 30-28 with 5:30 left. to go Lawrence, sensing the impossible was within reach, threw the ball down like never before after the scoring play and the crowd went ballistic.
After that, the Jaguars defense was tremendous. Roy Robertson-Harris dismissed Justin Herbert for 8 runs. And Foye Oluokoun stranded Joshua Kelly at third to force a punt. Lawrence got it back at its own 21 with 3:09 left.
“I mean, the odds, I told the guys, I don’t like my odds, but I like my chances,” Oluokun said. “As long as there is a small chance of winning, we will continue the fight. We saw the tables start to turn, we had the momentum, we kept it, we keep getting the ball back on offense and they started rolling.”
Down the field, Lawrence moved the Jaguars with four touchdown passes to Kirk, Marvin Jones and Zay Jones, although a third-and-1 target to Kirk was dropped. It set the game for the game. On fourth-and-1 at the Chargers 41 and too far for Patterson, Pederson called Travis Etienne.
Instead of going up the middle, Etienne broke down the right and had an open field to work with. He was bowled after a 20 over, prompting Patterson for an improving shot which he bowled.
Lawrence’s three interceptions in the first quarter marked the first time in NFL playoff history that a quarterback was picked off three times in the first quarter, according to the Boston Globe.
His four first-half interceptions are a dubious feat accomplished only once in playoff history, in Denver’s Craig Morton’s 1978 Super Bowl against the Cowboys. Lawrence finished 28 of 47 for 288 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions.
“For me, obviously, yeah, definitely the worst half of my football life, a lot of people’s football lives, too,” Lawrence said. “Some sort of story, perhaps, in that statistic.”
He found a rhythm after that disastrous start, bringing Jacksonville within 30-20 late in the third quarter on a 39-yard touchdown catch with Zay Jones.
Lawrence turned in the worst game he’s had at any level of football, throwing an interception on the second play of the game, another on Jacksonville’s next drive and another in the opening quarter. Those led to 17 quick points for the Chargers and a lead that was almost too steep to overcome.
“I’ve played with one of the best quarterbacks ever in Brett Favre, and there’s been times where he doesn’t have a great first half and comes back in the second half and can light it up,” Pederson said.
“That’s what I love about Trevor and his demeanor, his aggressiveness and his ability to just forget and move on. But he’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not him, it’s the guys around him. [They] were making plays, the defense was good, the receivers were doing a good job of being where they needed to be. But from an individual perspective, it’s a really great performance from our quarterback.”
Lawrence snapped out of his funk before halftime, throwing a 9-yard touchdown to Evan Engram. He added a 39-yard touchdown to Jones and a 6-yard pass to Marvin Jones in the third quarter that cut the deficit to 30-20.
That started the thought process. Maybe, just maybe.
“Hopefully we’ll play a little bit better next week. The defense, I hope they play like they did tonight. They did a great job. But offensively, you can’t turn the ball over so many times and expect to win. “We found a way tonight, but it’s probably not a good formula going forward,” Lawrence said. “So I know firsthand that you don’t need a second half like that to win a game. If you just play better in the first half and take care of the ball.”
The start knocked out power from the stadium in the blink of an eye. After Jacksonville’s first two drives and a punt that followed, Lawrence was picked off for the third time in the first quarter and the second by Asante Samuel, which set up a 6-yard run by Austin Ekeler. By the time the opening quarter ended on a 17-0 run, Lawrence had completed four assists to his teammates and three to the Chargers.
No one expected the Jaguars to be in this position. Cleaning up the Urban Meyer mess and years of struggles before that, it would be ambitious for Jacksonville to turn around in 2022.
But the Jaguars ran away with a 2-6 record and won their final five games of the season to capture the unexpected AFC South title.
That’s the house money. And the Jaguars are still spending it.
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