Chargers blow 27-point lead in 31-30 playoff loss to Jaguars

The Chargers lost a playoff game Saturday night that they led by 27 points.

A playoff game in which one of their players had three interceptions.

A playoff game that ended with them having a 5-0 edge in takeaways.

The Chargers lost to Jacksonville 31-30 when Riley Patterson kicked a 36-yard field goal as time expired, bringing a sudden and shocking end to a season as inconsistent as their final game.

“I don’t even have any words for it right now,” safety Derwin James Jr. said. “I’ve been playing football 21 years and I ain’t never felt like this.”

After taking their big lead, the Chargers collapsed under a series of penalties, an inability to run the ball and a defense that bent just far enough before breaking.

Now they enter an offseason loaded with questions, starting with the status of coach Brandon Staley.

Though there have been no credible news reports, plenty of outside speculation has centered on the idea that the often-polarizing Staley could be in danger of losing his job.

He and general manager Tom Telesco are expected to sit down with owner Dean Spanos and president of football operations John Spanos in the coming days to evaluate the season.

The Chargers lost this wild-card showdown despite Asante Samuel Jr., in his first career playoff game, intercepting three Trevor Lawrence passes. Their offense turned the five turnovers into 20 points.

Still, given such a dramatic jump-start, the Chargers were unable to put away the game as the Jaguars completed the third-largest comeback in postseason history.

“As an offense, we need to do more in the second half,” Justin Herbert said. “As the quarterback, I need to perform better. I feel horrible for the defense.”

Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill (49) intercepts a pass by Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence on the first drive of the game. It was the first of four picks by LA in the first half, three of them leading to scores.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Up 27-0, the Chargers gave Jacksonville life late in the first half, the Jaguars going 47 yards in seven plays for a touchdown. Lawrence hit Evan Engram for a nine-yard score with 24 seconds left before halftime.

That moment helped swing the game with Jacksonville scoring two more touchdowns in the third quarter on Lawrence passes to Marvin Jones Jr. (six yards) and Zay Jones (39 yards).

The Chargers countered with a 50-yard field goal by Cameron Dicker, which left their lead at 30-20 heading into the fourth quarter.

That inability to run the ball — an issue the Chargers faced all season — made controlling the clock and thus the game impossible as Jacksonville was mounting its comeback.

“It’s definitely disbelief,” James said. “Everybody likes to say it’s part of the business, but you’re up four touchdowns, you’re supposed to win. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have got that done today.”

The Chargers did manage to kill some time — 6 minutes 57 seconds, to be exact — to open the fourth quarter, but the opportunity was squandered when Dicker missed a field goal from 40 yards.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is knocked to the ground by Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Travon Walker.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is knocked to the ground by Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Travon Walker for a roughing the passer penalty in the second half.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The 14-play drive also consumed 53 yards as the Chargers converted a third and nine (on a Herbert scramble of 13 yards) and a third and four (on a Herbert pass to Keenan Allen for six yards).

But after the possession stalled, Dicker hooked his attempt wide left, just his second missed field goal of the year.

“We just didn’t play a good enough second half,” Staley said. “Certainly when you have that type of lead, if you can possess the ball effectively enough, then there won’t be enough time. We just didn’t do that.”

Dicker’s miss gave Jacksonville continued hope with 8:47 to go. The Jaguars went 70 yards in nine plays — never once facing a third down — and scored when Lawrence hit Christian Kirk for a nine-yard touchdown.

With the score 30-26, Jacksonville initially sent in the kicking team for the extra point.

Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill can't tackle Jaguars tight end Evan Engram.

Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill can’t tackle Jaguars tight end Evan Engram on a fourth-quarter scoring drive for Jacksonville.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

But Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa was called for unsportsmanlike conduct — his second such penalty of the game — after arguing with officials about being held. Bosa slammed his helmet to the turf.

“We can’t lose our composition like that,” Staley said. “We need to be sure we stay on the high side of things.”

After the penalty, Jaguars coach Doug Pederson opted to go for two, with Lawrence sneaking across the goal line to make it 30-28 with 5:25 left.

Needing a lengthy possession to drain more clock, the Chargers instead went three and out, setting up Jacksonville for its game-winning drive.

Herbert finished 25 for 43 for 273 yards and one touchdown in his postseason debut. Tight end Gerald Everett had six receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown.

Running back Austin Ekeler scored the Chargers’ other two touchdowns, both on runs. As a team, the Chargers finished with 67 yards in 23 carries, an average of 2.9 per attempt.

After going ahead 27-0 and leading 27-7 after two quarters, the Chargers were outscored in the second half 24-3.

“It’s pretty obvious why we blew that lead,” Bosa said. “Mistakes, penalties all around, me definitely included.”

After a pause, he added: “I don’t know. I’ve been here a lot where we get up and get a little comfortable and then, boom, it’s the fourth quarterer and it’s the final drive and they’re kicking a field goal.”

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