On Saturday night, the Jacksonville Jaguars posted the third-largest comeback in the history of the NFL playoffs after making up for a 27-0 Los Angeles Chargers lead. The rollercoaster of a game was not only defined by the tale of two halves that Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence posted but also by two crucial moments in the game that kept the momentum — and the home crowd — pushing Jacksonville through the comeback.
Trevor Lawrence throws four interceptions
The Jaguars made the Grand Canyon look like a pothole with the way they dug themselves into a hole in the first 28 minutes of the game.
Heading into the final two minutes of the first half, Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence had already thrown four interceptions due to a combination of bad luck, poor decisions and the refs’ “let-the-boys-play” mentality. Entering the Jaguars’ last series of the half, Lawrence had a stat line of 18 passes for five completions, 35 passing yards, no touchdowns and four picks.
At this point, anyone left watching the game was aware that they were seeing one of the worst starts to a playoff game ever. On social media, comparisons to Nathan Peterman — who once threw five interceptions against the Chargers — began to swirl around as the Schadenfreude began to spread.
Trevor Lawrence throws four touchdowns
Around the two-minute warning in the second quarter is when the Jaguars started to mount their comeback. After a mere 34-yard punt from Los Angeles, Jacksonville was able to take the drive the final 47 yards for Lawrence’s first touchdown pass of the day, this one to tight end Evan Engram.
On their first drive of the second half, the Jaguars put up an impressive 89-yard series that cut the Chargers’ lead to a 27-14 score. The defense then gave up a field goal — 30-14 — but Lawrence responded with a 39-yard bomb to receiver Zay Jones that put the game within 10 points.
The aggressive Jaguars, who at this point had no reason to play conservatively, went for the two-point conversion near the end of the third quarter in an attempt to slice Los Angeles’ lead to an eight-point, one-possession game. While Lawrence couldn’t connect with Jones on the pass, this was the moment where the first cracks of frustration on the Chargers’ side of things visibly started to emerge. This would be when Los Angeles pass-rusher Joey Bosa earned his first penalty of the night as a reaction to the swinging emotions of the game, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The penalty pushed the kickoff, leading to a touchback. The next drive ended with the Chargers’ Cameron Dicker kicking wide right on a 40-yard field goal attempt that turned the ball over without points being added to the scoreboard. Again.
By now, Lawrence had thrown three touchdowns on his previous three drives and was red-hot. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, their next drive opened with a nine-yard loss on a Khalil Mack sack, which deflated the momentum. A defensive pass interference call on second-and-19 would bail the Jacksonville offense out, though, and Doug Pederson’s squad hopped into a no-huddle offense until they reached the red zone.
Lawrence then connected with Christian Kirk, the team’s high-priced free agent signing from the previous offseason, to make the score 30-26. After the touchdown, Bosa made yet another appearance, drawing a penalty that cut the distance of a two-point conversion from two yards to one yard.
The two-point conversion
Pederson gambled on the two-point conversion at that distance, with the thought being that the Jaguars were going for the throat. If they converted it, a field goal would win the game if their defense could hold the Chargers for just one more drive. If they failed to convert, Jacksonville would need a touchdown to win the game. There was no thought of overtime. After the game, Pederson stated that he only considered going for it in that situation due to the Bosa penalty.
The play call was ironic. Pederson gave the classic quarterback sneak a little window dressing with some motion and Lawrence, who at this point was just the second quarterback in postseason history to record four touchdowns and four interceptions in the same game, leaped over the top of the pile and stretched the ball over the goal line for the score. Just one year ago, former Jacksonville head coach Urban Meyer claimed that Lawrence “wasn’t comfortable” running quarterback sneaks. It was a watershed moment showing us all how far the Jaguars had come.
With momentum fully in the home team’s favor, the defense needed just one more stop to potentially give their offense an opportunity for a game-winning drive. Over three plays, the Chargers only managed to move the ball 5 yards, which gave Jacksonville a possession with 3:09 remaining on the clock.
The climax of the game came on a fourth-and-1 on the Los Angeles 41-yard, just outside of field goal range. Lawrence walked up to the line of scrimmage and yelled, “kill, kill, kill,” a signal that the team had audibled out of its first play call. Instead of allowing his quarterback to roll with Plan B, Pederson called a timeout and gave the Jaguars an opportunity to line up in a new look.
What the Jaguars came out in could not have been predicted by even Nostradamus. Pederson called in the T formation, a three-running back set that was allegedly invented in 1910. The broadcast booth speculated that Jacksonville’s previous play call, out of a single-back look, was a quarterback sneak and that Lawrence later switched into a toss play. The Chargers, who jammed as many interior linemen as they could on the first play call, repeated their strategy against this new, yet old, formation...so the Jaguars stuck to their tactic: an outside run, only this time with two extra lead blockers out of the T backfield.
Not only were the Jaguars able to convert the first down, but running back Travis Etienne carried the ball all the way down to the 16-yard line, well into field goal range and in a position for Jacksonville kicker Riley Patterson to end the game in a one-point win. Los Angeles hadn’t just lost the down, but they lost the game on this call.
After running one more play to exhaust the clock, Patterson split the uprights on a 36-yard field goal with the clock at zeros as the Jaguars’ sideline celebrated the greatest comeback in their franchise’s history.
In the end, all of the Lawrence heroics, Pederson calls and Chargers failures will be remembered from this game, but, officially, a chip shot was what ended one of the best playoff games of all time.