Big changes for Jaguars, except on the field
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new coach, a new owner-in-waiting, and the Jacksonville Jaguars suddenly had a new outlook Monday night with back-to-back touchdown drives to build a 14-10 lead over the San Diego Chargers.
The next five minutes changed everything.
It was just like old times. And the way it's gone for the Jaguars the last few years, those are bad times.
Philip Rivers threw three straight touchdown passes — two of them in the final 2:32 of the first half, then a 52-yard strike to Malcom Floyd on the fifth play of the second half — and the Chargers were on their way to a 38-14 win.
The Chargers (5-7) snapped a six-game losing streak, their longest in eight years, and it was their first win in Jacksonville in three tries. The Jaguars fell to 3-9, assuring themselves their third straight losing season.
"Five minutes to end the first half, five minutes to start the second half. That's the 10 minutes to win, and we didn't win that phase," Jaguars interim coach Mel Tucker said.
It was a week unlike any other for the Jaguars. Coming off a home loss to the Houston Texans and a third-string quarterback, owner Wayne Weaver fired head coach Jack Del Rio, and then announced he was selling the team to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan.
Khan elected not to come to the Monday night game, though several fans wore fake mustaches as a way to welcome him to town. The $760 million deal still must be approved by NFL owners later this month.
The biggest ovation of the night came for Weaver when he was shown on the large video board in the third quarter.
Tucker has the rest of the year to audition for the job, and he wasn't going to let one game get him down. Nor was he about to blame the Chargers' big run on Jacksonville's depleted secondary.
Kevin Rutland, an undrafted rookie not on the active roster at the start of the year, was beat on the first touchdown pass. Rivers threw a strike to Vincent Brown from 22 yards on a play that Rutland had covered decently, but he got turned around.
Blaine Gabbert, who had thrown TD passes of 9 yards to Maurice Jones-Drew and 5 yards to Cecil Shorts on the previous two drives, had a pass tipped and intercepted. Rivers had only 53 seconds left in the half, but that was enough. Three plays later, he hit Vincent Jackson in stride. Jackson, who had beaten Ashton Youboty, bobbled the ball briefly and pulled it in.
Youboty also was beaten on Floyd's touchdown catch to start the second quarter. Youboty was only recently signed off the street, and then sent to the bench and replaced.
"You won't hear any excuses or explanations from me," Tucker said of his inexperienced secondary. "Our philosophy is 'next man up.' We feel like guys are on roster available to play, we feel they can get the job done. No excuses here. We won't allow ourselves to go down that road."
The game turned in that span of 5:28, when momentum shifted to the Chargers, and it was strong enough that the Jaguars couldn't get it back.
Gabbert, who was 19 of 33 for 195 yards and two touchdowns, couldn't get the offense going again. The Jaguars lined up for 47-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, trailing 31-14, and the snap was botched. The Chargers recovered on the Jaguars 31, and Ryan Mathews ran around left end for a touchdown on the next play.
Jones-Drew had 97 yards rushing to take over the NFL lead, and he had 91 yards receiving. He has been the lone bright spot for a Jaguars team that ranked last in the league in total offense.
"That's nice," he deadpanned. "We're 3-9. It doesn't feel good."
Jones-Drew dismissed the notion that it was a week of turmoil in the business office of the Jaguars, as did linebacker Daryl Smith.
"We just didn't put it together as a team," Smith said. "Stuff happens in the league. We had to regroup and focus and play a ballgame. Those 5 minutes is when it swung in their favor. They had a steamroll there, and we weren't able to respond."
It started with Rutland, who found himself thinking about the touchdown he gave up even as he trudged to the sideline. If only he had turned his head in the other direction. If only he had reached out his arm and deflected the pass.
"No corner likes to do that, especially in his first start," Rutland said.
To see two more touchdowns go up so quickly, that was the end.
"You see it happen," he said. "You just hope it doesn't happen to your team."
But it happened again to the Jaguars, who have four games remaining and no chance at a winning record.