Picture this scene on the football field: Los Angeles kicker Cameron Dicker buried the 23-yard field goal, the score is now 27–0. It’s been a dismal game for Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence who has thrown 4 interceptions so far. Now, the Jacksonville Jaguars have only a minute in the half and just 30 minutes in total left to either pull off the comeback of their lives or have a playoff disappointment.
How did we get here though? This Cinderella story started with an unlikely regular season. After a 2021–2022 season that saw the Jaguars win just 3 out of their 17 games, an unexpected placing at the top of the AFC South division left them with a 9–8 record. A lot of factors came into this. With off-season signings of Zay Jones, Evan Engram, and Christian Kirk to give targets to throw to as well as replacing the dysfunctional Urban Myer with an experienced coach in Doug Pederson the team improved immensely. This ultimately resulted in Trevor Lawrence, the franchise quarterback that they drafted with the first pick, taking the next step and leading the Jags to where they are right now.
On the flip side, the Los Angeles Chargers were always a team to look out for. A star-studded roster with 2 players going to the 2023 NFL Pro Bowl (Jacksonville had none). The team is composed of a talented and athletic quarterback, Justin Herbert, with plenty of options as well as a well-rounded defense. The Chargers left with a 10–7 record, even through their tougher division and schedule. It seemed that the Chargers would breeze through the Jaguars, especially since the Jaguars haven’t won a playoff game since 2012.
But, the Jaguars refused to die, scoring a touchdown to Evan Engram shortly before halftime. The Jaguars defense quickly gave the ball back in the 3rd quarter setting up Trevor Lawrence to storm down the field for another touchdown. The Jaguars defense again held off the Chargers as they got the ball, forcing a field goal. At this point, the score is 30–14. This wouldn’t stay much longer, as just when the quarter closed Lawrence connected deep to Zay Jones for another touchdown, missing the extra 2-point conversion, however, narrowing the difference at 10 points. Still a comfortable lead.
The fourth quarter started badly for the Jaguars however, and the Chargers got into field goal range. Cameron Dicker has missed only one field goal the entire season, and it seemed like the Chargers would switch the momentum. The kick went up and bounced off the goalpost, marking his second miss of the season. This meant the Jaguars got the ball back, and once again they scored this time by Christian Kirk. All those pieces from the off-season played a pivotal part. Coach Doug Pederson rolled the dice and went for the 2-point conversion. Doing this would set up a game-winning field goal, but missing would mean another touchdown had to be scored. It was a high-risk high-reward play, and it paid off as Trevor’s 6’6” frame came into effect when he lunged the football forward across the goal line for the gutsy 2 points. Suddenly, the score was 30–28 and the Chargers were on the back foot. If Jacksonville could get a stop on the following drive, all it would need is a field goal to win the game.
And, that’s exactly what happened, as the Jaguars defense forced a three-and-out, and Trevor Lawrence’s offense moved the ball down the field with time waning. The key play on the drive was another masterclass play call by Pederson, who on fourth-and-1 from the Los Angeles 41-yard line called an outside run with Travis Etienne against a stacked box with three backs behind. The play went for 25 yards and set up Jacksonville deep and in field goal range.
The game was about over, but one field goal needed to be made. Kicker Riley Patterson sent the ball veering right, just missing the right goal post, completing the epic comeback.