NFL playoffs: Trevor Lawrence goes up

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — During training camp, new Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson introduced the team to a philosophy endorsed by motivational speaker and former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, a worldview in one word: “good.”

“When things go wrong, don’t get upset about everything,” Willink said. “Don’t get discouraged. No, just look at the problem and say: “Good.”

It is a philosophy that turns challenge into opportunity, and puts the spark of positivity at the heart of ruin. It’s meant to inspire hope in the most trying of circumstances — like, say, being down 27 points in a playoff game to win or go home.

Trevor Lawrence was pretty much as low as a guy can get on a football field, having thrown four interceptions that helped contribute to this four-yard lack of possession. He was projecting an image of calm, but inside he was at war with himself. Lawrence—who once went 41 games in high school without losing, then 29 again in college—knew his team needed him to come by, but he couldn’t stop throwing the ball into the Chargers’ hands.

So when the lineman came up to Lawrence and said, simply, “Good,” Lawrence’s first instinct was to shake it off, thinking, Not the time.

But as it turned out, Lawrence was spending the rest of the game in very good shape indeed.

The Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence dipped in a two-point conversion that cut a 27-point deficit to two in the fourth quarter in Saturday’s AFC game against the Chargers. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

Trevor Lawrence: Not 27 points play

For most of the first half, the only happy Jaguars fan at TIAA Bank Field was the heavily tattooed gentleman bobbing cheerfully — and very lonely — in one of the pools high above the stadium’s end zone. Yes, he watched Lawrence throw a four-four! – first-half interceptions, but at least he was in a warm pool while the rest of the field shivered in the minus 40-degree temperatures.

Lawrence’s problems started early, such as his first career playoff pass early on. Chargers’ Joey Bosa caught the pass at the line, and Drue Tranquill pulled it out of the air. Then, Justin Herbert led the Chargers into the end zone. Less than 90 seconds into the game, Los Angeles held a 7-0 lead.

It got worse, much worse. Another wrong Lawrence pass, another interception—and then another, and another. The Jaguars’ first six possessions were NSFW: interception, interception, drive, interception, punt, interception, and then a blocked kick. That’s five turnovers the Chargers pulled off a 27-0 lead with 4:25 left in the first half.

Jacksonville may be the only stadium that still proudly plays Limp Bizkit and receives a welcome response; Down four possessions Jaguars fans had to cheer what they could. Lawrence started Jacksonville’s eighth possession of the half at midfield, and by then Jaguars fans were watching on their fingers and the rest of the NFL was wondering how bad it was. Would Lawrence top Brett Favre’s Super Bowl-era playoff record with six interceptions? Will the Jaguars realize they made a mistake in shooting Urban Meyer? Will the franchise relocate to London once and for all in the first half? For heaven’s sake, the Jaguars wouldn’t let Lawrence throw anymore, would they?

In the huddle, Lawrence looked around at his teammates. “There’s no 27 point play,” he said. “We have to do this one play at a time.”

Then he did just that. 12-yard pass to Travis Etienne on the right side. 4-yard touchdown pass to Christian Kirk on the left. 12-yard pass to Marvin Jones Jr. at center field. And then a 5-yard Evan Ingram run in the end zone. Just like that, the Jaguars were on the board and I ran into the locker room with a touch of hope.

“I just needed to settle in. We couldn’t get any momentum, we couldn’t drive any car,” said Lawrence. “I knew once we got the momentum back, we’d been in this situation before.”

“Everyone crowded around him, everyone crowded around each other,” Marvin Jones Jr. said in the locker room after the game. “It was great talking on the sidelines. He was never pointing fingers, it was never, ‘Oh my God.’ More like, ‘I know that’s not going to happen.'”

Undefeated in football Saturday

In the second half, much like a solo Jaguar swimmer high above the field, The Chargers found themselves in hot water and, like the proverbial frog, didn’t realize the danger they were in until it was too hot for them to escape. Lawrence transformed from a temporary, inadequate embarrassment into the sleek, confident, yard-gobbling machine he had spent the second half of the season on.

“Once we set the pace, we started getting our looks and winning singles matches,” said Jones. “I feel we can take on anyone and succeed.”

Numbers don’t always tell the story, but that’s the way it is: Lawrence threw four interceptions, then four touchdowns. His first-half passer rating was 24.5; In the second half, 144.5. It was a mini version of a full season for the Jaguars: He lost five of the first six, then won the last five to jump into the playoffs in the final weekend of the season.

“It’s kind of a summary of our season,” said Lawrence. “We never really get out of it. When you believe and everyone else believes, it’s amazing what you can achieve.”

After that miraculous 31-30 victory, the Jaguars’ future now looks as bright as the teals dominating their home court. Settling in against the Chargers, Lawrence has established himself as one of the AFC’s quarterbacks to watch for the future. Saturday is undefeated in high school, college, and pro, though none of those wins have been that hard. At the age of 23, he is the undisputed leader in the Jaguars locker room, and proves it as accurately as possible.

“When you see him not blinking and getting out there and putting it all on the line,” Kirk said, “it’s easy to get behind a guy like that.”

Bustling scene in Jacksonville

In the minutes after Riley Patterson’s game-winning field goal, as babbling Jaguars kicked off the field into the concourse downfield, team owner Shad Khan, clad in a sharp white track coat and black shorts, greeted the players and coaches. Oops and shouts filled the air, some muted, some obscene, all ecstatic. Linebacker Shaquille Quarterman carried a giant Jaguar flag likely borrowed from a fan.

“Do you believe in miracles?” Someone shouted, perhaps unaware that the man who made that classic call 43 years ago was a few floors above them, after also announcing that they had won. This wasn’t the gold medal game, but it felt as good as any Jacksonville win in a long time.

“Typical of us, huh?” Jones laughed. “We know how to throw a good party.”

“It’s easy to say then, but you don’t win a match like this if you don’t believe in yourself,” said Lawrence. “Proud of this group, this city. A special night for so many people, and I’m just grateful to everyone who played a part in it.”

The Jaguars are now awaiting the results of the rest of this weekend’s games. If the Ravens and Dolphins can overcome losing their starting quarterbacks and pull off upsets on Sunday, Jacksonville will host Baltimore next week. Otherwise, the Jaguars will head to either Buffalo or Kansas City. For Jacksonville, every possible option is fine.

Trevor Lawrence rejoiced in a miraculous victory Saturday night.  (Kevin Sabitos/Getty Images)

Trevor Lawrence rejoiced in a miraculous victory Saturday night. (Kevin Sabitos/Getty Images)

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Contact Jay Busbee at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.

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