JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In his career against the Jaguars, Phillip Rivers has Hall of Fame numbers. He’ll get Hall consideration for his entire body of work in the NFL but against the Jaguars he’s been stellar. His almost-perfect quarterback rating only surpasses his 74.4% completion average along with his 15 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Even Doug Marrone said, “You’re talking about a player that has probably played as well against our team as any player that has ever played.”
So to even slow him down a bit in the first half was a victory for the Jaguars. Despite a variety of mistakes, missed tackles, drops and penalties, the Jaguars led 6-0 on the back of a fake punt TD run by Corey Grant. The extra point was blocked, the first of Josh Lambo’s career in Jacksonville.
Regardless of how different the Jaguars defense is as well as their mindset, Rivers is an elite quarterback so it was no surprise when he moved the Chargers on a 7-play, 87 yard TD drive in just under three minutes inside the two-minute warning to give LA a 7-6 lead. Bad tackling by the Jaguars defensive backfield allowed the Chargers to convert a third down and gave up the touchdown. Plus a zone defense call on third and long allowed Rivers to convert around midfield. If you’re going to play zone and not get to the quarterback, you’re going to get beat.
Neither team played great in the first half, willing to play field position trying to overcome average performance and a bunch of penalties. There wasn’t much to like about the game for the Jaguars fans. No offense and average defense. As if the team was getting another wakeup call about consistent play that’s a necessity for winning in the NFL.
Toward the end of the third quarter, Bortles really came alive. Starting from their own 16-yard line, Blake was 7 of 11 driving for a touchdown. Even his incompletions were smart, or a result of pass interference (not called). The noticeable trust he has in his receivers, especially Marqise Lee, Marcedes Lewis and Leonard Fournette is allowing Blake to throw on time and letting guys run themselves open. Both the touchdown throw and the subsequent two-point conversion were thrown on time, with Lee making great catches on both and Bortles showing great patience.
Riding the momentum, the Jaguars defense stopped the Chargers pretty consistently holding LA to only a field goal and a 17-14 lead.
That’s when the weirdness started. From bad decisions by Bortles that produced interceptions to a forced turnover by the Jaguars defense, the last two minutes of the game were full of miscues and surprises. With the ball for the third time at the end of the game, the Jaguars finally kicked a field goal to tie it at 17 and send the game into overtime. For as great as he played all game, Blake threw two inexcusable interceptions to cost the Jaguars chances to win the game. But on the final drive, he hit a couple of crossing routes and scrambled for a few yards to get out of bounds and give Lambo a chance to tie it.
I say a chance because the regular long-snapper Matt Overton was out of the game with a shoulder injury so Tyler Shatley was in for the field goal snap. Tommy Bohannon did the snapping on punts.
The weirdness continued into the overtime period. After getting the ball to open overtime, the Jaguars moved to about midfield but had to punt. That gave the Chargers a chance to win the game with a field but AJ Bouye stole the ball on a long pass down the sidelines. It counts as an interception but he basically took the ball from Travis Benjamin and returned it to the 2-yard line. Phillip Rivers touchdown-saving tackle, blasting Bouye out of bounds. Back downfield, Aaron Colvin was called for taunting, the second taunting call of the game against the Jaguars. That moved the ball back to the 17-yard line. Three plays later, one putting it on the left hash, Lambo’s kick was blocked but had enough juice on it to get through the uprights and a 20-17 win for the Jaguars.
For fans in the last five years who were convinced this team was finding ways to lose, the Jaguars actually found a way to win this game. It wasn’t a good game, it wasn’t pretty, the Jaguars got some breaks but luckily they don’t ask to draw any pictures. Just numbers when time runs out. And the numbers after this win are 6-3; the first time the Jaguars have been three games over .500 since 2010.
Now they go on the road for back-to-back weeks at Cleveland and at Arizona before coming back to Jacksonville for three consecutive home games starting on Dec. 3 against the Colts. The schedule favors the Jaguars still, with a playoff spot there for the taking.