The Los Angeles Chargers pulled off a second straight victory over a divisional foe on Monday night – this time the Las Vegas Raiders – and rose to 3-1 after beating Raider Nation by a score of 28-14. A notable marker of the last two years for the Chargers was the inability to finish games – often by way of blown leads because they were too conservative with the play-calling. First-year head coach Brandon Staley has changed that, and his willingness to make some gutsy play calls was ultimately what helped the Chargers avoid another collapse.
Gutsy Play-Calling by Brandon Staley Helps Land Los Angeles Chargers Week 4 Win
The first half belonged heavily to the Chargers. They were up 21-0 by the time the half ended as Justin Herbert tossed three touchdowns and the defensive line harassed Derek Carr and actually stopped the run for once. The Raiders even had negative yardage on offense at the end of the first quarter. The Chargers looked to be running away with the game at that point.
Staley made some bold play-calls even earlier in the game as well. Namely, he called a fake punt pass on fourth down with 12 yards needed – and it almost worked! Ty Long had thrown what looked to be a completion to Tevaughn Campbell before Hunter Renfrow of all people came out of nowhere and ended up delivering one of the bigger hits of the night. Still, credit to Staley for having some tricks up his sleeve. Seeing as the Raiders did not score, the failure of this trick play didn’t cost them anything.
Avoiding the Collapse
The Raiders came out in the second half apparently more motivated, as it only took them two drives to make it a 21-14 game – thus putting the momentum in their favor and putting the pressure on the Chargers. Fans were likely sweating at this point, knowing all too well how this kind of game had gone lately.
Ultimately the most critical play and call of the game by Brandon Staley came in the fourth quarter. At midfield, it was 4th & 2 with just under 10 minutes in the final quarter. Having already gone for it similarly on an earlier drive in the third quarter and succeeding (though the drive stalled afterward), Staley decided to pull the trigger with Herbert again instead of punting. The result was a completion to Jared Cook, who feasted on the Raiders linebackers all evening. This was ultimately the deciding factor in the game, as it later resulted in an Austin Ekeler rushing touchdown that never would have happened otherwise.
This was exactly the kind of turning point that, if this had been a game from 2019 or 2020, would have likely resulted in the Chargers punting instead and ultimately blowing the lead. Instead, the Chargers won – and are making it pretty clear that these are not quite the same Chargers from the last two years. A similar thing occurred last week when Staley went for it on fourth down late in the fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs – instead of settling for a go-ahead field goal in the final two minutes, they went for it, got a pass interference call, and later got the touchdown instead.
A Promising Start for Brandon Staley
Brandon Staley has had quite the meteoric rise in a short amount of time. He got his first full-fledged coordinator job last year with the Los Angeles Rams, and the result was the #1 defense in the league. Now he’s got his first head coaching gig just a year later, and the Chargers are off to a 3-1 start. While the first two weeks were a little bumpy at times, they have quickly ironed things out. And it is due in no small part to Staley being willing to take some chances and rely on his young star quarterback. In essence, he’s playing to win, as he has said a few times himself. And so far, his philosophies are working.
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