With a 36-yard field goal from kicker Riley Patterson as time expired, the Jacksonville Jaguars completed a 27-point comeback to beat the Los Angeles Chargers, 31-30, on Super Wild Card Weekend. The Jaguars advanced to the AFC Divisional Round with the victory, and they did it despite looking almost out of the game by the second quarter.
"It's just what I told them at halftime, it's kind of like our season. We've put ourselves in a hole at times, and we've worked ourselves out of it," head coach Doug Pederson said in his postgame press conference. "Just to have the resiliency and the fight and the desire and the ability to continue to play, because it easily could have gone the other way. And that's what I'm so proud of these guys for, everything was on the line and they go out and get the job done."
Having lost five turnovers, including four first-half interceptions by Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, things were looking dire already with Jacksonville facing a four-score deficit before halftime. But with two minutes remaining in the second quarter, Lawrence and the Jaguars offense marched down the field for a 47-yard touchdown drive, getting themselves on the scoreboard before the break and showing that they would not be sitting back and accepting the game was already lost.
This scoring drive kicked off the effort by Jacksonville in the second half to climb back into contention and erase Los Angeles' early lead. The Jags' defense stepped up and limited the Chargers to just three points and zero trips to the red zone in the last 30 minutes, and Lawrence rallied his offense to scores on all four of their second-half drives to close the gap and eventually overtake the lead.
"I told the guys in the huddle, there's no 27-point plays. It's going to be one play at a time. That's what it took, one play at a time, all the way down the field, just again and again and again," Lawrence said. "All we can do at this point is just try to score every drive, then trust our defense. If they get a stop, great; it gives us another chance to score. If they don't, great; we'll get the ball back and go score again. So that was our mindset."
Having gone for and missed a two-point conversion on a late third-quarter touchdown, Pederson had another decision to make after a touchdown with five and a half minutes left brought Jacksonville within four before the extra point.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Chargers outside linebacker Joey Bosa meant the Jaguars could run a two-point attempt from the 1-yard line. Pederson said he probably would not have gone for it without the penalty, but with only three feet to go, it made the choice to try a two-point conversion simple. And his decision paid off, as all Lawrence needed to do was jump forward over his offensive line and stretch the ball until it crossed the goal line, and the attempt was good.
"There was never a doubt. Never a doubt. I trust in the players. I trust our decision. Felt good about our call that we had," Pederson said. "You get in these moments, and listen you trust in these players, and you want to win the football game. You want to do it for them, and they battled their tails off so there was no hesitation on that."
The defense got one more stop of the Chargers, forcing a three-and-out to get back possession with just over three minutes remaining and the successful conversion meaning that a field goal would win it, not just send them to overtime with a tied score. The drive looked at risk of being stopped outside of FG range, however, on fourth-and-1 for Jacksonville after seven plays, and it was time for the Jaguars to put their season on the back of their best play call.
But Pederson called timeout right before the snap to change the play after not liking what he saw, and again this turned out to be the right choice, as after the timeout, running back Travis Etienne took the handoff and ran around the pile toward the outside for the first down and an additional 24 yards. The run kept the drive alive and set up a short field goal attempt for Patterson to secure the comeback.
"[Pederson] got the new call in, and just get the ball in Travis' hands, and he makes a play like that, wins the game for us essentially," Lawrence said. "Obviously Riley won the game, but putting us in position there. It takes a lot of guts there, fourth-and-1 and game on the line, and just the guys up front, they just mashed them. They set the edge, and Travis was rolling."
And so, after not leading for the first 59:57 of Saturday's game, Patterson's kick went right through the uprights as the clock hit zero and the Jaguars rushed onto the field, celebrating the successful completion of the 27-point resurgence despite the odds being stacked against them early.
"I mean, the odds, I told the boys, I don't like my odds but I love my chances," linebacker Foye Oluokun said after the game. "As long as there's a little probability of winning at all, we're going to keep fighting."