In the first playoff games of their careers, Trevor Lawrence and Justin Herbert got off to very different starts during Saturday night’s game.
But it’s not about how you start a game, it’s about how you finish it.
Lawrence threw three interceptions in the first quarter as the Chargers led 17-0. He threw four total interceptions as the Jaguars trailed 27-0 in the second quarter. But none of that mattered when Jacksonville stormed Los Angeles 31-30 in the AFC wild-card round, the third-biggest comeback in NFL history.
The Chargers not only led 27-7 until halftime, but also won the total margin of losses by five. Lawrence not only completed 28 of 47 passes for 288 yards with four touchdowns, but also helped lead the drive that set up Riley Patterson’s game-winning 36-yard field goal.
As he demonstrated when he won a national championship at Clemson, Lawrence was at his best when the lights were bright and the game was full of pressure. When Jacksonville selected Lawrence No. 1 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, it was for times like Saturday night. Lawrence not only complied, but now the Jaguars will play the Chiefs in the divisional round next Saturday.
“I played with one of the best quarterbacks ever, Brett Favre, and there were times when he didn’t have a great first half and he came back in the second half and was able to light things up,” Doug Pederson said.
“That’s what I love about Trevor. [Lawrence] and his behavior and his aggressiveness and the ability to just forget and move on. But he will be the first to tell you that it is not about him, but also about the guys around him. [They] he made plays, the protection was good, the receivers were doing a good job of being where they needed to be. But from an individual standpoint, this is really a great performance from our quarterback.”
By contrast, Herbert completed 25 of 43 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown. However, the Chargers’ offense only scored three points on four possessions after halftime.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley and Joey Bosa took the brunt of the blame for Saturday night’s debacle and with good reason. Staley is usually a guy who’s very aggressive early in games, but that’s not how he trained Saturday night on both sides of the ball.
On 4 and 3 of the third quarter, Staley sent Cameron Dicker in for a 40-yard field goal attempt. Dicker missed the jumper to left, giving the Jaguars even more momentum as they drove down the field and scored.
Bosa’s behavior didn’t help the Chargers’ case either, as he took three penalties in the loss. First, he was penalized for being in the neutral zone, which would have resulted in a sack on Lawrence before it was called off. Jacksonville finally found the end zone after Bosa’s penalty.
Bosa was then assessed two unsportsmanlike penalties. First, Bosa received a penalty after saying something to the referee and then when he threw down his helmet in frustration after a Jaguars lineman was not called for a false start. The Jaguars went by two points after Bosa’s second personal foul when Lawrence swung his arm over the goal line, making it 30-28.
Bosa’s antics changed the face of the entire game.
“I think he was frustrated,” Staley said. “I think he felt that there was a lot of stuff that built up throughout the game and he tried to talk to the refs. But we can’t lose our composure like this. We need to make sure we stay on the high side of things, and we can’t hurt the team like that.”
Lamar Jackson did not travel with the Ravens
Even when a leader is out due to injury, they are often seen on the bench supporting their teammates, especially during a playoff game.
That was not the case for Lamar Jackson on Sunday night, as he did not travel with the Ravens in their 24-17 loss to the Bengals.
On Thursday, Jackson wrote himself off when he announced on Twitter that he had a “PCL grade 2 sprain” in his knee. The Ravens officially ruled Jackson out on Friday afternoon, but that didn’t stop him from traveling with the team.
Jackson and the Ravens appear to be getting closer to divorce. The two parties tried to craft a new long-term contract before the start of the 2022 season. But after reaching an impasse, Jackson ended all negotiations at the start of the season, as the situation has persisted in the franchise for all year.
After injuring his knee against the Broncos on December 4, Ravens coach John Harbaugh initially said Jackson would be on a week-by-week basis. However, Jackson missed 18 straight season-ending practices when Tyler Huntley started against the Bengals.
During a road game against the Steelers on December 11, Jackson was seen on the sidelines with his teammates despite not playing. Now, after being absent on Sunday, it’s fair to wonder what the future holds for Jackson this offseason.
Jackson will enter the offseason without a contract as the Ravens can franchise tag him to keep him for another year. They could also franchise tag Jackson and work on a trade with another team.
Several teams, such as the Jets, Raiders, Titans and Panthers, have questions about the quarterback this offseason. One of them may be willing to give Jackson the fully guaranteed contract he’s been seeking for the past year.