When it came to celebrate the most satisfying moment of his NFL career, Jaguars’ placekicker Josh Lambo couldn’t shake an old habit and gleefully returned to his soccer roots.
After watching his partially-blocked, game-winning field goal sail over the crossbar to beat the Los Angeles Chargers 20-17 in overtime, Lambo sprinted backwards to midfield. He then slid on his knees as if he was Messi rejoicing over scoring a goal for Barcelona.
“I got a couple yards out of [the slide], it wasn’t as glorious as I wanted it to be,” said Lambo.
Within seconds, the Jaguars were mobbing the former MLS goalkeeper for pulling off the biggest save of the season, keeping Lambo’s new employer in a first-place AFC South divsion tie with the Tennessee Titans.
“You can take the boy out of soccer, but you can’t take soccer out of the boy,” Jaguars holder Brad Nortman said of Lambo’s celebratory reaction that he watched on replay.
Defensive tackle Malik Jackson had intended to join Lambo, but there was a hole in his tights and he feared a medical issue.
My knees wouldn’t have fared well, it wouldn’t have been a great decision,” said Jackson. “I would have been in treatment [Monday].”
But it’s perfectly understandable why Lambo acted as if he had just won the Super Bowl. The Jaguars were seemingly out of this game twice in the closing moments of regulation, both times after Blake Bortles made bad decisions and threw two dreadful interceptions.
Somehow, when the Jaguars were given a third opportunity off Tashaun Gipson recovering an Austin Ekeler fumble, Lambo kicked a game-tying field goal while having to use backup snapper Tyler Shatley because Matt Overton had earlier injured his right shoulder.
Ironically, the script only got better from there. With the Jaguars getting a second life in OT, Lambo sealed the outcome as his partially-blocked, 30-yard field goal barely cleared the crossbar after the Chargers – the team that released Lambo on September 2 —picked up a 5-yard penalty for delay of game.
So in one swift kick, the 27-year-old Lambo gave the boot to his former employer and salvaged victory for his new team when it badly needed a lift. Nobody saw that coming the way the Jaguars’ offense kept throwing away opportunity after opportunity to win the game.
“I’m just so dang happy for this team,” Lambo said. “Thankfully, I got the ball up just a half-inch high enough. It doesn’t matter how they go through or if they look pretty, they all count the same. I heard [the ball being blocked]. Then I saw the ball falling out through the air.
“Thank goodness for that penalty, otherwise I don’t know if that was going to be good. Football’s just funny, man. When you get on a team that cares and rallies around everybody else, good things are going to happen and good things are happening for this team.”
In many ways, considering this was also Veteran’s Day weekend, the Jaguars winning like they did turned out to be the perfect ending. Lambo had number 69 written on the back of his cleats to honor his late paternal grandfather, Lewis, a member of the U.S. Army 69th Infantry division – known as the “Fighting 69s” – in World War II.
Though he passed away in 2006, Lambo wanted to keep paying his respects on Veteran’s Day. Afterwards, he donned a brown fedora, just like his grandfather. The nickname of Lewis’ infantry also turned out to be a fitting description of how the Jaguars pulled out this victory, much of it due to some heroic work by the special teams.
It started with Corey Grant’s 56-yard touchdown run off a fake punt to open the scoring, but Joe DeCamillis’ unit finished the job despite some trying circumstances.
Shatley, who started the previous four games at center due to injuries to Brandon Linder and A.J. Cann, was only supposed to be a special-teams blocker against the Chargers. Then left guard Patrick Omameh got hurt, so Shatley was plugged in there for the second half.
And in a potentially disastrous scenario, Overton went out with a bum shoulder, forcing Shatley to take over for field-goal snaps. It’s never an ideal situation when a backup snapper is in the game in pressure moments, but the Jaguars had no choice.
Fullback Tommy Bohannon deftly handled the snapping duties on punts, but Shatley twice had to go from being the left guard to field-goal snapper in the blink of an eye.
“There’s a couple of us that have worked at [snapping] because you never know when a situation like this might come up,” said Shatley. “It was one of those things that I just went in and did it. You try not to think about it too much. If you sit there and mull it over for a while, you might let it get in your head. I just tried to do what I had been practicing.
“The first [field-goal snap] was high, but Brad and Josh did a great job. The second one, I’m not sure. It was probably a little slow, but it went through the uprights, so that’s all the mattered.”
Nortman, the middle man on the field-goal unit, was a critical component, especially on the first snap when he got the ball down when Shatley put the ball a little hir than a holder would have wanted.
“Brad [Nortman] told me, ‘Stay in your rhythm, I’ll get the ball there,’ “ Lambo said.
True to his word, Nortman got it down for the game-tying field goal, though the Jaguars’ punter viewed Shatley’s responsibility as more pressure-filled because it’s not part of his normal game-day routine.
“I’d say given the situation, Shatley snapped outstanding,” said Nortman. “It was just what we were looking for. They were tight spirals that hit my hands and I was able to get it down. That’s all you’re looking for. He stayed in the rhythm of the game. I admire the way he handled it.”
Judging by his midfield celebration, nobody was more excited for the Jaguars than Lambo, who had an OT-winning field goal last year for the Chargers against the Atlanta Falcons and was signed three weeks ago to replace Jason Myers.
Lambo has made all seven of his field goal attempts for the Jaguars, the last of which triggered a soccer-like reaction and a moment he won’t soon forget. Though Lambo treasures being part of a U.S. Under-17 World Cup team in 2006 that once shut out Belgium 2-0, it pales in comparison to the new life the Jaguars have given him.
“This team has kind of revitalized me,” said Lambo. “I’m enjoying football for maybe the first time ever. I love being part of this team and this town, I’m excited for our future.”
Who knows, for the Jaguars and Lambo, it just might be the kick-start toward an AFC South division title.
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