Not a California dream: Jaguars bury Chargers, end West Coast woes

It’s not a misprint: Jacksonville crushes Los Angeles, 38-10

James Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) (Ronald Martinez, 2022 Getty Images)

That would have been good in any time zone.

The Jaguars put an emphatic end to those West Coast struggles, going on the road to dominate the Chargers 38-10 on Sunday.

That’s not a misprint. That’s not a mistake. The Jaguars, with all of four combined wins and three head coaches in 2020 and ‘21, are very much in the conversation as one of the league’s best teams under Doug Pederson.

Jacksonville dominated from start to finish, walloping a Chargers team that entered the season with Super Bowl expectations behind quarterback Justin Herbert. Instead, it was the Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence controlling the pace and laying to rest a bevy of dubious streaks with their best performance of the season.

The win was just the fourth in 19 games in the Pacific time zone and ended an 18-game road losing streak that dated back to the 2019 season. Back-to-back wins have been rare for the Jaguars, too. They hadn’t stacked victories together since Weeks 7-8 in 2019.

Pederson and the new-look Jaguars have been one of the most surprising stories of the league thus far. A franchise with so much bad luck and bad results on the field is one of the best stories in the league entering Week 4.

“I’m just so proud of these guys. The way they work during the week, they’re beginning to see just what it takes to win in this league. It takes the hard work and preparation,” Pederson said. “They’re starting to come together as a football team and that’s all I can ask for. They played extremely hard. What I told them after the game is that if they continue to do these little things right, good things can happen to this football team. Today was an example of that.”

The AFC South-leading Jaguars (2-1) visit the 3-0 Eagles in Week 4, a big return to Philadelphia for Pederson.

The defense was tough once again.

James Robinson ran strong. Lawrence played another excellent game behind a rapidly improving offensive line.

And the Jaguars — yes, the Jaguars — are on an upward trajectory for the first time in years.

A perfect scenario of how the team has evolved came in the third quarter.

When the Chargers came out in the second half and used a nine-play drive and connected on a 25-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal to get within 16-10, it was a test. How would the Jaguars answer?

The poor history on the road.

The West Coast problems.

The struggles of Lawrence to authoritatively close things out.

Jacksonville did just that. Facing a fourth-and-1 from the 50, Pederson called a sweep to Robinson and the Jaguars drove in the clincher. Brandon Scherff pulled from his right guard spot, went left and cleared the way for Robinson. Fifty yards later, Robinson was in the end zone and the Jaguars jumped in front 23-10. They finally figured out how to close things out.

They continued to choke out the Chargers from there.

Los Angeles went three and out and the Jaguars put together a 14-play 60-yard drive that ended with Lawrence throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Christian Kirk.

The rout was on.

“It’s awesome. Two weeks in a row,” Lawrence said. “I think that’s the coolest thing, a big win last week and to see that same focus and intensity and preparation this week, I think that’s the sign that we are headed in the right direction.”

For Lawrence, it was the first road win of his career. He was 0-9 in road games (the London game against the Dolphins last year was technically a home game) entering Week 3. Ironically, Peyton Manning is the only other quarterback to lose his first nine road starts and win in his 10th, according to the NFL Media Research Department. Manning won in Week 3 of his second season ... also at the Chargers. He had a three-touchdown game (two passing TDs, one rushing) in a 27-19 Colts win.

The Jaguars controlled the game at the line of scrimmage and nearly doubled up the Chargers on time of possession. Jacksonville held the ball 38 minutes and 27 seconds in the game.

Herbert was a gametime decision while nursing a rib cartilage injury and the Jaguars kept up the pressure all game long. While they managed just one sack, the pressure kept Herbert uncomfortable and getting the ball away quicker than he would have normally. He finished 25 of 45 passing for 297 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

The ground game churned out 152 yards on 35 carries, with Robinson (17 carries, 100 yards, TD) and Travis Etienne (13 carries, 45 yards) wearing out the Chargers and making it easy for Lawrence.

The second-year player had another excellent outing, going 28 of 39 passing for 262 yards and three touchdowns. For the second straight game, the offensive line didn’t allow a sack.

“The offensive line gave him protection. When they give him the protection, and we have the skill guys to get open, he’s going to find them,” Pederson said. “That’s where it starts. I thought our offensive line really took control of this football game, did a nice job up front, not only in the run, but the pass.”

The defense continues to play at a different pace.

Devin Lloyd had his second interception in as many games, catching a ball deflected by Tyson Campbell at the Chargers 15. That led to a 23-yard field goal by Riley Patterson and a 6-0 lead.

Dawuane Smoot sacked Herbert on the ensuing drive and forced a fumble that Foye Oluokun recovered. It set up a 14-yard touchdown pass from Lawrence to Zay Jones.

The Jaguars have intercepted six passes in three games, a stunning improvement from 2021. Jacksonville had just nine takeaways in 17 games last season.

Jones led the Jaguars with 85 yards on 10 catches. Kirk had 72 yards and a score on six catches. Lawrence’s final scoring pass went to Marvin Jones Jr. in the back of the end zone on an 11-yard strike.

“Our confidence has been really high all season,” Lawrence said. “Obviously, there have been times that we could have played better, but our confidence has always been high. You see that on the field and the confidence of the coaches, too.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.