JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Justin Herbert sat silently at his locker for about 15 minutes, staring off into the distance. He had removed his cleated shoes but was still wearing most of his grass-stained uniform.
It was a pivotal scene for a team devastated by a breakdown that no one could have seen coming. And one thing became clear: Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers are not going to get over this loss — the third largest lost lead in postseason history — anytime soon.
The Chargers did little in the second half, allowing Trevor Lawrence to follow up with four interceptions with four touchdown passes and rally Jacksonville to a 27-0 deficit. They lost 31-30 on Riley Patterson’s 36-yard field goal in the last game.
“Of course it was a tough road for us,” said Herbert. “As an offensive player we need to do more in the second half and you know that’s coming our way offensively and as a quarterback. I had to perform better.
“I have to give them more than three points in the second half and that’s why I feel terrible for the defense for the incredible effort they put in there today. But we have to get better as a team.”
Most will point to Lawrence’s heroics as the reason for the 27-point comeback. He has completed 24 of his last 31 passes for 258 yards with four touchdowns. He connected with Evan Engram, Zay Jones, Marvin Jones and Christian Kirk and then scored on a 2-point conversion that left the Jaguars (10-8) 30-28 behind and gave them a chance to go win instead of playing with a tie field goal.
Even then, the Chargers (10-8) did nothing to slow them down.
“Any time you’re leading 27-7 at halftime and you have four takeaways and you end up winning the takeaway lead (5-0), it’s going to be a killer,” said Chargers coach Brandon Staley. “I hurt everyone in this locker room. It’s a special group of guys and that’s the hardest way to lose in the playoffs and certainly with the way we started the game.
“This is the team I know we can be and in the second half we just didn’t finish the game.”
It didn’t help that cornerback Michael Davis left the game with a pectoral injury that forced rookie Ja’Sir Taylor onto the field. Not surprisingly, the Jaguars picked on him.
It also didn’t help that star pass rusher Joey Bosa lost his cool and received a second personal foul penalty.
“I think he was frustrated,” Staley said. “There were a lot of things that accumulated over the course of the game. And he tried to talk to the officials about it. But we can’t lose our composure like this. We have to make sure we stay on the high side of things. And you can’t hurt the team that way.”
Herbert threw for 273 yards and a touchdown without an interception, but the Chargers’ offense was largely ineffective after a 62-yard TD drive that went 24-0 midway through the second quarter. Los Angeles ended with 320 yards of offense and 18 first downs, scoring just three points on four possessions in the second half.
Staley will certainly be questioned for being overly conservative on both defense and offense — he opted for a fourth- and third-place field goal midway through the fourth quarter that Cameron Dicker missed — and for not trying to run the ball more. LA had 23 rush attempts for 69 yards, a 2.9-yard average, while Herbert threw 43 times.
Herbert replayed it all in his head as he sat in silence at his dressing room.
“We have to move the ball better in attack,” he said. “Through the air, on the ground you just have to be able to move the tracks and we didn’t do that enough. We didn’t hit enough in the red zone.
“If we got three points offensively in the second half, it’s at our expense. Not running, not converting to third down if we had to, some penalties. But hard, hard.”
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL