2. The defensive playcalling in game-deciding drives
This has become a recurring trend for the LA Chargers and it should be alarming. It does not matter how good the defense is all day (the defense was fantastic in this game), when the game maters the most, the defense adopts a new mindset that does not work.
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley loves to call the soft-zone coverage in game-deciding drives to avoid getting burnt downfield. That playcalling is great when you’re up by more than a field goal and there is less than two minutes left. Not when you’re only up a field goal.
The Chargers were helped by some holding penalties in the Chiefs’ final regular-season drive that gave them a third and 20 chance. To be fair, Gus Bradley finally brought pressure on that final drive in that third and 20 chance, but he brought it from the wrong places.
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The Chargers blitz around the outside, which parted a sea in the middle of the field for Patrick Mahomes to step up and scramble for 20 yards in a very similar fashion to Joe Burrow in Week 1.
Mahomes is not a mobile quarterback per se, but he can make things happen with his legs. How do you not have a QB spy or someone in the middle of the field on third and 20? They only needed 10 or so yards for the field goal, so even without the first down, Mahomes’ scramble could have gotten the job done.
If you want to bring pressure, which I completely am fine with, then bring it up the middle. There is no reason why Chris Harris should be blitzing from the outside? Bring pressure to the inside or have Harris fake the pressure and play a mid-zone. And if you’re going to blitz a member of the secondary, of all people, why Chris Harris?
Unfortunately, since Bradley brought pressure and it did not work, he probably won’t do it much anymore in game-deciding drives. Personally, I am not a huge fan of how Bradley calls defensive plays when the game matters the most.