JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Doug Pederson said it’s normal to go through his phone after games and scroll through the messages one by one by one.
After Saturday night’s 31-30 comeback win over the Chargers in the AFC playoffs, Pederson said he likely had 150 messages, with several along the lines of the Jaguars can’t keep the suspense up like this.
“There was a few. It was a few. Yeah, there was a few,” Pederson said of the stress and emotions of the late-season Jaguars.
He snuck in that was actually more than a few.
“A lot,” Pederson clarified.
That was the recurring theme throughout the weekend and into the new week as Jacksonville prepares to visit the Chiefs in the AFC divisional playoffs on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. It’s a rematch of a Week 10 game and a 27-17 Kansas City win. The Jaguars are 8.5-point underdogs, according to FanDuel although that shouldn’t faze them after how they’ve played under Pederson.
Entering this season, the Jaguars were 1-112 in games where they’ve trailed by 17 points or more, according to ESPN. They’re 3-2 this season, winning games against the Raiders (trailed 17-0, won 27-20), Cowboys (trailed 27-10, won 40-34 in OT) and Chargers.
“The positive is just the fact that we have dug ourselves out of those holes, you know, and we’ve been able to kind of hang in there and keep chipping away, as we say, and sticking to the game plan and don’t panic and some of the things we talk about,” Pederson said. “But yeah, you never want to spot a team 27, and especially a good team, and expect to come back and win.”
Just how did the Jaguars erase a 27-0 deficit in the second quarter to emerge with a comeback that will stand out in the history books as one of the most unlikely ever?
Trevor Lawrence went on a touchdown spree and the defense did what it had to do in crunch time, including a sack by Roy Robertson-Harris on the Chargers’ final drive that put Los Angeles in a miserable position on second down. They ultimately had to punt it away to give Lawrence and the Jaguars the time needed to engineer a winning drive and Riley Patterson’s 36-yard kick to ice it.
Only two other games in NFL playoff history top what Jacksonville did Saturday night.
Buffalo trailed 35-3 in the third quarter against the Houston Oilers on Jan. 3, 1993, before backup quarterback Frank Reich led the Bills to a 41-38 win in overtime. That game is known as “The Comeback” in NFL circles. And the Colts erased a 38-10 hole in the third quarter of a 2014 playoff game against the Chiefs before Andrew Luck led the furious rally in a 45-44 victory.
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Those games are chiseled into NFL playoff lore and Jacksonville’s is right there, too. Lawrence threw four first-half interceptions. The Jaguars also lost a fumble on a muffed punt. They were minus-five in the turnover battle, yet still found a way to win.
“Being 27 down, you’re scratching your head,” Pederson said. “You’re going, ‘OK, can we do this? There was a lot of belief at halftime, obviously that we could. Guys felt it. It just showed me again how close this group is, how tight this group is and really, no matter what adversity or the challenges that face us, we’re willing to take them on to tackle them and overcome them.”
Lawrence was sensational after his wrong-side-of-history start. Only two other quarterbacks have thrown four first-half picks in an NFL playoff game (Denver’s Craig Morton in the 1978 Super Bowl and Detroit’s Gary Danielson in 1983) and both lost. Lawrence engineered scoring five scoring drives in six chances after his start, including four touchdown passes and setting up Riley Patterson’s walk-off field goal.
Pederson said there’s been no time to appreciate that game because it’s right on to the next one.
“Talking with [offensive coordinator] Press [Taylor] yesterday, we just don’t have time to enjoy wins. You know, you’re playing at 8:15 and you’re getting done at 11:30 and you’re right back in the office the next day and you’re deciding who you’re going to play,” Pederson said. “But listen, I’d rather be doing this and coaching our football team this time of year, but that’s part of it, we go through it. All the teams now that are continuing on, coaching staffs are going through it.”