The first half for the Jacksonville Jaguars couldn’t have gotten off to a worst start in their AFC Wild Card matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers. With the stage set for Trevor Lawrence and Justin Herbert making their first postseason starts of their NFL careers, it was the Chargers’ defense that provided a much-needed spark instead.
With Lawrence throwing four first-half interceptions, the Jaguars had a deep hole to climb out of in the second half, facing a 20-point deficit. At one point, the Chargers led by 27 points before the Jaguars rallied to get some points on the board before halftime to shrink the lead to 20.
In what had the potential to turn into an ugly blowout, both teams ultimately settled into a hard-fought back-and-forth bout that came down to the final seconds that saw the Jaguars complete a playoff comeback for the ages.
Capping the first day of 2023’s Wild Card Weekend, here are the five biggest winners and losers from the Jaguars’ wild win over the Chargers.
Winner: Asante Samuel Jr. records a career-high three INTs
There may be bigger losers, but there is no bigger winner than Chargers second-year cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. on Saturday. He came into the day with two interceptions on the season and just a total of four in his career, but Samuel put forth the performance of a lifetime.
Samuel clearly did his homework, studying film and using the experience gained from their Week 3 matchup to read Lawrence’s throws like a book. Samuel somehow recorded three interceptions and had a whopping six pass deflections on the day, clearly getting into Lawrence’s head at times.
With his incredible effort, Samuel and his father became the first father/son duo with multiple interceptions in the playoffs. Not bad for just his first playoff game. Being that Samuel Jr. is just 23, chances are he’ll have a chance to continue chasing his dad, who had seven playoff interceptions in his career, good for sixth-most in NFL history.
Loser turned winner: Trevor Lawrence collects himself
Lawrence’s night got off to a nightmare start, throwing three interceptions before he even had four completions to his own players. He ended up throwing another interception to end the first half with four turnovers.
Luckily they play two halves, and the former Clemson star turned things around after a chance to reset.
Lawrence may have had four first-half interceptions, but he made up for it by tossing four touchdowns, leading the Jags to their first Divisional Round appearance since 2017.
Loser: Brandon Staley’s job security questions grow
Coming into the matchup, there were some rumors suggesting the Los Angeles Chargers could move on from head coach Brandon Staley. This was largely viewed as a possibility if they could align themselves to land Sean Payton, who reportedly views an L.A. coaching destination as the ultimate dream job. Yet, some thought securing a playoff berth could mark Staley safe from the chopping block.
Then again, we’ve seen coaches surprisingly receive the axe after an embarrassing playoff exit after a trying season following years of struggles. Judging by how the Chargers just experienced what was the NFL’s third-largest comeback in playoff history, Staley’s position as the Chargers’ head coach could be on the rocks.
Winner: Doug Pederson’s playoff success continues
The Jaguars hired Doug Pederson, hoping he could quickly right a ship that was headed off-course after a lame season from Urban Meyer. Still, few anticipated Pederson could bring the Jaguars from worst to first in the AFC South in his first season at the helm.
Yet, we shouldn’t have doubted the coach who led the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl victory in 2013. Pederson got to the playoff with the Jaguars, but this was a 9-8 squad, and finding more success in the postseason was no guarantee. So far, so good for Pederson. Next up will be trying to avoid another disastrous start next week in the Divisional Round.
Loser: Joey Bosa makes costly mistake
As the Jaguars continued to mount their comeback, Chargers Pro Bowl pass rusher Joey Bosa could only do his best as one of 11 players trying to stop the bleeding. Bosa’s official stat line from the night showed he recorded just one tackle, and one QB hit on the night, but he also committed a costly penalty that made Jacksonville’s eventual comeback a bit easier to complete.
With the Jaguars trailing 30-20 with 5:25 to go in the fourth quarter, Jacksonville had the ball at the nine-yard line facing a second-and-goal. Bosa thought he saw a Jaguars lineman commit a false start and proceeded to call for the refs to throw the penalty flag. Only the zebras didn’t see it that way, and play continued. Lawrence found Christian Kirk for a nine-yard touchdown to shrink the lead to 30-26.
But Bosa lost it, throwing his helmet into the turf in response to the non-call, leading to a penalty that gave the Jags the ball at the one to attempt an easier two-point attempt which was converted.
While he’s not the biggest reason the Chargers lost, Bosa losing his cool as the clock wound down didn’t help his team on their path to elimination.