The Chargers relied on their aggressiveness Thursday night against the Chiefs. Coach Brandon Staley thought he needed to beat one of the best offensive teams in the NFL to win, so he overlooked his kicking game.
The results? Mixed, at best. And after Los Angeles (8-6) lost 34-28 in overtime, Staley’s hard charging forms were analyzed.
He tried fourth down five times in the first three quarters, with the offense converting twice. On two occasions, he failed to convert near the goal line, including in the game’s first offense and late in the first half.
Staley doesn’t care about any second guessers, or any first guessers, really.
“That’s the way we’re going to play here. That’s the way we’re going to play. When we have a quarterback like ours (Justin Herbert) and we have an offense like ours, that’s the way we go. to play because that is how you have to play against Kansas City, and that is how we are going to become the team that we are ultimately capable of being, is playing that way, “Staley said after the game.
Staley, in fact, has been one of the most aggressive coaches in the NFL in the fourth part of this season. Thursday’s five attempts brought Los Angeles to third place in the NFL with 26. It has hit 15 for a 57.6 percent hit rate, the 12th-best in the league. In Week 3 at Kansas City, the Chargers converted fourth and fourth from the Chiefs’ 28 early in the fourth quarter and took the lead. They tried again from KC 35 in a final-minute tying game and were penalized with a pass interference penalty. They scored the eventual winning touchdown two plays later.
It’s impossible to say what would have happened Thursday if Staley had called for field goal attempts by Dustin Hopkins once or twice, but the mathematics of the game and, perhaps, the battle for position on the field would have changed. And would the Los Angeles defense have played better complementary football? It clearly failed immediately after the first error.
With that, a review of Staley’s five fourth-down calls and the consequences of each:
First quarter: quarter and goal of the Chiefs 5
LA entered the Kansas City red zone in the first minute of the game, but progress quickly stalled. Staley wanted six points instead of three to start the game, so he kept the offense on the field. Herbert’s pass to Donald Parham Jr. at the back of the end zone was not complete. Parham suffered a head injury when he landed hard on the grass and had to be taken off the field.
After play resumed, Kansas City responded with a 95-yard, 13-play touchdown to open the scoring. Los Angeles trailed 7-0 after being in a prime position to take an early lead in a divisional game late in the season.
Second quarter: quarter and 1 of the 33 of the Chiefs
Staley avoided a 51-yard field goal attempt or punt in a 7-7 game. He called for Herbert to get the first down and the quarterback delivered a 2-yard run. Five plays later, the Chargers had the lead after Herbert’s 4-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jalen Guyton.
Second quarter: quarter and goal of 1 of the Chiefs
This call could have been the most extravagant. Staley opted not to kick on the last play of the first half when he had a high probability of entering the locker room by seven. Instead, Herbert pitched incomplete to wide receiver Keenan Allen. LA entered halftime ahead just 14-10.
Third quarter: fourth and 2 of the 28 of the Chiefs
This time, LA missed a 46-yard field goal attempt while leading 14-13. Once again, there was a missed pass as Herbert and tight end Jared Cook couldn’t connect.
“The first one is a perfect pass and something really tragic happens on the way down (Parham’s injury). The one at the end of the half, I love it. And then we lost Jared at the post,” Staley said. of the three failures.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid decided to imitate Staley in the next series. He tried at fourth and 1 from 2 for the Chargers trying to take a touchdown lead. Mahomes bounced a pass to Mecole Hardman on the left floor and the game stayed 14-13.
Fourth Quarter: Fourth and 1 of the Chiefs’ 11
Staley tried again on the next trip. This time, the Chargers got it when Joshua Kelley ran for the Chiefs’ 4-7. But three plays later, Kelley fumbled at 1 and the Chiefs rallied. At the time, Staley only had seven points to show for his aggressiveness.
But he was sure he had the upper hand every time.
“It’s life in the NFL and decision-making like that. And I think my way of thinking is that I know the quickest way to win a game like that is to score touchdowns, not field goals, especially considering who’s in it. other side. side, “he said. “And, for me, when you feel that you are in an advantageous situation, when you do not feel that it is a bet, when you feel that this is an advantage for you, then that will be our way of thinking. And I do not believe that any decision that We took tonight, which I took tonight, it was a gamble. We felt it was an advantage situation for us and that’s why we did it. If we didn’t feel that was the case, then we would have kicked a field goal or kicked.
“That’s the way we are going to do things around here. I know our team adopts that mentality and we are going to continue to do so in every game we play in the future.”
And Staley wasn’t trying to hide a bad kicker Thursday night. Hopkins entered the game 12 of 13 on field goal attempts for Los Angeles at 48.
After all those missed opportunities kept the game at 14-13, the teams combined for four touchdowns and 29 points in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs forced overtime with 1:16 to go with a Mahomes touchdown pass to Travis Kelce from 7 yards and a PAT kick from Harrison Butker. Mahomes and Kelce reconnected in the only overtime series for a 34-yard touchdown run and catch to win the game.
That left Staley having to answer questions about rejecting easier perceived points multiple times. He was clear in defending his options.
“I love the way we run this game, and today we didn’t do badly, but we gave ourselves a chance,” he said. “We didn’t finish the game defensively and they are a tough group to finish defensively against. But we gave ourselves a chance there at the end with Justin and we just didn’t make it.”