Chargers aggressive play is here to stay – Press Enterprise


Perhaps at some point Brandon Staley and Dave Roberts should sit down for a chat to discuss the best method of ignoring doubters.

The Dodgers manager has heard enough of it in his six seasons, even the year his team won a World Series. (One blogger after all, wondered if he should be fired if his team won everything. I think we know how that ended.)

Meanwhile, the freshman Chargers head coach had himself scrutinized last season with many aggressive decisions. Head scratching extended into the very last moments of Game 17, and the time-out in overtime that preceded Daniel Carlson’s winning field goal in a 35-32 Raiders win Sunday night in Las Vegas, knocking Staley’s team out of the playoffs after a dramatic, brave and almost otherworldly performance by quarterback Justin Herbert.

Or if not the timeout, it was the fourth and 1 of their own 18-yard line in the third quarter that failed spectacularly, as the Raiders stopped Austin Ekeler at the line for a 1-yard loss, the took over possession and took a 20-14 lead three games later on Carlson’s 31-yard field goal.

On the other hand, the Chargers converted three quarter-and-10 plays, one on their own 17 and another aided by a defensive penalty, on their tying drive in the fourth quarter. But the failures are what people remember, and the three field goals rejected in the overtime loss against Kansas City will likely remain in a Charger fan’s memory bank long after that thrilling drive into the finals is forgotten.

Players and coaches learn from an early part of football development to shut out outside noise. This is no different, just more intense and from more sources due to the commitment and national TV audience. (After all, isn’t this why social media was invented?)

“I think you understand the seriousness of the work and the seriousness of these decisions, and I certainly don’t take these decisions lightly,” Staley said during his postseason media briefing on Wednesday.

“We know that every game is different, every situation is different. And what we’re trying to do is give our team the best chance of winning. I think we’ve been transparent about our process and acknowledge the mistakes when they happen.” And you know, sometimes things don’t go wrong, but you can be proud of your process.”

Staley’s defense was that many of those aggressive decisions got the Chargers where they were, on the eve of what would have been just the franchise’s third playoff berth in the past 12 seasons.

The conversions from the fourth down attracted the most attention and were largely successful. The Chargers were 22 for 34 (64.7%), tied for fourth in the league in percentage and third in attempts. The only teams with more fourth-down attempts were Detroit (21 for 41) and Chicago (15 for 36), and they combined for nine wins, the same as the Chargers themselves had.

“I feel like we have an identity that we believe in and I feel like a lot of the decisions that come second, some of those same decisions gave us a huge opportunity to go hunting,” Staley said. “And you can find a lot of those specific examples of those specific games where we won those games based on the same thought process. … We’re going to do our best to make the best decisions that we think will give us the best chance of making And I don’t see that changing any time soon.”

Another way of looking at it: When people doubt and criticize, it means they care. For a franchise that is still expanding its fan base and gaining a foothold in Los Angeles, that matters.

“Hopefully our fans, the Powder Blues, recognize that, hey, this team is about something, it means something, that we’re doing our very best to win these games, not just compete in them and that we believe in our guys, we believe in our players,” Staley said.

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