You don’t want to be a verb. Not like this. But Sunday, the Chargers, sure got “Chargered.”
What’s that mean, you ask?
It’s snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in new and inventive ways. It’s shooting yourself in the foot while knocking wobbly punts off of it. It’s making mind-numbingly unnecessary penalties. It’s still being good enough to be in position to win — but somehow stumbling.
And the 20-17 overtime loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday was a real “Chargering.”
“We’ve lost some close games this year. But that’s the first time we’ve lost one like that,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “To me, that was inexcusable. We had opportunities to win that game on the road. And, we didn’t finish plays. And, we had a couple of guys do some dumb things.”
Leading by three points with less than two minutes left, the Chargers managed to intercept the Jaguars twice and still lose thanks to a combination of poor execution, horrible judgment and some cruel, bad luck.
Jacksonville kicker Josh Lambo, whom the Chargers cut during the preseason, pushed a game-winning 30-yard field goal over the crossbar in overtime even though the kick was partially blocked. Before the kick, officials flagged the Chargers for a rare defensive delay of game penalty for trying to draw the Jaguars into a false start, and the five yards Jacksonville gained gave the winning kick the distance it needed.
The Chargers seemingly had the game won on two occasions inside the two-minute warning as safety Tre Boston intercepted Blake Bortles twice with the visitors hanging on to a three-point lead.
But after the first interception, the Chargers immediately took a delay of game penalty, starting a potential game-ending drive by moving in the wrong direction. Then, on the very next play, rookie Austin Ekeler, who had been having a career day, fumbled when Malik Jackson managed to knock the ball loose. The Jaguars appeared to return it for a go-ahead touchdown, but safety Tashaun Gipson was ruled down after a replay review.
But there were still 108 seconds left for Chargers ineptitude.
Jacksonville, primed to complete the comeback, moved backward on its next drive thanks to a 15-yard penalty on Marqise Lee for taunting that came after the Jaguars thought the Chargers had committed a personal foul. That original flag was picked up — the taunting flag was not.
On third-and-25, Boston picked off Bortles again on a panicked throw down the field, but instead of catching the ball and gaining yardage, Boston celebrated and danced his way out of bounds.
“I thought we had it won,” Boston said.
They sure didn’t.
The Chargers went three-and-out on the following possession and, because Jacksonville had all three timeouts, the Jaguars were able to get the ball back with 58 seconds left.
Lynn said Boston’s celebration was “one of the dumb things.”
“Instead of advancing the football because they’re still in the game with all three timeouts … I’ve never seen it before,” Lynn said.
Punter Drew Kaser, who had been having a solid season, punted three times in the fourth quarter from Chargers territory, and all were bad. After a bad final kick, Jacksonville had the ball near midfield with a minute left, setting up Lambo’s 34-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
A roughing-the-passer penalty on Joey Bosa helped ensure the game-tying kick wouldn’t come from the edges of Lambo’s range.
The defense stopped Jacksonville on the ’first possession of overtime, but Philip Rivers’ deep ball to Travis Benjamin was stolen by A.J. Bouye, who returned it 51 yards to the Chargers’ two to set up the win.
Before the glaring mistakes in the final minutes and overtime, the Chargers — and particularly their defense — were in control.
Jacksonville, one of the NFL’s best rushing teams, was completely smothered, forcing Bortles to pass 51 times. Leonard Fournette, the league’s sixth-leading rusher despite not playing in two games, ran for just 33 yards on 17 carries.
The Jaguars managed just one more touchdown after scoring first on a 56-yard run from Corey Grant on a fake punt near the end of the first quarter.
The Chargers took the lead before halftime after Rivers found Ekeler for a 28-yard touchdown pass, with the rookie doing most of the work by tiptoeing the sideline. Ekeler found the end zone again in the third quarter on a 22-yard pass from Rivers.
But the two touchdowns weren’t enough, dropping the team to the back of the pack in the AFC West with six losses.
“We know how big this one was. This was a huge game,” Rivers said after completing 21 of 37 for 235 yards. “It really felt like we were in control all day, and we were all the way down to the end. Give them credit, they found a way to win the game. These are the games we talk about winning, close games, and we found another way today …
“Crazy. We had the ball twice — under two minutes with a lead — and didn’t end it. That’s the part that hurts the most.”