Did Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley blow his team’s chance at the playoffs when he called an unexpected timeout with 38 seconds remaining in overtime against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday night?
No, not really, but, then again, kind of, maybe.
Confused? Yeah, so were a lot of people at the end of what was about as strange of an NFL game – the final contest of the regular season – as you’ll ever see.
Both L.A. and Las Vegas were sitting at 9-7. Whoever won would grab a wild-card spot. It was a classic de facto playoff game; except there was a twist. If it ended in a tie, both teams would get into the playoffs (and thus leave the Pittsburgh Steelers out).
All week, the NFL buzzed about this possible situation (which required a huge Jacksonville upset of Indianapolis). Would the Raiders and Chargers agree to tank the game or suffer through a prisoner’s dilemma and try to win?
“We had jokingly discussed, ‘Oh, man, what if we only need a tie?’” said Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson.
A tie in football is so rare (there was just one in 272 games this season) that it’s nearly impossible to arrange without both teams committing to a complete farce. So both played to win.
Josh Jacobs’ runs in overtime helped the Raiders push past the Chargers in overtime. (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari)
Yet here they were anyway, tied at 32, in the final minute of overtime, with the clock ticking. Vegas had the ball, third-and-4, on the Chargers’ 39-yard line. On the Raiders’ sideline, a discussion had occurred about how, if the scenario arose, they might let the clock bleed out and take the tie. Specifically, if they were stopped on third down (they had to run at least one play), would they risk a lengthy, 56-yard-plus field goal that might, due to the trajectory, get blocked? Or, would they just take the tie and head to the playoffs? Sure, they’d have to play Kansas City, rather than Cincinnati, but a wild card is a wild card.
Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia…