JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The old guy put on a clinic for the young guy at EverBank Field on Sunday afternoon.
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 300 yards and four touchdown passes to lead the Chargers to a 31-25 victory over the host Jaguars. The 12-year veteran did it with a banged-up offensive line, a group of journeyman receivers, and a 35-year-old tight end -- after a cross-country flight for a game that kicked off at 10 a.m. PT.
Then again, that shouldn’t be a surprise because Rivers has absolutely owned the Jaguars in his career. He is 5-1 and has thrown for 1,899 yards and 15 touchdowns with only four interceptions against Jacksonville.
Meanwhile, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles had a full complement of offensive weapons but continued to struggle in the red zone. He also threw an interception for a seventh consecutive game, a turnover late in the first half that led to a Chargers touchdown.
Most troubling were Bortles’ issues in the red zone. He completed 6 of 9 passes for 33 yards and was twice penalized for an illegal forward pass. The Jaguars kicked field goals on their first three trips and scored a TD on their fourth, which gave them just five touchdowns on 18 red zone trips in the last five games.
Bortles finished 30 of 39 for 329 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
What it means: It’s been a long time since the Jaguars have played a meaningful game after Thanksgiving. The new streak stops at one. They entered the day one game behind Indianapolis and Houston in the AFC South, but the Colts and Texans both won and now have a two-game lead over the Jaguars. Mathematically, the Jaguars are still alive in the division race because they still have games against Tennessee, Indianapolis and Houston remaining. Realistically, though, their chances of making the playoffs most likely would require winning out.
Fantasy watch: WR Allen Hurns’ production since catching a touchdown pass in seven consecutive games has dipped considerably. He has caught just seven passes for 61 yards in the past two games.
One reason to be excited: Julius Thomas finally made the kind of impact that the Jaguars envisioned when they made him the league’s highest-paid tight end. He caught a season-high nine passes for a season-high 116 yards. He made two huge plays early in the fourth quarter, making a one-handed catch for 11 yards to convert a third-and-6 and catching a 21-yard touchdown pass on fourth down that cut the Chargers’ lead to 24-19. The Jaguars have been saying it was only a matter of time before Bortles and Thomas developed some chemistry, and we’re starting to see that now.
Where is T.J. Yeldon? The Jaguars had 11 offensive snaps in the red zone, and Yeldon, the team’s leading rusher and second-round draft pick, didn’t touch the ball on any of them. TE Marcedes Lewis touched it once. So did WR Bryan Walters. In fact, the Jaguars passed the ball on all 11 snaps. Twice Bortles was penalized for an illegal forward pass and the Jaguars had to settle for field goals on three of their four trips. It’s mystifying why Yeldon doesn’t get the ball inside the 20. Twice he was wide open on the sideline and once he was open in the middle of the field inside the 5-yard line, but Bortles went elsewhere.
FB or not FB: The Jaguars opted not to keep a fullback on the roster in 2015, which is fine. They also have lined up DT Tyson Alualu at that spot occasionally, which is also fine. What isn’t fine, though, is designing a play for Alualu on third-and-1 when you drafted the 225-pound Yeldon at the top of the second round. The Jaguars tried a rollout pass to Alualu, which the Chargers had completely covered. The Jaguars have thrown the ball to Alualu before, on a play that did work for a 3-yard gain, but when fighting for a playoff spot, it’s best to use your best players at what they do well. That means handing the ball off to Yeldon or Toby Gerhart or Denard Robinson or throwing something short to Thomas, Hurns or Allen Robinson.
Ouch: There was a scary moment late in the fourth quarter when Hurns was injured and taken off the field on a stretcher. He waved his arms as he was being wheeled off, and the Jaguars announced that he was diagnosed with a concussion. Safety Josh Evans also left the game in the fourth quarter with a concussion.