The LA Chargers were defeated by the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime, 34-28, on Thursday Night Football and the Chiefs have officially taken a stranglehold over the division with a two-game lead and three games left to play. It was an entertaining battle that we might end up seeing again in the playoffs and the main criticism of the Chargers is how Brandon Staley approached fourth down in this game.
The Chargers turned the ball over on downs three times in total in the game, twice occurring in the first half. On the first drive of the game, the Chargers went for it on fourth and goal from the five and seemingly had a touchdown to Donald Parham in the endzone. Parham hit the ground hard and suffered a scary injury to his head. He was taken to the hospital and is in stable condition per the last update.
The second turnover on downs occurred in on the last drive of the first half. With the Chargers holding a four-point lead, they went for it on fourth and one from the one in the last play of the half and it obviously did not convert. On the team's following drive in the second half, the Chargers went for it on fourth and two from Kansas City's 28.
With the Chargers losing in overtime, the easy criticism to make of Staley is that he should have kicked at least one of those field goals because in a vacuum, that would have been enough to win the game in regulation. Unfortunately, football is not played in a vacuum and Staley can not coach with the benefit of hindsight. While the frustrations after a primetime loss to the Chiefs is understandable, the criticism is misplaced.
Brandon Staley does not deserve blame for the Chargers fourth-down decisions vs the Chiefs.
Every single time the Chargers went for it it made sense. It is not like the Chargers were going for it on fourth and 10 from their own 30. To beat the Chiefs you have to beat the Chiefs and that is exactly what Staley did. When it works people have no problem with the coaching style. When it doesn't it suddenly becomes too aggressive and the reason why the Chargers lost.
Yes, we could say in a vacuum that if the Chargers kicked the field goal at the end of the first half that they would have ended up winning the game by three. However, we have no idea how that would have actually impacted the game and the decisions that the Kansas City Chiefs made.
For example, the Chiefs also went for it on fourth down from the two-yard line in the third quarter and did not get it. The Chiefs were down one at the time. If the Chargers would have kicked a field goal in one of their previous drives, perhaps the Chiefs would have been more content making it a one-point game themselves, instead opting to kick the field goal in that situation.
In this hypothetical, we would be in the exact same situation with the Chiefs trailing by one as we head into the fourth quarter. That is all we are dealing with here: hypotheticals. Heck, on the ensuing drive the Chargers went for it again on fourth down, got it and then fumbled at the goal line. Uchenna Nwosu made a great play on defense three plays later to pick off Patrick Mahomes and give the Chargers a one-play touchdown drive.
Since we are dealing with the world of hypotheticals, what if the Chargers kicked a field goal there and the Chiefs didn't have to deal with a long field. With more room to operate, they don't call up the play that results in the interception and the Chargers don't get that Austin Ekeler touchdown. Yes, these are all what-ifs, but that just shows how these games would have been completely different.
The Chargers have won games this year because of Brandon Staley's aggressive nature. You can't say Brandon Staley's decision is costing the team a game when it also was a big reason why they beat the Chiefs last time, or the Browns, or the Eagles, or the Bengals.
If Staley coached by the book and was not as aggressive then the Chargers lose at least three of those four. Sure, maybe they win against the Chiefs on Thursday, but instead of being 8-6 they would be 6-8.
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This is how Brandon Staley is going to coach. He made that very clear early on. If you are going to coach a certain way then you coach a certain way and that is exactly what he did. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't and for the LA Chargers, it has worked a lot more this season than it hasn't.