The LA Chargers fell short against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football, moving to 5-5 on the season. While the Chiefs are not an easy opponent to beat, the Chargers had the win in the palm of their hand and like many times before, could not finish the job.
Perhaps the most frustrating part about the loss was the fact that the team was thoroughly outplayed and outcoached in the second half... again. This is not the first time that the Chargers shelled up in the second half and fans literally just saw the same story the week prior against the 49ers.
If it was not for an insane throw-and-catch between Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen on third and long, the Chargers would have put up a goose egg in the second half for the season week in a row. That is typically a sign of poor coaching.
The Chargers have a trend of taking a lead against a good team and then getting timid. Instead of playing to win, it seems like the Chargers have been playing to lose. This is a departure from the messaging we got last season when Brandon Staley often played for the win, taking his chances and trusting his elite quarterback in big moments.
Fourth and Staley has been nonexistent this season with his only aggressive call being a bad one against the Cleveland Browns. We saw Staley's timidness on full display against the Chiefs as the Chargers decided to punt the ball away on fourth and inches in the third quarter, then allowing Kansas City to drive down the field and take the lead
Staley explained after the game why he decided to punt the ball there and quite frankly, it is an explanation that is going to leave fans seething (h/t Jeff Miller, LA Times).
Brandon Staley is completely wrong about the Chargers defense.
This is the most frustrating thing that Staley could have said. Staley cites the fact that his defense was playing at a high level as the reason why they decided to punt the ball on fourth and inches when every analytical model says to go for it.
At the time the Chiefs only had 16 points but to try and pretend like the defense was playing at a high level is delusional. Not only did the Chiefs just put together a long scoring drive on the previous drive, but they were having success up to that point!
At the time of the punt, the Chiefs were averaging 6.5 yards per play on offense. The Chargers had just two defensive stops in the game and quite frankly, both were not because of something the Chargers did. They were because of Kansas City's mistakes.
Each three-and-out for the Chiefs happened after a should-have-been completion to Travis Kelce on third down. In the first instance, Kelce and Patrick Mahomes miscommunicated and Kelce never turned around. In the second, the Chargers did play good coverage but Mahomes had Kelce beyond the sticks and simply missed him.
And even if you had some defensive success, that is Patrick Mahomes on the other sideline. Brandon Staley is now 1-3 against the Chiefs as a head coach. His only win was a game in which he was aggressive and played to win, not to not lose.
If this was Jacoby Brissett it would be one thing. If the defense was playing well it would be another. Neither of those things are true, exposing just how flawed this logic is.