Brandon Staley burned his Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night with the worst timeout call of the NFL season.
The Chargers miraculously came back from down 15 in fourth quarter and tied their game with the Raiders at 29 on a touchdown pass from Justin Herbert as time expired in regulation.
The game went to overtime, and both teams kicked field goals on their first possession of the extra period. That gave the ball back to the Raiders with 4:30 left and a big decision on their hands.
If the game ended in a tie, the Raiders, Chargers and Steelers all would have had identical 9-7-1 records. The Raiders and Chargers both would have made the playoffs, while the Steelers would have been sent home, because the Steelers lost to both teams head-to-head. However, a Raiders win would have eliminated the Chargers and helped the Steelers.
As the Raiders had the ball, it felt increasingly like they were content playing for a tie and letting time run out. They were showing no urgency, and neither team was using one of its two timeouts to stop the clock.
But then the entire cadence of the game changed.
The Raiders had a 3rd-and-4 at the Chargers 39 and the clock was winding down. The Raiders were getting ready to run a play on 3rd-and-4 when Staley called a timeout with 38 seconds left.
The timeout seemed to signal to the Raiders that the Chargers meant business. After the timeout, the Raiders came out with a purpose, rushed for 10 yards for the first down, and then kicked the field goal to win it.
Just by calling a timeout, Staley got in the way of things. Had he not, the Raiders might not have shown the same desire to win and would have been more comfortable with the tie or attempting a longer kick late in the game.
Announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were dumfounded by the timeout call.
Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth couldn't believe that Chargers head coach Brandon Staley called a timeout with 38 seconds left. pic.twitter.com/1LyfA7yYXv
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) January 10, 2022
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr even acknowledged after the game that the team’s strategy “definitely” changed after the timeout, though he added that they were always trying to win.
Staley just did too much at the end. He was better off just letting the game continue to unfold with the seeming acknowledgment that the Raiders were comfortable with a tie.