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Five key plays: Chargers 39, Jaguars 29

Jacksonville Jaguars against the Los Angeles Chargers during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020 in Inglewood, Calif.
Jacksonville Jaguars against the Los Angeles Chargers during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020 in Inglewood, Calif.

Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays from the Jaguars' 39-29 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium Inglewood, Calif., Sunday

1.A bunch of plays for the Jaguars early. There wasn't any particular offensive play that hurt the Jaguars early Sunday. They were completely ineffective for the first quarter, going three-and-out on their first four offensive drives. Quarterback Gardner Minshew II did not complete a pass on any of those drives and was sacked three times on the first three series. The Jaguars had 11 total yards in the first quarter, after which the Chargers led by a score of 9-0 on their way to a 16-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Jaguars rallied, but the first four drives were a continuation of the slow starts that have plagued this team throughout the first seven games of the season. "We were frustrated," Minshew said. "That was about as bad as you can start. One thing I was proud of was how we didn't fold or send it in right there. We kept fighting and kept working. The defense kept battling their tail off to keep us in it. We managed to find somewhat of a groove, then obviously couldn't find a way."

2.James Robinson touchdown, late second quarter. The Jaguars' rookie running back defined the second quarter – and his tackle-breaking, bowling-ball style keyed the Jaguars' comeback late in the first half. He not only cut the Chargers' lead to 16-8 midway through the second quarter with a three-yard run on which he alertly reached the ball over the goal line as he was tackled, his 13- and 14-yard runs started a key series late in the half. The undrafted free agent capped that drive with a remarkable nine-yard reception on which he caught a short pass from Minshew, ran toward the sideline then tight-roped the sideline and dove into the end zone – breaking the plane just over the pylon for a touchdown that cut the deficit to 16-14 with :11 remaining in the quarter.

3.Daniel Thomas blocked punt, early third quarter. The Jaguars had momentum entering halftime after cutting a 16-point lead to 14; they had big-time momentum after the Chargers' first possession of the second half because rookie Daniel Thomas not only blocked a punt but returned it for a touchdown. Thomas broke through the left side of the offensive line and blocked the punt cleanly off Chargers punter Ty Long's foot, then picked up the bouncing football and ran for a 16-yard touchdown. The touchdown was the Jaguars' third in less than 10 minutes and turned what had been a 16-0 deficit into a 21-16 Jaguars lead.

4.Dede Westbrook fumble late third quarter. The Jaguars took the lead in the third quarter, but also had two key errors in the period. The first came when they opted to go for a first down on 4th-and-2 from their 46. Minshew rolled right. With Robinson covered in the flat on that side, Minshew ran tried to run for the first down and was stopped one yard short by safety Rayshawn Jenkins. The Chargers retook the lead – 22-21 – with a 26-yard pass from Herbert to tight end Virgil Green six plays later. A bigger momentum turn came later in the quarter when wide receiver Dede Westbrook fumbled a Chargers kickoff. The Chargers recovered at the Jaguars 19, when Herbert's five-yard run capping the ensuing drive to five the Chargers a 36-29 lead entering the fourth quarter.

5.Fourth downs – three of them, actually. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone spent Sunday in an aggressive mode, going for two-point conversions twice and going for first downs on fourth down four times – including twice in the first three quarters. The Jaguars converted just one of them – a 4th-and-two midway through the fourth quarter that kept a drive alive with the Jaguars trailing 39-29. An incomplete pass from Minshew to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. that missed badly on 4th-and-8 ended that drive. The Jaguars were stopped twice on shorter fourth downs earlier in the game – with defensive end Joey Bosa stopping Robinson for a two-yard loss on 4th-and-1 from the Chargers 29 in the second quarter and safety Rayshawn Jenkins stopping Minshew for a one-yard gain on 4th-and-2 from the Jaguars 46 in the third quarter. The failed Minshew run came with the Jaguars leading 21-16 and led to Herbert's touchdown pass to Green. "I wanted to be aggressive," Marrone said. "I wanted to try to go up by two scores. I thought that was going to give us the best opportunity to win. We didn't execute the ball well up front. That's on all of us – on both [fourth-down] plays."

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