Chargers Bolted Down

The Jaguars returned home to Jacksonville for the first time in nearly a month and beat up on the road weary San Diego Chargers, 24-17 in front of 66,732 exuberant fans at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.

The Jaguars struck early, and hung on late as they scored on all three of their first half possessions en route to a 17-3 halftime lead.

The Jaguars dominated the first half on offense and defense as they converted 5 of 8 third downs, and 3 of 3 fourth downs. Jacksonville ran 36 offensive plays, to the Chargers 24, and held a 17:26-12:34 time of possession advantage. The home team outgained the visiting Chargers 187-139 at the break, fueled by a balanced offensive attack which saw the Jaguars run for 88 yards and pass for 99 yards.

San Diego took the first possession of the second half 60 yards on just five plays capped by a six-yard LaDainian Tomlinson touchdown run, which cut the Jaguars lead to 17-10. The drive started on a short field due to Josh Scobee's opening kickoff landing out of bounds.

Jacksonville then answered the San Diego drive by marching 87 yards in just five plays mostly behind the arm of David Garrard, who went 4/4 on the drive, including a 26-yard pass between two defenders to Reggie Williams, before completing the drive with a one-yard touchdown toss to tight end Marcedes Lewis. The Chargers offense remained dormant throughout the rest of the second half until San Diego was aided by a very questionable personal foul call on Reggie Nelson on a fourth-down attempt. Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers then hit tight end Antonio Gates on a 24-yard touchdown pass down the center of the football field to cut the Jaguars lead to just seven points with 5:06 remaining in the game. After Jacksonville's next drive stalled, the Jaguars defense closed out San Diego with a Sammy Knight interception with 1:26 left.

David Garrard looked sharp as he returned to the Jaguars lineup after injuring his ankle in the first half of the Jaguars 29-7 loss against Indianapolis, nearly four weeks ago. Garrard completed 15 of 24 passes for 189 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, for a quarterback rating of 114.8. Garrard is currently the only starting quarterback in the NFL not to have thrown an interception this season, and has set a Jaguars franchise record in the process by not throwing an interception in seven consecutive games.

The Jaguars offensive line was superb as they tamed the fantastic pass rush of the San Diego Chargers. Pro Bowl linebacker, and last season's NFL leader in sacks Shawne Merrimen was silenced (for once), as he totaled just one tackle, and spent most of the afternoon on his back.

"My offensive line did a great job of keeping guys off me. I can only remember just a couple of times when they actually had pressure on me", Garrard said.

Reggie Williams was the Jaguars leading receiver in terms of yardage, as he caught two passes for 62 yards and a first-half touchdown, his fifth of the season. Fred Taylor celebrated his entrance to the 10,000 yard club by having a very productive game, gaining 85 yards on 20 carries, despite facing mostly eight-man fronts. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew had a quiet game, gaining just 33 yards on the ground on 12 carries, but he did have a one-yard touchdown plunge in the first quarter to give the Jaguars a 10-0 lead.

"The guys were running great routes. I was just hoping I was getting the right coverage every time and I was. I couldn't help but put the ball in the right place. It was a good job to show how explosive the offense can be," Garrard added.

Defensively, the Jaguars did a fine job against the multitude of weapons that the Chargers brought to Duval county. Jacksonville battered and confused San Diego quarterback Phillip Rivers on his way to just 22 of 40 passing for 309 yards, one touchdown and two vital interceptions for a quarterback rating of just 67.6. Reigning league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson was held in check for most of the day, as he gained just 62 yards on 16 carries, while catching five passes for 93 yards.

Leaders on defense for the Jaguars were safeties Reggie Nelson and Sammy Knight, who combined for seven tackles and two interceptions, cornerback Brian Williams, who had five tackles, and linebacker Mike Peterson, who finished with six tackles before leaving with a broken hand.

With this victory over the AFC West leaders and defending AFC West champions, the Jaguars record sits at 7-3, as they've won three of their last four games. The Jaguars are currently in second place in the AFC South, just one game behind the Indianapolis Colts. Jacksonville controls their own playoff destiny as they are the leaders in the AFC Wildcard race by one game over Cleveland, and two games over Buffalo, with just six games to play.



Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer.

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