The Los Angeles Chargers could not have had a better first half in their road playoff matchup against Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars. At one point in the game, Lawrence had completed just five passes and thrown four interceptions, setting Brandon Staley up for an easy victory.
The second half, however, was an Eldritch nightmare of such epic proportions that even the most obsidian-hearted, jaded Chargers fan was left in stunned silence. Staley authored one of the most epic choke jobs in the history of the NFL, furthering this franchise's historical lousy luck.
Lawrence grabbing his first touchdown before halftime didn't seem like much, but the fact that he immediately came out firing in the second quarter and narrowed the gap to 30-20 in the second half set off alarms in Southern California. After that, everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.
A missed field goal, another touchdown surrendered, and a pathetic drive by Justin Herbert and Joe Lombardi gave the Jaguars the ball back with a few minutes left needing just a field goal. A late conversion on fourth down coupled with a Travis Etienne red zone run put Jacksonville in field goal range.
Riley Patterson's game-winning field goal officially ended this game at 31-30, capping off the third-biggest postseason comeback in NFL history. The Jags had just a 1.2 percent chance of winning, but Chargering overrode logic once again.
There is no possible way that the Chargers can retain a perpetual underachiever like Staley as the team's head coach if they are serious about contending.
The Los Angeles Chargers must fire Brandon Staley.
What didn't go wrong in the second half? Doug Pederson clearly cracked the defensive code, and no adjustments were made on Staley's part. Michael Davis getting hurt and Joey Bosa getting kicked out hurt. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and his unit shouldn't escape blame either.
While Herbert was solid in the first half, he didn't seem as consistently in rhythm in the second half. Some of that is due to his own errors, but the Chargers had just one run of longer than four yards after going up 27-0. The offensive line seemingly gave up on blocks in the third quarter.
This loss is officially one of the most painful in Chargers history, as the Spanos family has now officially wasted Herbert's rookie deal by sticking with Staley. After three years with a freakishly talented quarterback, Staley has given them nothing to show for it.
While Sean Payton is obviously the dream, there are dozens of qualified candidates that will get the most out of Herbert while simultaneously holding 27-0 leads against quarterbacks who threw four interceptions. Staley is a fine coordinator and a nice guy, but he will poison any Chargers championship run.