Jaguars keep climbing, knock off Chargers in improbable comeback Wild Card win

Riley Platt, Sports Editor

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ return to the playoffs was as dramatic as possible Saturday night, winning their AFC Wild Card duel against the Los Angeles Chargers 31-30, once trailing 27-0.

One of the biggest comebacks in NFL Playoffs history, the Jags punched their ticket to the next round with a walk-off Riley Patterson field goal. An ugly first half was turned on its head as Jacksonville fought from behind to do the unthinkable. 

Things got off to a rough start, with quarterback Trevor Lawrence throwing an interception on the second play from scrimmage. Los Angeles was given great field position, easily finding their way into the endzone to grab a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.

The Jags’ offense took the field with a shot to bounce back, but it fell mightily short. A sold-out TIAA Bank Field sat bewildered when a lengthy drive was capped off by yet another Lawrence interception. 

The second-year QB entered Saturday’s game with just eight interceptions on the season. After just five minutes, he had already thrown a quarter of his season total. 

A crucial goal-line stand by the Jacksonville defense held the Chargers to a field goal, limiting the damage after two early interceptions.

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) sets back to pass during the first half of an NFL wild-card football game, against the Los Angeles Chargers, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Now down 10-0, the Jaguars’ offense continued to struggle to get anything going. Nearing the end of the first quarter, Lawrence threw his third interception, leading to a touchdown to boost the Los Angeles lead to 17-0.

With less than a minute remaining in the first half, the Jacksonville offense finally broke through. Trevor Lawrence found Evan Engram in the middle of the endzone to narrow the gap to 27-7. 

They were still in quite the hole, but this was as good of a place as any to try and climb out.

Midway through the third quarter, an opportunity to build the second rung of the escape ladder appeared deep in the red zone. On a critical third down, Lawrence found Marvin Jones Jr. wide open in the endzone. 27-14.

The Jags had come from behind plenty of times this season, but this was different. This was the playoffs. Could they carry over their improbable magic from the regular season into the second half of Saturday night’s battle?

The answer was an emphatic yes.

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson, left, speaks to Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) on the sidelines during the first half of an NFL wild-card football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Thanks to a Los Angeles coverage blunder, Lawrence found a wide-open Zay Jones in the end zone. The once-insurmountable lead was now just ten points. The horizon was within reach.

Down 30-20, the Jacksonville defense was tasked with producing another stop. They bent, with the Chargers working their way to the 35-yard line, but didn’t break, as a Cameron Dicker missed field goal kept the score within reach.

It was time to buckle in and go to work. 

The Jaguars responded with a strong drive that ended in a Christian Kirk receiving touchdown. What head coach Doug Pederson did next was extremely risky: he sent his offense back out to go for two points. 

If they converted, it put them in a position to have a game-winning field goal on their next drive. If they failed to get in the end zone, a touchdown would be required to come out on top. Luckily for Pedersen, his gamble paid off. 

Now trailing just 30-28, a field goal could win the game. Contrary to the first half, Lawrence and crew carved through the Los Angeles defense with unbelievable ease. Things came to a grinding halt on 4th down, too far out of field goal range.

Duval County collectively held its breath, but running back Travis Etienne Jr. broke free to put the Jags well within field goal range. All that was left was to make the field goal.

Patterson had struggled at times throughout the season, but none of that mattered now. As the clock wound down, his 36-yard kick made it through the uprights to win the game. TIAA Bank Field erupted into a frenzy as they had just witnessed yet another epic comeback in this wild 2022 season.

Luck can be a powerful thing. Resilience is better, though, something that the Jags will look to carry into the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.


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