The Kansas City Chiefs can know one thing heading into this weekend’s Divisional round: the Jacksonville Jaguars will not give up.
Last week’s comeback win against the Los Angeles Chargers was the second-biggest turnaround in NFL history, having trailed 27-0 at one stage and 27-7 at halftime before winning 31-30, but that sort of rally is becoming commonplace for the Jaguars.
They head to Arrowhead Stadium on a six-game winning run but have been down at halftime in three of those games.
The Jaguars have been down by double-digits at halftime in six games this season, yet they have recovered to win three times. No other team have three comebacks from 10-point halftime deficits this year, with that tying a league-wide single-season high since Jacksonville entered the NFL in 1995.
There was understandable focus following the Chargers game on quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s recovery as he followed four interceptions without a touchdown with four TD passes without a pick.
Trevor Lawrence for the @Jaguars tonight:
First 6 drives: 0 TD, 4 INT
Last 6 drives: 4 TD, 0 INT
No other QB in NFL history has had 4 consecutive interceptions without a TD pass and 4 consecutive TD passes without an interception in the same game (regular season or postseason).
— OptaSTATS (@OptaSTATS) January 15, 2023
However, the relentlessness of this never-say-die Jaguars team might be best epitomised by its defense.
That unit gave up just three points after halftime against the Chargers, setting the stage for Lawrence to lead the offense back into the contest. Across their past four games – all wins – opponents have scored a combined nine second-half points.
Regardless of any lead, the Chiefs – and particularly the Chiefs’ offensive line – will be made to work right up until the final snap on Saturday.
The Jaguars have registered 319 QB pressures in 2022, behind only the Miami Dolphins in that regard (325), while their pressure rate of 43.9 per cent leads the league.
That pressure rate was up at 46.8 per cent against the Chargers – albeit the Chargers have allowed comfortably more QB pressures than any other team this season (357).
But Justin Herbert, clearly a man used to passing under pressure, was restricted significantly by the Jaguars’ pass rush.
He entered the Wild Card matchup with a completion rate of 64.9 per cent when throwing under pressure – the second-best mark of QBs with 100 or more such attempts – yet completed only seven of his 15 attempts against the Jaguars (46.7 per cent) despite having an open target on 12 of those passes.
As the tide really turned in the second half and this harrying took its toll, Herbert was 10-for-19 on all attempts and was sacked twice.
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) January 15, 2023
The Chiefs will consider themselves a very different prospect – with some justification.
They have this year allowed a pressure rate of 37.0 per cent, which is below the league average of 38.5 per cent, and Mahomes has actually already faced this Jacksonville defense at Arrowhead once this year.
Although Mahomes’ completion rate of 57.1 per cent under pressure is below the league average of 58.3 per cent for the year, he completed eight of 12 attempts against the Jaguars (66.7 per cent).
That was one of the six games in which the Jaguars were down by 10 or more at halftime, and without effectively getting to Mahomes, who threw for 331 yards and four TDs, a second-half effort fell short.
Indeed, each of the Jaguars’ three 10-point second-half comebacks this year have come at home. They are 3-0 in Jacksonville in such scenarios but 0-3 on the road. Going into Kansas City will make a repeat extremely tough.
Yet the last time the Chiefs blew a double-digit halftime lead was in their last playoff game.
The Cincinnati Bengals went to Arrowhead for last year’s AFC Championship Game, trailed by 11 points through two quarters and won in overtime.
That win saw Joe Burrow – the first overall pick a year before Lawrence – really announce himself on the biggest stage. However, the Jaguars’ hopes of claiming their own underdog victory may rely more on their success in stopping the elite QB on the other side of the field.
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