AFC Wild Card: Chargers blow 27-point lead in loss to Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Chargers blew a huge first-half lead and dropped a 31-30 decision to the Jacksonville Jaguars in an AFC wild-card game on Saturday night at TIAA Bank Field. Riley Patterson’s 36-yard field goal as time expired sent the Jaguars to the next round. The Chargers went on vacation.

Justin Herbert directed the Chargers to a 27-0 lead over Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars. The Chargers intercepted Lawrence four times in the first half and recovered a muffed punt, building a 27-0 lead in the second quarter. Asante Samuel Jr. had a hat trick of sorts, with three interceptions.

Lawrence regained his composure and his touch after a nightmarish start, rallying the Jaguars within 30-20 to start the fourth quarter. He threw third-quarter touchdown passes to Marvin Jones Jr. and Zay Jones, to send a scare into the Chargers after they feasted on Jaguars’ mistakes.

The Jaguars cut the Chargers’ lead to 30-28 on Lawrence’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Christian Kirk and Lawrence’s run for a 2-point conversion with 5:25 remaining in the game. Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa complained that he was held on the play and the Chargers were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

At one point in the first half, Lawrence completed as many passes to the Chargers (four) as he did to his Jaguars teammates. His first possession ended with a pass tipped first by Sebastian Joseph-Day and then Joey Bosa before Drue Tranquill picked it off, giving the Chargers the ball at the Jaguars’ 18.

Two plays later, Austin Ekeler ran through the Jacksonville defense for a 13-yard touchdown. Cameron Dicker’s extra point made it 7-0 only 1:27 into the game. Suddenly, the silence at TIAA Bank Field was deafening, the roaring, towel-waving fans were left wondering what had happened.

It would get worse.

Samuel picked off Lawrence on the Jaguars’ next possession, the first of his three first-half interceptions setting up Dicker’s 22-yard field goal that made it 10-0 with 5;30 left in the first quarter. Samuel’s second interception led to Ekeler’s 6-yard touchdown run and a 17-0 lead with 44 seconds left in the quarter.

Lawrence ended the quarter 4 for 13 for 30 yards with three interceptions.

It would get no better in the second quarter.

Samuel picked off Lawrence for a third time.

The Jaguars muffed a punt and the Chargers’ recovered at the 6.

The Chargers built a 27-0 lead with 4;25 left in the first half, with Herbert throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gerald Everett and Dicker kicking a 23-yard field goal. No question, five takeaways eased Herbert’s burden in the opening half, a dream-like beginning for him and the Chargers.

Lawrence finally delivered a late scoring drive in the closing minutes of the half, hitting tight end Evan Engram for a 9-yard touchdown with 24 seconds remaining. All things considered, the Chargers’ 27-7 lead by halftime still looked like a commanding advantage entering the second half.