By Adesina O. Koiki
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s not as if the Jacksonville Jaguars made one more play than the Los Angeles Chargers in their victory on Sunday.
They were able to avoid making the last mistake.
Former Chargers kicker Josh Lambo made a 30-yard field goal late in the overtime session – set up by cornerback A.J. Bouye’s interception of Philip Rivers just prior – as the Jaguars defeated the Chargers 20-17 in a game marked by a comedy of errors from both sides. With the win, the Jaguars are keeping pace with the Tennessee Titans, who also won on Sunday, atop the AFC South Division with a 6-3 record.
The game went into overtime only after a zany final two minutes of regulation play which saw two interceptions, a fumble while trying to run out the clock, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting, and a roughing the passer penalty. The last of those errors, on Los Angeles defensive end Joey Bosa, set up the Jaguars, down by three at 17-14, at the Chargers’ 20-yard line with 20 seconds remaining in regulation. Two plays later, Lambo kicked a 34-yard field goal with seven seconds left to tie the game at 17 and send the game into overtime.
Jacksonville gained possession to start the overtime, but were forced to punt. Brad Nortman’s punt backed up the Chargers to their own 10-yard line and, two plays later, Los Angeles quarterback Philip Rivers threw a deep pass down the left sideline that was intercepted by Bouye and returned all the way to the Chargers’ 2-yard line.
However, Jacksonville started the drive on offense at the 17 after a taunting penalty immediately after the end of Bouye’s return. Despite that, they were able to cash in on the turnover to end the game. Lambo’s game-winning field goal attempt was deflected at the line – but had just enough steam to get over the crossbar and set off wild celebrations on the field from the home team and its fans.
Los Angeles thought they had the game won late in the fourth quarter while holding on to a 17-14 lead; Chargers safety Tre Boston intercepted an overthrown Blake Bortles pass at the Chargers 42-yard line with 1:51 remaining in regulation. However, in an attempt to run out the clock, Los Angeles rookie running back Austin Eckeler fumbled the ball and safety Tashaun Gipson recovered the ball at the 35. Gipson returned the fumble for what seemed to be a go-ahead touchdown, but was overturned after officials determined after a review that Gipson was contacted by a Chargers player while he was on the ground before getting up and returning the fumble into the end zone.
Jacksonville gained possession of the ball at the Los Angeles 36-yard line with 1:48 left in regulation with a chance to tie or win, and was almost in the red zone after pass interference was called on the Chargers on the first play of the drive. Two plays later, Marqise Lee was called for taunting after an incomplete pass in which he was hit hard at the goal line and thought the flag on the field would be a penalty called on the Chargers.
Backed up to the Chargers’ 37 and barely in field goal range, Bortles threw his second interception in a 36-second span, as Boston once again came up with the interception that, once again, seemingly won the game for Los Angeles.
That was before the fumble by Eckeler, which gave the Jaguars another life.
“There was all kinds of stuff that I think in years past, this team has not been able to overcome,” said Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. “I think that kind of shows the type of locker room and the type of team we have and how different it is. For [the defense] to pick me up after those turnovers and make some plays and get turnovers themselves, it’s pretty awesome.”
Fitting for a game that was anything but conventional, the Jaguars scored the first points of the game on a fake punt; The snap went directly to the up-man, running back Corey Grant, who ran 56 yards up the middle for a touchdown to give Jacksonville a 6-0 lead with 24 seconds left in the first quarter. Lambo missed the extra point.
Eckeler, outside of the fumble late in the game, caused nightmares for the solid Jacksonville defense all game long. Just before halftime, he caught a pass out of the backfield, eluded the tackle attempt of linebacker Telvin Smith and tiptoed down the far sideline for a 28-yard touchdown to give the Chargers a 7-6 lead with 47 seconds left in the second quarter.
He once again scored on a catch out of the backfield early in the third quarter, this time from 22 yards out to give Los Angeles its largest lead at 14-6 with 10:29 to go in the third.
Eckeler finished the game with 119 all-purpose yards, with 77 of those coming on five receptions.
Jacksonville, which struggled running the ball most of the game, took to the air to tie the ball game late in the third quarter. Bortles threw his only touchdown of the game to Lee on a six-yard pass to the right with 2:10 left, and the two connected on the two-point conversion to tie the game.
“We grinded one out…” —Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone
That game-tying drive took 11 plays, with the Jaguars calling passes on all 11 of those plays.
Nick Novak kicked a season-long 50-yard field goal with 10:35 left in the fourth quarter to give Los Angeles a 17-14 lead.
Jacksonville now has won three games in a row, the first three-game winning streak for the Jaguars since 2013.
Next up: Jacksonville goes on the road to visit the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, November 19.