The Chargers’ season was at stake on Sunday. That the rest still counts is the result of a confident decision by second-year coach Brandon Staley, who has his faults but has proven that lack of courage is not part of it.
He bravely faced the biggest moment of the season, refusing to get cautious and go into overtime when his team desperately needed a win. By prompting quarterback Justin Herbert to find Gerald Everett on a late two-point conversion attempt that went “as smooth as chocolate milk,” as Staley described it after the Chargers’ 25-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals, the coach kept his players’ confidence and kept them in contention for a playoff spot.
That’s no small feat in a season complicated by endless injuries — particularly on the offensive line — and too many unproductive offensive drives in the second half.
“It just shows how much he really believes in us and the courage he has,” Everett said of the call. “We’ve waited so long for this moment to just be aggressive in tight games like this against good teams. What better way to end a tight game like this and go for two and give that the deciding factor?
As soon as Austin Ekeler caught a short pass from Herbert to close the Chargers’ lead to 24-23, every player thought of betting two. You expected it. They wanted it.
“That’s us. That’s our mindset,” said safety Derwin James Jr. “We knew we were going to do it. Before they scored the touchdown, we already knew. Fifty seconds and we’re driving, we know we will try.”
Wide receiver Keenan Allen hoped so. “I held it up too,” he said, holding up two fingers. “We have to go. We have to go.”
It was just a matter of how they would do it.
“I figured we’d try just because we’re playing so aggressively, and that’s what I love about our coach,” Herbert said. “But I didn’t know the exact play call.”
Staley did. They had practiced the piece last week and he thought it went well.
“I felt like we would have good answers against defense that they could play and we wanted to finish the game on our terms,” he said. “As we were doing a couple of first downs and winding up the clock, we were like, ‘Hey, under 40 seconds, that’s going to be our mindset.’ ”
Herbert wasn’t able to pull off a triumphant late drive against San Francisco two weeks ago or against Kansas City last Sunday. But he didn’t flinch when presented with the same situation again.
It’s part of his growth, an advance just as notable as his performance Sunday in recording his 16th career with three touchdowns and 10th with three or more passing touchdowns and no interceptions. According to the Chargers, this is the highest performance by a player in the first three NFL seasons.
“What I said to the team is that two weeks earlier it didn’t work out for him in the two minutes. And that’s what happens when you’re a quarterback in the NFL. They’re not going to drive every two minutes,” Staley said. “But what speaks for him is that our entire organization believes he’s going to make it and that’s why he brought us back. game ball for him. Big performance. I wouldn’t have won without him.”
Everett said Herbert looked him in the eye in the group before the play and gave him confidence. Herbert was calm. Ready to meet his end. He asked and challenged Everett to comply.
“That look. Look. You just know,” Everett said. “Nothing needs to be said. I’ll be there. We just have that. The rest of the guys have it too, that eye connection. We know you’re better at your job should do.”
Everett did. “Some people shy away from getting the ball and having their number called. My coaches and my team know that nobody wants it more than I do,” he said.
And he delivered. “It was great. It was really a one-man game,” Allen said. “Everybody knows the ball goes to Gerald, so he had to be great right there, and he was. Just sort of an evasion route, we call it.” .I clean up the middle.They ran man [coverage] again and he was able to beat his man for the two-point conversion.
By winning a must-win game at State Farm Stadium, the Chargers earned the right to play another must-win game in Las Vegas next Sunday. But at least they still have something to play with. They’ll have to win pretty much every remaining game if they want to get where they want to be – the playoffs.
“You have to say it. you have to believe i dream it I embrace it I’ll think about it,” James said. “It won’t just happen if you just believe. … I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”
At least they’re still moving. bold.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/chargers/story/2022-11-27/chargers-brandon-staley-bold-calls-cardinals-justin-herbert-conversion Bold call by Brandon Staley lifts Chargers over Cardinals