Chargers mourn wildcard loss after losing 27-0 to Jags
4:05 p.m. ET
Lindsey Thiry ESPN
Close Covered Rams for two years for the Los Angeles Times. He previously reported on the Falcons. Covered the NBA and college football and basketball
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It was a game the Los Angeles Chargers didn’t have to lose, but there they stood on the sidelines at TIAA Bank Field on a cool January night and watched helplessly as kicker Riley Patterson threw a 36-yard field Goal drilled lift the Jacksonville Jaguars to an unlikely 31-30 win in a wildcard playoff game on Saturday night.
“I hurt everyone in this locker room,” said LA coach Brandon Staley after the loss. “It’s the hardest way to lose in the playoffs.”
The Bolts intercepted quarterback Trevor Lawrence four times in the first half. They won the turnover battle 5-0. But they also watched a 27-0 lead slip away, sending them into the offseason.
“It’s really tough because we think so highly of our team and this is a special group of guys in this locker room,” said Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. “They deserved better and it didn’t go our way and that’s the unfortunate part.”
The Jaguars’ comeback was the third-biggest for an NFL playoff win and the fifth-biggest in league history when including the regular season.
“It’s embarrassing,” said LA defense attorney Sebastian Joseph-Day. “It feels really bad and it just sucks.”
Early in the game, the Chargers wasted no time in setting an aggressive tone.
On the Jaguars’ second pull from the scrimmage, linebacker Drue Tranquill intercepted a pass from Lawrence. Two games later, running back Austin Ekeler converted the takeaway to a touchdown.
On the Jags’ subsequent drive, cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. grabbed his own pick and followed that up with two more in the first half. He became the first player in NFL playoff history with three first-half interceptions.
The Bolts also forced a turnover in the first half after reclaiming a musty point.
They converted four of the five takeaways into points and led 27-0 until Lawrence connected with tight end Evan Engram for a 9-yard touchdown in the first half with 44 seconds remaining.
From there, Lawrence threw a touchdown pass on three straight drives to open the second half, and the Chargers’ meltdown — during which they were unable to make a stop or develop a rhythm on offense — was over fully effective.
“We just didn’t play football clean enough in all three phases of the second half,” Staley said. “We didn’t hit the ball well enough or we didn’t own it well enough in defense. We had way too many penalties in the second half which hurt us a lot and didn’t play well enough in the red area, didn’t play well enough there in the red area two minutes at the end of the game. I just didn’t play a good second half of the season as a team.”
Herbert completed 25 of 43 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown in his first postseason start of his career.
“As an attack we have to move the ball better, through the air, onto the ground,” said Herbert. “We just have to be able to move the chains. We didn’t do that enough. We didn’t score enough in the red zone. Only got three points in the second half. So as an attack, that’s up to us.” “
The Bolts consistently led until Patterson converted the winning field goal after time was up.
“The way we started the game, that’s the team I know we can be,” Staley said. “We just didn’t finish the game in the second half.”