COSTA MESA, Calif. — Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley expressed no ulterior motives Monday about his late-game fourth down decision a day earlier that almost proved costly during a a 30-28 win over the Cleveland Browns.
Staley also said he has since met with team captain and wide receiver Keenan Allen, who was nursing a hamstring injury at home when he wrote in a since-deleted tweet, “WTF are we doing” moments after Staley’s decision.
Hanging on to a two-point lead at FirstEnergy Stadium with 1:14 left, Staley opted to go fourth-and-1 from the Bolts’ 46-yard line. Quarterback Justin Herbert’s pass to receiver Mike Williams remained incomplete. With 1:10 remaining, the Browns took over and advanced the ball 10 yards before kicker Cade York missed a potentially game-winning field goal from 54 yards.
“Since I became the head coach, we’ve become extremely close,” Staley said of Allen. “We met this morning. Anyone who’s been in a competition knows that when you’re not in it, you can feel some form. Keenan’s heart is with me, with us. I understand where he was at this that time because he’s not with his team or in the fire, that’s one less money than he used to be there… We’re going to get closer because of that We’ve already gotten closer this morning.
Allen, a 10-year-old pro and the Bolts’ receptions leader since 2017, has been sidelined since Week 2 and remains “day to day”, according to Staley, upon his return from a hamstring injury sustained in the season opener.
The Chargers (3-2) will face the Denver Broncos (2-3) at SoFi Stadium on Monday Night Football.
Despite the scrutiny of Allen and pundits, ESPN’s win probability model agreed with Staley’s decision to go on the fourth Sunday.
The going for it winning percentage was 84.1%, while the punt winning percentage was 78.9%.
“There’s going to be a decision that a majority won’t agree with,” Staley said. “You just have to have belief in what you believe in and be transparent with your process, not feel defensive or insecure about it.”
The Chargers are 5 of 11 on fourth conversions this season (45.5%, ranked 19th in the NFL).
Last season, in Staley’s first time as head coach, the Bolts converted a league-high 22 times on fourth down on 34 attempts (64.7%, tied for fourth).
“It’s no surprise,” running back Austin Ekeler, who had 199 all-purpose yards on Sunday, said of Staley’s decision to go for it. “I mean, it’s always Brandon Staley we’re talking about here, and we saw everything we did last year, and so it showed in that moment where he believed in us. He said that we had some really good hits, and he gave us the opportunity to go for 1 yard and we missed.”
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 end this game with our attack on the pitch,” Staley said. “They had played a whale of a game. We liked our away game and that’s what I thought was the best decision for us at that time.”
On Monday, defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day, who was part of a major Bolts defense overhaul this offseason that included the addition of rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback JC Jackson, expressed no no reservations about Staley’s choice to give the offense one last chance. rather than kicking and relying on 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 will never question this man. I will never 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 game-winning field goal from 54 yards. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett was 1 of 4 for 10 yards and running back Kareem Hunt was stopped without gain by Derwin James Jr. in the series.
“The way our offense was playing in that game gave me total confidence in the game, and the way our defense was defending in the passing game, their kicker, all those good things. I mean it has considered,” Staley said. “But we trusted our attack to play and, uh, that’s the decision I made and I felt like it was the right one.”