Why did Chargers call a timeout in overtime of loss to Raiders?


Why did Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley call a timeout?

That was the question on the mind of many after the Las Vegas Raiders outlasted the Chargers 35-32 in an overtime thriller on Sunday Night Football. Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson drilled a 47-yard field goal as time expired in OT to secure the Raiders' first playoff berth since 2016 and simultaneously end the Chargers' season.

The Raiders and Chargers knew exactly what was at stake entering the 2021 regular-season finale: the winner would make the postseason and the loser would not.

Although, another scenario did exist: If the two 9-7 AFC West foes played to a tie, they would both advance to the postseason while the 9-7-1 Pittsburgh Steelers would be pushed out of the playoff picture. And, for a moment, it appeared as if that scenario was actually going to play out.

After the two teams exchanged field goals to open overtime, the Raiders got the ball back with 4:30 on the clock. Las Vegas picked up two first downs and had a fresh set of downs at the Chargers' 45-yard line entering the two-minute warning.

Despite not yet being in field goal range, Las Vegas didn't show any real sense of urgency coming out of the two-minute warning. Their first play, a handoff to Josh Jacobs, resulted in a loss of 1 yard and the Chargers opted not to stop the clock with one of their two timeouts. The Raiders then waited until the 1:20 mark to snap the ball for second down, a 7-yard rush by Jacobs. By this point, it seemed like the Raiders were content to simply run out the clock for the tie.

And then things got interesting.

On third-and-4 at L.A.'s 39-yard line, the Raiders came out in a shotgun formation with Jacobs alongside quarterback Derek Carr. They continued to bleed the clock -- until Staley called the controversial timeout with five seconds on the play clock and 38 seconds left in the game.

Following the timeout, the Raiders ran it with Jacobs again and he picked up 10 yards for a first down. Las Vegas then wound down the clock to two seconds, called a timeout and sent out Carlson for the game-winning kick.

So what was the reasoning behind that Chargers timeout?

"We felt like they were gonna run the ball, so we wanted to get our best 11-personnel run defense in [the game]," Staley said.

"My mindset was to make the field goal as long as possible."

Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia said Las Vegas was indeed discussing the possibility of playing for the tie, but decided to go for the win after Jacobs' 10-yard run got them in "advantageous" field goal range. Prior to that, Las Vegas was at a 56-yard field goal distance, which is equal to Carlson's season-long make.

"It was a conversation, we were talking about it," Bisaccia said about playing for a tie. "We ran the ball and they didn't call a timeout, so I think they were probably thinking the same thing. When we got the big run and got us in an advantageous field goal position, we were gonna try to take the field goal and win it."

Meanwhile, Carr told NBC's Michele Tafoya the Chargers' timeout "definitely" changed the Raiders' approach, but added that they primarily wanted to win the game.

"Yeah, it definitely did, obviously," Carr said. "But we knew, no matter what, we didn't want a tie. We wanted to win the football game.

"My mindset all day, I was even texting with Aaron Rodgers this morning, was to make sure we were the only team moving on after this."

Staley didn't think the timeout changed the Raiders' mentality.

"I don't think it changed their mindset because they were gonna the run the ball on the play before and then they ran the ball the very next play," Staley said. "So wanted to make sure we got our run defense in there, and we obviously didn't execute well enough."

Staley caught a considerable amount of criticism for the timeout, but as he noted, Las Vegas was likely going to run the ball regardless.

The biggest question really is whether the Raiders would have still attempted a field goal if they didn't pick up a big gain on that key third down. Had the Chargers held Jacobs to a minimal gain or even no gain at all, would the Raiders still have sent out Carlson or just let the clock run out?

Unfortunately for Chargers fans, they now have a full offseason to ponder exactly that.

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