Coming off a great win that had the city surging with confidence and burying the Tebow questioners to rest, the team departed for the west coast, where history was not on their side. Mid-week coach Del-Rio benched Derek Cox in favor of David Jones. He said he had not lost faith in Cox, he just needed some rest to get his mind right. All I think of is the season before where the Jags averaged 1.5 points per game on the west coast at Seattle (a 41-0 loss) and at San Francisco (a 20-3 loss). San Diego was coming off a game on Monday night against the Chiefs that they should have won. Important to note in that game, Kansas City literally had three defenders on All-Pro Antonio Gates and limited his effectiveness, as well as getting an electrifying kick return touchdown by newcomer Dexter McCluster. So, momentum would be on the Jaguars side heading into this game, but the Chargers would prove to be a formidable opponent at home that clearly took their frustration from the week before out on a Jaguars team that was traveling 2,000 miles and was not ready to play. I will warn you: this game was bizarre to say the least.
- The first drive for the Jaguars defense was just awful. A toss to Ryan Mathews for a quick 6 set up a toss to Legedu Naanee for 15 that exposed the heart of the cover two called. Mathews then took a run up the gut for 15 yards without being touched until he reached the second level.
- The play that broke the defense on the drive followed: a run off tackle by "lightning in a bottle" Darren Sproles goes for 34 to put the offense deep in the red zone where Naanee took the snap out of the wildcat, handed it to Sproles, and he was to the Jaguar seven yard line before it hit you. The drive was capped two plays later with a run by power back Mike Tolbert for a touchdown. Tolbert would prove a huge factor in this game. For now, the score was 7-0 Chargers.
- The Jaguar response on offense didn't last long. And from this point on until the end of the first half, this game just got bizarre.
- A quick drive ensued. A couple minor plays was followed by David Garrard going deep on first down, which I like to see. Single coverage on Tiquan Underwood, a guy who can stretch the defense, made for what would seem to be the perfect play, but Garrard shuffles his feet not once to step up and throw, but twice, resulting in a ball underthrown by a hair and leading to an over-the-shoulder interception by Antoine Cason.
- But, the Chargers offense would give it back soon enough. A play action pass to Mathews for 12 didn't look too good. A false start penalty preceded a Daryl Smith sack on a shotgun-5 wide set that looked great. Kampman dropped back in coverage and Smith dropped right in his place off the snap and Rivers was instantly on the ground. The next play, Mathews takes a short throw in the flat for 15 and runs into three Jag defenders, and leaving something behind in the process: the ball. It was a late call, but the Jaguars defense did their job and got the ball back to the offense. The play would be challenged, but the call would stand.
- A short drive with only one first down leads to a 44 yard Scobee field goal that puts the Jaguars down only 7-3.
- The Jaguars defense began to bend again, but not break. A couple passed to Malcom Floyd of 15 and 25 yards showed the porous nature of the pass defense. The next play Mathews runs for 2 yards and gets injured pretty severely on the play, where Daryl Smith fell on his ankle, crushing it and at least spraining it in the process. The Chargers offense would keep marching down field with excellent play calling. A pass to Tolbert for 13 yards out of the backfield would lead to a pass to Gates wide open to the Jaguar 12.
- Two plays later, the Jaguars defense would reveal itself again as bendable, but not necessarily breakable. A pass to Gates on the sideline gets tipped by him as he fails to locate the ball, and the newfound starter in David Jones makes a beautiful catch on the sideline of the endzone, getting one foot in and dragging his back toe to get a great interception that gave some momentum back to the Jaguars.
- Only 3 plays later, the strangeness of this game would continue. On 2nd down, Garrard would drop back to pass, try to hit a receiver over the middle, but underrated linebacker Shaun Phillips bats the ball up at the line, as he wasn't engaged by Eugene Monroe in pass protection as he should have been on the play, resulting in an easy interception by Antoine Cason (deja vu?) that put the Chargers offense at the Jaguar 40.
- A couple plays later, the defense would pay for the Chargers having fortuitous field position. On 3rd and goal, Gates is left, and I can't stress it enough, WIDE OPEN in the middle of the field, and turns to go the extra two yards into the end zone untouched. A complete breakdown on the Jaguar defense on a play in which they could have stopped the drive and forced a field goal to only be down 10-3, instead, losing 14-3 to the Chargers.
- The trend of turnovers continued for the Jaguar defense. A nice slant to Mike Sims-Walker for 10 yards, which would prove to be there all day would soon haunt them. The next play Garrard threw a nice high ball to Marcedes Lewis for 25 yards and you think "we're in field goal range now and the drive's going well keep it going". But, the very next play, they'd call the slant one time too many, and Sims-Walker takes a slant for 10 yards and immediately gets stripped by Antoine Cason (he was all over the field, clearly) of the ball. It was a textbook strip, picking the perfect time when the ball gets tucked away and punching right through it.
- But, in the case of a bizarre game like this, nothing is too surprising. A few plays later, Rivers rolls out of the pocket and throws an interception by Courtney Greene that sailed just over the hand of Legedu Naanee.
- And, going with the trend, the very next play, David throws it right back with a pick of his own to Brandon Siler that truly was a terrible throw. No receiver in the area and still have no idea what he saw. I'm exhausted going over this again, not just watching it.
- A couple runs by the Charger offense leads to a 4th and 1 in which the Jaguars special teams unit comes up huge with a blocked punt by Rashad Jennings that puts the ball at the Charger 45. Jennings comes through untouched and the fill-in long snapper for the game just doesn't get the ball to punter Mike Scifres fast enough.
- The Jaguar offense gets killed by a 10 yard penalty on a 3rd and 18, but gets bailed out as on the replay Garrard hits Mike Thomas for 21 yards to set up a 48 yard field goal by Scobee to make the score 14-6 Chargers.
- The last drive of the half belonged to the Chargers. San Diego started at their own 13 with 1:41 left, and they'd take advantage of the time remaining. Immediately Rivers hits Sproles out of the backfield for 42 yards to the JAX 45 where an inexcusable broken tackle should never have happened when two men had him wrapped up but didn't bring him down. On a crucial 3rd and 10 Rivers hits Patrick Crayton for a first down where the blitz just took too long to get to the quarterback. A pass to Gates for 12 with 18 seconds left followed by an illegal contact penalty on David Jones in the end zone sets up this situation.
- 18 seconds left at the JAX 4, Rivers drops back and throws a back shoulder pass to Gates for a touchdown with 10 seconds left. Daryl Smith was matched 1-on-1 with Gates and as the announcers called it, he got "posted and toasted", being that Gates was a former basketball player. Important to note with that touchdown he tied Shannon Sharpe for 2nd all time for TDs by a tight end. It left a sour note and left the game 21-6 Chargers at half time.
Key stat: the first half consisted of 7 turnovers by both teams as well as a blocked punt. Yet somehow, the score was 21-6.