There are levels to collapses. There’s the March Madness telegraphed loss, where one group of 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds gets tight, and the other group gets hot. Obviously, we’ve seen golfers do it, and there’s not a lot funnier than a guy going from the 17th tee box to the beer tent. And then there’s the Chargers, who just finished their pièce de résistance — a 31-30 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars after leading 27-0.
Is what the Chargers do art?
It doesn’t matter if they’re in San Diego, Los Angeles, Jacksonville, Japan, or Kathmandu, the Bolts aren’t to be trusted, no matter the lead. I want to call it an art form, but that implies that what they do is artistry. I don’t care if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there’s nothing beautiful in the way the Chargers fritter away Ws.
I guess the best argument that what they do is art is that it resembles a Greek tragedy. It’s not even that we blame the players. Ladanian Tomlinson’s approval rating is still high. Who among us thinks Antonio Gates wasn’t good-to-great? Even after what happened Saturday night, I don’t know how many people are going to put that loss on Justin Herbert.
There will be a few, sure. Yet, this is bigger than him, like it was bigger than LT or Gates or Joey Bosa. Whether it’s Marty Shottenheimer dying a slow death via Marty Ball, or Herbert chucking it 43 times when they spent the majority of the night up multiple scores, they’re playing Three-card Monte. And regardless of the strategy or coach they employ, they’re never finding that queen.
After taking a 27-0 lead with a little over four minutes left in the second quarter, LA’s final six drives went like this: punt, end of half, punt, field goal, missed field goal, punt. Throw in the always horrible clock management and an ill-advised challenge, and they didn’t even have enough timeouts to give Herbert a chance at a last gasp.
A complete team loss
Doug Pederson passed on points, went for two in a risky spot, and Trevor Lawrence threw four picks. It should’ve been more, as linebacker Kyle Van Noy had both hands on Lawrence’s first pass of what ended up being the game-winning drive. Somehow, Travis Etienne finished with as many carries as all of the Chargers’ running backs. Austin Ekeler and Josh Kelly combined for 55 yards on the ground. Etienne almost doubled that, going for 109, including a 25-yarder on fourth and 1 that put the Jags in range to complete the comeback on a walkoff 36-yard field goal from Riley Patterson.
The Chargers’ first score came at the 13:33 mark of the first quarter. The Jaguars didn’t lead until there were all zeros on the game clock. That means LA was ahead for 57 minutes and 27 seconds. There has to be some kind of record in there somewhere, but I hope there’s not.
The largest comeback in NFL postseason history is still Buffalo’s 32-point rally over the Houston Oilers. And the Chargers don’t deserve the top spot for choke don’t-call-them artists. And maybe it’s better that way, because there should be no “bests” for blowing games like they do.