At halftime the Jaguars trailed the Chargers by 20 points and for some reason the American Authors performed that one song of theirs everyone knows “Best Day of My Life.” You know, the one that goes”This is gonna be the best day of my life. My li-i-i-i-i-ife. This is gonna be the best day of my life. My li-i-i-i-i-ife.”
I couldn’t help but wonder, “What fresh hell is this?”
Last week’s game was tense throughout for Jacksonville fans. Saturday’s Wild Card game was fully off the rails with about as bad a half as I’ve ever seen the Jaguars play. Trevor Lawrence was picked off four times, the Chargers recovered a fifth turnover on a punt that hit off Chris Claybrooks’ helmet and it was cold, very cold.
One of our friends we got tickets with turned to me and asked the simple question “How much more can you take? Will y’all stay the whole game.” I let her know that you couldn’t hurt Jaguars’ fans. As Rodger Sherman put it, we love something that has never brought us joy.
Still, when Los Angles took a 27-0 lead with 4:25 left in the second quarter the mood was understandably bleak. My wife was unsure who to be more concerned for in that moment, me or Lawrence. Lawrence was the correct answer. As far as I’m concerned this whole season is still house money, and the Chargers just happened to have all the cards early.
But you had to wonder how Lawrence would respond to such a disastrous start. It was the type of performance that can stick with a quarterback not just for the remainder of a single game, but for years to come. Jacksonville’s season had been miraculous to get to the postseason, clawing back from 3-7 to win the AFC South Division Championship and be hosting a playoff game on Saturday. Yet the first half was so bad, I worried that was all anyone would remember.
Lawrence and the Jaguars weren’t worried about that though.
They had a game to win.
Lawrence got the Jaguars on the board with a 9-yard pass to Evan Engram with 24 seconds left in the first half. That opened the flood gates for an onslaught of “Don’t call it a comeback” texts to yours truly. Even I texted my Mom “I don’t like their chances” when she asked me about a potential rally.
So as the mood was still subdued and some dudes from up north were telling the crowd it was going to be the best day of our lives, very few left. We were on life support, but we weren’t dead yet. And we weren’t Titans fans.
You know what happened next. The Jaguars defense gave up just three points the rest of the night as the Chargers did what they do. The Jaguars did what they do as well. It’s the fourth win at TIAA Bank field this season for Jacksonville after it trailed by 10 points or more.
Lawrence became the first player in NFL history to throw four interceptions and then throw four touchdowns in the same game. His 39-yard strike to Zay Jones with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter let everyone know ‘Game on.’ Even with the failed two-point conversion, Jacksonville was somehow down just 10 points.
Enter the crowd of 70, 250. It was probably down to closer to 68,000 at this point. But it was still loud. Every defensive play it boomed. It erupted after a missed 40-yard field goal by the Chargers with 8:47 left in the game. Even attempting the kick was a curious decision for L.A. head coach Brandon Staley in a night full of them.
I would have gone for the fourth-down conversion. It was fourth-and-3 from the Jacksonville 22-yard line and a first down would have given the Chargers more clock to run and made a Jaguars’ comeback see almost as improbable as erasing a 27-point lead. Had the field goal been good, the Chargers still would have only been up two possessions. The risk was worth it. The field goal attempt was the safe choice.
Doug Pederson is not one for the safe choice. After Lawrence capped off a 9-play, 70-yard touchdown drive with a 9-yard pass to Christian Kirk, Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he spiked his helmet on the ground as he thought the officials missed a call on Jacksonville. Which they may have, because they certainly missed a few on the Chargers defensive backs.
Pederson sensed blood in the water. Rather than take the penalty on the kickoff he elected for a two-point try from the 1-yard line. A conversion meant a field goal wins the game for Jacksonville, a miss meant they would need another touchdown. This was a bit aggressive for even me. Luckily no one gives me a headset at these games.
Lawrence stretched out over the goal line right in front of us to convert the try and celebrated with a spike of his own. I told my wife, “like I was saying you go for two there” with my tongue firmly in my cheek. Pederson was playing for the win.
Once again TIAA Bank Stadium felt like it was levitating. The Chargers went three-and-out thanks to a Roy Robertson-Harris sack to start the drive. Lawrence got the ball back with all three timeouts and 3:09 left on the clock. A kind gentleman in our section (pictured below) stood on top of his chair and suggested we all just take a deep breath and let the offense work.
Pederson and Lawrence revealed themselves again to be cold-blooded killers. Jacksonville went down the field to set up a fourth-and-1 at the L.A. 41-yard line. Pederson called timeout after the team initially lined up. Out of the timeout the Jags put three in the backfield and Travis Etienne went outside for a gain of 25 yards that set up the game-winning field goal.
As Riley Patterson’s 36-yard field goal went through the uprights I was frozen. I didn’t move until I saw the official step onto the field and put their hands toward the sky to signal it was good. Jaguars win 31-30.
For the second week the Jaguars fans were stunned and euphoric. That. Just. Happened. Again! This time I knew everyone I was hugging. High fives were given out to everyone. We all had the same look of disbelief on our faces.
Lawrence answered any lingering doubts about if he was a franchise quarterback or not with how he bounced back. He further proved it by celebrating with a meme post on Twitter and a trip to Waffle House.
This is the new normal around these parts. The Cardiac Cats don’t blink. They don’t flinch. They’ve got nine lives and they plan on using them all.
Duane Smoot was right in the pregame hype video the team produced, the game is not over until the Jaguars say its over.
(Main Photo: Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)