COSTA MESA, Calif. — Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley on Monday expressed no second thoughts regarding his late-game, fourth-down decision a day earlier that nearly proved costly in a 30-28 win over the Cleveland Browns.
Staley also said that he has since met with team captain and wide receiver Keenan Allen, who was at home nursing a hamstring injury when he wrote in a since-deleted tweet, “WTF are we doing” moments after Staley’s decision.
Clinging to a two-point lead at FirstEnergy Stadium with 1:14 to play, Staley elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Bolts’ 46-yard line. Quarterback Justin Herbert’s pass to wide receiver Mike Williams fell incomplete. With 1:10 remaining, the Browns took over and advanced the ball 10 yards before kicker Cade York missed a potential game-winning 54-yard field goal.
“Since I’ve become the head coach we’ve grown extremely close,” Staley said of Allen. “We met this morning. Anyone that’s been a part of competition knows that when you’re not a part of it, you can feel some type of way. Keenan’s heart is with me, with us. I’m understanding of where he was in that moment because he’s not with his team or in the fire, that’s a money down that he’s used to being out there … We’re going to become closer because of it. We already became closer this morning.”
Allen, a 10th-year pro and the Bolts’ receptions leader since 2017, has been sidelined since Week 2 and remains “day-to-day,” according to Staley, in his return from a hamstring injury suffered in the season opener.
The Chargers (3-2) will play the Denver Broncos (2-3) at SoFi Stadium on Monday Night Football.
Despite scrutiny from Allen and pundits, ESPN’s win probability model agreed with Staley’s decision to go for it on fourth down Sunday.
The winning percentage in going for it was 84.1%, while the winning percentage to punt was 78.9%.
“There’s going to be some decision that some majority are going to disagree with,” Staley said. “You just have to have conviction in what you believe in and also be transparent with your process, not feel defensive or insecure about it.”
The Chargers are 5-of-11 on fourth-down conversions this season (45.5%, ranked 19th in NFL).
Last season, in Staley’s first as head coach, the Bolts converted a league-high 22 times on fourth down in 34 attempts (64.7%, ranked tied for fourth).
“This is no surprise,” said running back Austin Ekeler, who amassed 199 all-purpose yards Sunday, of Staley’s decision to go for it. “I mean, it’s still Brandon Staley that we’re talking about here, and we saw everything last year that we were doing, and so it showed up in this moment where he believed in us. He said we’re having some pretty good success, and he gave us an opportunity to go get 1 yard and we came up short.”
The Chargers gained a season-high 465 yards against the Browns, which included a season-high 10 catches for 134 yards for wide receiver Mike Williams, who was targeted on fourth down.
“We wanted to finish that game with our offense on the field,” Staley said. “They had played a whale of a game. We liked our matchup outside and that’s what I felt like the best decision was for us at that time.”
On Monday, defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day, who was part of a significant offseason makeover to the Bolts’ defense that included the additions of edge rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson, expressed no reservation about Staley’s choice to give the offense a final opportunity rather than punt and lean on the defense to win the game.
“At the end of the day, Coach Staley makes the decisions because he’s the coach and he knows,” Joseph-Day said. “I’m never going to question that man. I’m never going to question his decisions because he has a reason. That’s why he’s the head coach. … I’m going to ride with him regardless.”
The Browns ran five plays before attempting a 54-yard game-winning field goal. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett was 1-of-4 for 10 yards and running back Kareem Hunt was stopped for no gain by Derwin James Jr. in the series.
“The way our offense was playing in that game gave me full confidence in the matchup, and the way our defense was defending in the passing game, their kicker, all that good stuff. I mean that factored into it,” Staley said. “But we trusted our offense to go make a play and, um, that was the decision I made and, and felt like it was the right one.”
Read the original article