Jacksonville, Florida. The Jaguars started on the wrong side of history and emerged from it on the other.
Just like that, the storybook season continues with a watershed performance for the ages.
Trevor Lawrence erased the worst half of football of his life with one of the best, leading the Jaguars to a comeback. Somehow – they did – and you still don’t believe it – a 31-30 comeback event over the Chargers on a cold Saturday night at Tia Bank Field.
Riley Patterson’s 36-yard field goal as the clock ticked off launched a powerhouse celebration that put a series of exclamation marks on the 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 bounced back and provided Doug Pederson with one of the most amazing wins of his career.
“I mean, it’s everything. That’s what I just said to them at halftime, it’s kind of like our season,” Pederson said. “We put ourselves in a hole sometimes, and we worked ourselves out of it sometimes. Just to have the resilience and the fight and the desire and ability to keep playing, because it could have easily gone the other way, and that’s what I’m so proud of these guys for. It’s all on the line, and they go out and get the job done.”
Lawrence threw four interceptions in the first half and responded with four touchdowns and a two-point conversion caps after that with 5 minutes and 30 seconds to play to get Jacksonville in position for a comeback that didn’t look realistic. The defense forced a punt and Lawrence engineered a classic 21 drive himself to set Patterson on the dagger for the win.
It was the third largest comeback in qualifying history and sends Jaguars into the playoffs next week. Their opponent will be finished on Sunday but will likely be either the higher seeded Chiefs or the No. 2 Bills, barring major upsets.
“We’re exemplary,” said receiver Marvin Jones. “We know how to throw a good party.”
Receiver Christian Kirk added, “I told them we wouldn’t do it again.”
It was inconceivable that the Jaguars were sniffing out the divisional round when the game was in the first half.
Lawrence threw four interceptions in the first two quarters—half of what he had thrown in the previous 17 games combined—that instantly silenced the crowd of 70,250. That start was historically bad, but Lawrence’s ending manages to make that footnote.
From a 27-0 deficit in the second quarter, Lawrence threw second-half touchdown passes to Zee Jones, Christian Kirk, and Marvin Jones, then added a two-point conversion jump over the mound to make it 30-28 with 5:30 to go. Feeling the impossible was at hand, Lawrence pushed the ball down as hard as he ever did after the scoring play and the crowd went ballistic.
The Jaguars defense came out huge after that. Roy Robertson-Harris sacked Justin Herbert for a loss of 8. Foye Olokon stopped Joshua Kelly on third down to force a punt. Lawrence got it back with 3:09 left on his own 21st.
“I mean, the odds are, I said to the boys, I don’t like my odds but I like my odds,” Olokon said. “As long as there’s even a small chance of winning at all, we’re going to keep fighting. We saw the tables start to turn, we had momentum, we kept that, we kept getting the ball back on offense and they started to roll.”
Down the field, Lawrence moved the Jaguars, and hit Kirk, Marvin Jones, and Zee Jones with four touchdowns, although a third-and-one to Kirk was wide. Created a play for the game. Fourth-and-1 at the Chargers 41 and well past Patterson, Pederson called out Travis Etienne.
Instead of going up the middle, Etienne broke around the right side and had an open field to work with. He was tackled after making a gain of 20 and this set Patterson up for an attainable shot which he nailed.
Lawrence’s three interceptions in the first quarter marked the first time in NFL playoff history that a quarterback had been picked off three times in the first quarter, according to the Boston Globe.
His four interceptions in the first half is a dubious feat only accomplished once more 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 me, it’s obviously definitely the worst half of my football life, of a lot of people’s football lives as well,” said Lawrence. “Kind of history maybe in this census.”
He found a rhythm after that disastrous start, putting Jacksonville within 30-20 on a 39-yard touchdown run to Zay Jones late in the third quarter.
Lawrence had the worst game he had at any level of football, throwing an interception on the second play of the game, another on Jacksonville’s next drive and another late in the opening quarter. That led to a quick 17 points for the Charger and an intro that was almost too steep to beat.
“I played with one of the greatest midfielders in Brett Favre and there were times he didn’t have a great first half and he came back in the second half and could light it up,” Pederson said.
“That’s what I love about Trevor, his demeanor, his aggressiveness, the ability to forget and move on. But he’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not about him, it’s about the people around him as well. [They] He made plays, the protection was good, and the receivers were doing a good job where they needed to be. But from an individual standpoint, this is a really great performance from the quarterback.”
Lawrence emerged from his orbit before halftime, throwing a 9-yard touchdown on Evan Ingram. He added that a 39-yard strike to Jones and a 6-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones in the third quarter cut the deficit to 30–20.
This started the thought process. Maybe just maybe?
“Hopefully we can play a little better next week. Defending, I hope they play like they did tonight. They did a great job. But offensively you can’t turn the ball over a few 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 personally, it shouldn’t take this kind of second half to win the match. If you play better in the first half and pay attention to the ball.”
The start drained the stadium’s electricity in the blink of an eye. After Jacksonville’s first two drivers and an ensuing punt, Lawrence was picked off third in the first quarter, the second by Asante Samuel, who set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Austin Eckler. By the time the opening quarter ended trailing 17-0, Lawrence had completed four passes to teammates and three to the Chargers.
No one expected Jaguars to be in this situation. Cleaning up Urban Meyer’s mess and years of struggle before that, it was ambitious for Jacksonville to turn the corner in 2022.
But the Jaguars escaped with a 6-2 lead and won their last five games of the season to clinch the unlikely AFC South title.
This is the money of the house. And the Jaguars are still spending it.
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