JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)—After his first game in nearly a month, David Garrard slipped on a pair of designer blue jeans, a black dress shirt and a burgundy velvet jacket—complete with a black pocket square.
Garrard’s isn’t usually the best-dressed guy in the locker room, so why the fancy duds?
“I wanted to come back in style,” he said.
He didn’t have to make a fashion statement to do that.
Garrard threw two touchdown passes in his return from an ankle injury, giving Jacksonville’s offense a big boost and helping the Jaguars beat the San Diego Chargers 24-17 Sunday.
“That’s why he’s our leader,” receiver Ernest Wilford said. “He’s one of the guys who’s moving the chains and making plays and making everyone else look better. That’s what you look for in your quarterback, to make everyone around him better.”
The Jaguars (7-3) scored on their first three possessions, possibly taking advantage of what would have been a 10 a.m. start on the West Coast, and the Chargers (5-5) self-destructed on nearly every drive.
San Diego ended three consecutive fourth-quarter possessions in questionable fashion before making a game of it late. Philip Rivers connected with All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates for a 24-yard touchdown that made it 24-17 with 5:06 to play.
The Chargers got the ball back with 2:13 remaining. But Rivers’ second pass was intercepted by Sammy Knight near midfield, and the Jaguars ran out the clock from there.
“We’re a little disappointed,” San Diego safety Marlon McCree said. “I know I’m a little angry, some other guys are. We’ve got to channel that anger and that disappointment and dig ourselves out of this hole. We’ve just got to keep fighting.”
The Chargers had other chances in the final quarter, but each one ended with a strange call.
Fullback Lorenzo Neal got the ball on a third-and-1 play instead of the reigning league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson. Neal was stopped for no gain. Facing a fourth-and-2 on the following drive, Tomlinson started right and looked to throw deep to Gates. He ended up losing a yard.
“If you hit it, it’s the best call in the history of the game,” Rivers said. “If you don’t hit it, you get it questioned. I’ve never been one to question the plays and I’m not going to start. We had plenty of opportunities today and we just didn’t make enough of them.”
Rivers’ first interception came on the next possession. He overthrew everyone except Nelson on third-and-21.
Rivers finished 22-of-40 for 309 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Tomlinson, who needed 91 yards rushing to becoming the 22nd player in NFL history with 10,000 yards on the ground, finished with 62 and a touchdown.
“He wasn’t going to get that 10-stack on us,” Jaguars linebacker Clint Ingram said. “We wanted to contain him and not let him get loose. They depend on him and want to ride his back. When you shut down him, that makes them do something they’re not used to doing.”
Tomlinson also caught five passes for 93 yards. Chambers added 93 yards receiving, and Gates finished with 54 yards.
It wasn’t enough to keep the Chargers from falling back to .500.
“We knew coming in that we weren’t going 14-2 again,” Rivers said. “The goal obviously was to not be 5-5. The goal was to give us a shot in January and that goal is still obtainable.”
Jacksonville won for the third time in four games, but learned after the game that linebacker Mike Peterson broke his right hand and will be sidelined indefinitely.
The Jaguars can only hope his eventual return turns out like Garrard’s.
Garrard showed little rust after missing the last three weeks with a high ankle sprain. He finished 15-of-24 for 189 yards.
He directed three scoring drives in the first half, putting the Jaguars up 17-3. The Jaguars converted two fourth-down plays for their first touchdown and Garrard threw a 36-yard strike to Reggie Williams for the second.
Garrard was even better in the third quarter, completing four consecutive passes for 85 yards and finishing the long drive with a 1-yard toss to Marcedes Lewis.
“I knew that if I could go out there and not have too many nerves about returning, I would be OK,” Garrard said. “I had no problems with that. Not losing that confidence over those three weeks allowed me to go out and play like I never left the field.”
Jaguars RB Fred Taylor ran for 85 yards and broke the franchise record for yards from scrimmage, passing the previous mark of 12,285 yards set by WR Jimmy Smith. … Garrard set a team record with his seventh consecutive game without an interception. … The Chargers finished with 388 yards, 77 more than Jacksonville. The Jaguars had just 23 yards in the fourth quarter.