Chargers 38 Jaguars 14
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — This was the Philip Rivers everyone expected all season.
Rivers threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns, burning Jacksonville’s depleted secondary early and often, and the San Diego Chargers beat the Jaguars 38-14 on Monday night to snap a six-game losing streak.
“It’s been a while,” Rivers said.
“It was just good to win a game.”
The Chargers (5-7) could have used Rivers’ turnaround sooner. The three-time Pro Bowl selection leads the NFL in interceptions (17) and turnovers (21), and was a key part of San Diego’s disappointing season.
He was nearly perfect against Jacksonville (3-9), adding to the team’s tumultuous week.
Rivers completed 22-of-28 passes — hooking up with Vincent Brown, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd for long scores — before sitting out the final few minutes.
He finished with a 146.1 QB rating, by far his highest of the season.
The Chargers scored on five of their first six drives, then sent most of the home crowd scrambling for the exits with Ryan Mathews’ 31-yard TD run in the fourth.
It was a much-needed victory for a team that trails Denver and Oakland by two games in the AFC West with four to play.
“We’re going to fight like crazy to get ’em,” Rivers said.
“We’ve been here before and we believe we can do it. We’re going to do our part and see if it’s enough.”
And it was another blow to the Jaguars, who endured the most sweeping changes in the 17-year history of the franchise last week. Team owner Wayne Weaver fired coach Jack Del Rio and announced he was selling the club to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan.
Interim coach Mel Tucker fired receivers coach Johnny Cox, reassigned quarterbacks coach Mike Sheppard and waived starting receiver Jason Hill.
The moves seemed to invigorate a franchise that had seemingly gone stale in Del Rio’s ninth season.
It made little difference on the field, mostly because Jacksonville’s defensive injuries proved too much to overcome.
The Jaguars played without their top three cornerbacks — Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox and Will Middleton — and lost safety Dwight Lowery (shoulder) and defensive end John Chick (knee) during the game.
Rivers took advantage, picking on a pair of cornerbacks who were signed off the street in recent weeks.
Rivers threw a 22-yard TD pass to Brown and a 35-yarder TD to Jackson on the final two drives of the first half as the Chargers overcame a brief deficit to seize control.
The opening drive of the third quarter didn’t take long. On the fifth play, Rivers found Floyd deep down the right sideline for a 52-yard score.
Floyd, activated Monday night after missing six games with a hip injury, beat Ashton Youboty badly on the play. Floyd finished with four receptions for 108 yards.
It was the second TD given up by Youboty, who was replaced on the next possession by Morgan Trent, signed five days ago.
The biggest cheer for the Jaguars came late in the third quarter, when Weaver was shown on the stadium’s large video board. Weaver and his wife received a standing ovation.
The US$760 million sale must be approved by the NFL later this month. Khan chose not to attend the game, which turned out to be a good move.
Tucker’s debut turned out to be a flop, although the team came to life early in the second quarter.
Maurice Jones-Drew, the lone offensive star for Jacksonville and now the NFL’s leading rusher, caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to cap a 79-yard drive at the start of the second quarter. The Jaguars managed only 27 yards in the opening quarter.
After a three-and-out by the Chargers, Gabbert and Drew hooked up on a 48-yard shovel pass. It was a beautifully executed play, with Gabbert flicking the ball five yards with his left hand to Drew, who had the middle of the field all to himself and ran down to the 4-yard line.
Cornerback Antoine Cason broke up a potential touchdown pass to Jarett Dillard, but on third-and-goal from the five, Gabbert found Cecil Shorts in the back corner of the end zone to give the Jaguars a 14-10 lead.
It was all San Diego after that, mostly due to Rivers.
“The guys up front did a great job,” he said. “The whole group did a great job.”