JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — First on the ground, then through the air, the San Diego Chargers took a big step toward ending their longest losing streak in eight years Monday night by building a 24-14 halftime lead over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Philip Rivers took advantage of the Jaguars' depleted secondary, throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Brown and a 35-yard scoring pass to Vincent Jackson on the final two drives of the first half.
Both scores came against cornerbacks who were not on the active roster for most of the season.
Ryan Mathews ran for 56 yards in the first quarter alone as the Chargers (4-7) built a 10-0 lead. The Chargers had lost six straight games, their longest skid since the end of 2002 and start of 2003.
Mathews did not touch the ball in the second quarter, which belonged largely to Rivers.
Maurice Jones-Drew, the lone offensive star for Jacksonville (3-8) who leads the AFC in rushing, caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to cap a 79-yard drive at the start of the second quarter. The Jaguars managed only 27 yards in the opening quarter.
After a three-and-out by the Chargers, Gabbert and Drew hooked up on a 48-yard shovel pass. It was a beautifully executed play, with Gabbert flicking the ball five yards with his left hand to Drew, who had the middle of the field all to himself and ran down to the 4-yard line.
Cornerback Antoine Cason broke up a potential touchdown pass to Jarrett Dillard, but on third-and-goal from the 5, Gabbert found Cecil Shorts in the back corner of the end zone to give the Jaguars a 14-10 lead.
The Jaguars made their debut for interim coach Mel Tucker, and it was their first game after the most sweeping changes in the 17-year history of the franchise. Wayne Weaver fired Jack Del Rio last week, and announced he was selling the team to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan.
Khan was not at the game, though several fans wore fake mustaches to mimic the owner-in-waiting. The $760 million deal still must be approved by the NFL later this month in Dallas.
The Chargers, who appeared to be in firm control throughout the first quarter, suddenly found themselves behind. But not for long. Rivers hit Malcom Floyd, activated for Monday night's game, for 14 yards. The drive appeared to stall with a couple of penalties, but Rivers threw a perfect strike to Antonio Gates for a 23-yard gain to the Jaguars 22.
Two plays later, Rivers found Brown alone with Kevin Rutland, and the receiver turned him around for an easy catch that put the Chargers back on top. Gabbert was starting to get into a rhythm when Cason tipped a pass that was intercepted by Eric Weddle, the lone turnover of the first half.
Three plays later, Rivers threw another strike to Jackson, who bobbled it once before securing the ball just as he was running into the end zone. Jackson easily beat Ashton Youboty, who was signed off the street three weeks ago.
The Jaguars have lost Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox to injuries, and this week Will Middleton, the top backup, was placed on injured reserve.