SAN DIEGO, Cal. – The debut lived up to the hype. For a half, anyway.
And though the Jaguars didn't win rookie quarterback Blake Bortles' first NFL start, they saw significant glimpses of offensive production – and their future – early.
With Bortles dazzling early and cooling late, the Jaguars led throughout much of the first half before a struggling defense and stagnant offense allowed the San Diego Chargers to pull away for a 33-14 victory in front of 56,553 on a sun-splashed Southern California Sunday afternoon.
Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, completed 29 of 37 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions in his first NFL start. He had entered the game at halftime of a loss to Indianapolis last week, and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley named him the permanent starter immediately afterward.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers took advantage of a struggling Jaguars secondary to complete 29 of 39 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns.
The Chargers outgained the Jaguars 407-319 and had 19 first downs to 21 for the Jaguars.
Early on, Bortles was poised and effective.
And early on, the Jaguars played more poised and effectively than they had in losing their first three games of the season by a combined 119-44.
An early 11-play Jaguars drive ended when Bortles' sneak on 4th-and-1 was stopped for no gain, but after the Chargers took a 3-0 lead on a 33-yard field goal by Nick Novak, Bortles continued to move the offense.
First, the Jaguars drove 68 yards on 11 plays, taking a 7-3 lead when running back Toby Gerhart scored on a 1-yard run. Bortles completed four of five passes for 43 on the drive.
Rivers passed 47 yards to a wide open Eddie Royal on the ensuing drive to give San Diego the lead.
Bortles drove the Jaguars 76 yards on seven plays on the ensuing drive, giving them a 14-10 lead with a 2-yard touchdown to rookie tight end Nic Jacobs in the corner of the end zone. Jacobs had signed with the Jaguars off the Saints' practice squad Tuesday.
Royal's second long touchdown reception of the first half – this one coming when he got five yards behind safety Winston Guy, Jr. – put the Chargers ahead, 17-14, with :59 remaining in the second quarter.
Rivers' third touchdown pass went to wide receiver Malcom Floyd for 24 yards to give the Chargers a 24-14 lead on the first drive of the third quarter. Rivers dropped the pass perfectly into the corner of the end zone behind cornerback Demetrius McCray, in for Dwayne Gratz (concussion).
Rivers' accuracy helped the Chargers control the chains and the clock in the second half, with three field goals by Novak pushing the lead to 33-14 late in the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars had 119 yards and nine first downs in the second half. Bortles' two interceptions came in the second half as the Chargers' secured the game.
This came late in the second quarter. With the Jaguars leading 14-10, the Chargers drove 55 yards and took a lead they never relinquished when Rivers found Royal wide open for a 43-yard touchdown. With linebacker Geno Hayes trailing on the play, it marked a missed assignment for a defense that has been struggling in that area this season. The touchdown came with :59 remaining in the second quarter, and the Jaguars didn't score again.
1.The Jaguars' defense, maligned in recent weeks, turned in an impressive series early. End Red Bryant and tackle Sen'Derrick Marks combined to sack Rivers on second down and cornerback Will Blackmon tackled Royal for a 6-yard loss on the next play. That forced a punt on a series that began on the Jaguars' 30 after a fumble by Toby Gerhart. …
2.The Jaguars' defense turned in another key series on the Chargers' next drive, holding San Diego to a field goal after the Chargers' drove to the 15. The defense kept the Chargers' running game limited early. …
3.The Jaguars turned in back-to-back extended drives in the first half, moving 52 yards and 68 yards on 11 and 10 plays, respectively. Gerhart capped the second with a 1-yard touchdown run. The drives marked two of the Jaguars' three longest drives in terms of plays this season. …
4.The Jaguars' second touchdown – Jacobs' 2-yarder – came one play after a 44-yard pass from Bortles to rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns. Bortles eluded pressure on the play and found Hurns wide open in the middle of the field. He bobbled the ball, but made the reception at the Chargers 2.
Jaguars cornerback Dwayne Gratz left the game with a concussion in the second quarter and did not return. He was replaced by second-year veteran Demetrius McCray.
Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III left the game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury after catching two passes for 25 yards in the first half. Shorts missed two preseason games and the first two preseason games with hamstring injuries.
Tight end Mickey Shuler was inactive, as were wide receiver Marqise Lee, guard Tyler Shatley, offensive tackle Austin Pasztor, wide receiver Tavarres King, linebacker Jeremiah George and cornerback Jeremy Harris.
With Lee out, Shorts and Allen Robinson started at wide receiver for a second consecutive week with Hurns the third receiver. Sam Young made a second consecutive start for Pasztor.