What if they get attached? It was a question asked in a low voice to open the week leading up to the final game on the last Sunday of the 2021 NFL regular season, a divisional clash between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders.
He got stronger over the week, evolving into a fun and harmless theory – the ultimate, wacky playoff-winning scenarios possible for both teams if the right conditions line up. A draw, in the right situation, would mean the Chargers and Raiders would advance to the playoffs.
What if they get attached? The question grew stronger as Sunday’s action progressed with a series of unlikely and incredible results that created the exact conditions to pave the way for the draw scenario.
In the opening window of Sunday’s games, the Jacksonville Jaguars came out and dominated the Indianapolis Colts, opening the door for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, teams that entered Sunday’s game with fewer 10 percent chance of making the playoffs.
But after a thrilling overtime win for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers over the Ravens, Pittsburgh’s hopes soar to 99%. At this point, all that stood between Big Ben and the playoffs was a game: Chargers vs. Raiders. And the only outcome that would block the Steelers? A tie.
What if they were really related? The stage was set for the Chargers and Raiders to simply get down on their knees and walk hand-in-hand through the playoffs as long as neither team is aiming for victory. The situation still looked extremely unlikely, given the Chargers were down 29-14 with just five minutes left in settlement.
Then the improbable happened. A crazy run of conversions in fourth place brought the Chargers back into the game and tied things up with seconds to spare to send things into overtime.
It was chaos, and it was beautiful.
Justin Herbert generated +18.8 EPA assists on fourth down, the most in an NGS-era game (since 2016).
Herbert at 4th Down (week 18)
6/6, 106 yards, touchdown
+18.8 passage EPA
+ 40.5% EPEP#LACvsLV | #BoltUp pic.twitter.com/G9LJxpvTdf
– Next generation statistics (@NextGenStats) January 10, 2022
Wait, could they really get attached? As we entered the stalemate in overtime at 29-29, the exploits of Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert were the story of the game, leaving those watching the game and those involved in it to think that the ending was more. chaotic possible could well occur.
“Yeah, that was a conversation,” Raiders coach Rich Basaccia said after the game when asked about the tie scenario. [on second down of the Raiders’ final possession] and they did not ask for a timeout. So I think they were probably thinking the same. And then we had the big point in there, and when we had the big point, it put us in an advantageous position for the field goal for us, we were going to take the field goal and try to win it.
“But we certainly talked about it on the sidelines.”
That’s when Chargers head coach Brandon Staley called for a time out, and all hell broke loose.
“We wanted to see if they were going to ask for a time out or not on this heat,” said Basaccia. “They didn’t, so we thought they were thinking the same thing, and then we started the race there, which gave us a chance to hit the basket to win it.”
The time-out call came with 38 seconds left in an overtime period that turned into a next-win situation after both teams scored a basket on their first overtime possessions. Staley’s timeout came as the Raiders looked set to attempt another third run. The call of the time out prompted the Raiders to switch formation before they managed to throw the ball into more comfortable placement territory.
“We had to get into the right group. We felt like they were going to throw the ball, so we wanted to get our best defense against the 11-person run, make that substitution so that we could get a game where we could go deeper. the field goal, ”Staley said.
“I don’t think it changed their mindset because they were going to throw the ball on the play before and then they ran the ball on the next play,” he continued after a follow-up question. . “So we wanted to make sure we had our run defense there and obviously we didn’t perform well enough, but we wanted to get our run defense against a back here and that’s what we did. . “
When asked if part of his motivation was to buy time in case the Raiders miss their field goal attempt, giving the Chargers the ball, Staley said: “My mindset was to give the basket back. as long as possible. “
We now know, of course, that Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson split the amounts at 47 yards with two seconds left, winning the game for Vegas and sending Chargers fans packing – and questioning everything.
And while we may never know exactly how that timeout call altered the outcome of the game, did the Raiders just let time pass for a tie? – the post-game comments, beyond those of Staley, were revealing.
Asked after the game by NBC’s Michele Tafoya about how the timeout changed Vegas strategy, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said “it certainly is, obviously,” before clarifying that the team didn’t want to end the game with a tie:
“But we knew, whatever happened, we didn’t want a tie. We wanted to win the football game. Obviously if you’re tied you’re in and I think all of those things, but my state of affairs. ‘spirit all day… was to make sure we were the only team going on after that, ”he said.
As for Herbert? Well it was all of us:
Justin Herbert: “I’ve never wanted a tie so much.”pic.twitter.com/Q8MmPt70kL
– Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 10, 2022
In a season filled with parity, wild games and victories on foot, the Chargers and Raiders gave us a grand finale that was certainly worthy of its title.