For a moment, it seemed like both the Chargers and the Raiders would leave Allegiant Stadium on Sunday night with a ticket to the 2021 NFL playoffs.
But in the end, only Las Vegas earned a postseason berth thanks in part to a befuddling decision from Los Angeles’ sideline.
As the Week 18 primetime contest reached the final minute of overtime, the Raiders seemed to be comfortable with letting the clock run out as they stood on the Chargers’ 39-yard line. After all, a tie would have ensured both AFC West teams qualified for the playoffs.
LA head coach Brandon Staley, to the surprise of virtually everyone, decided to stop the clock before Las Vegas ran its third-and-4 play. This pause allowed the Raiders to regroup, and they responded with a 10-yard run from Josh Jacobs, who put the home team in much better field goal position. Daniel Carlson did the rest, nailing a 47-yard, game-winning kick that ended the Chargers’ season.
Bolts fans probably were pretty miffed at Staley in the moment. But their frustration likely will be kicked up a notch upon hearing how Rich Bisaccia’s team was approaching the situation.
“It was a conversation. We were talking about it,” Bisaccia told reporters about the possibility of a tie. “We ran the ball there and they didn’t call a timeout. So, I think they were probably thinking the same thing, you know? Then we had the big run through there. When we got the big run it got us what we thought was advantageous field goal position for us. We were going to take the field goal and try to win it. But we were certainly talking about it on the sideline. We wanted to see if they were going to call a timeout or not on that run. They didn’t, so we thought they were thinking the same thing. And then we popped the run and it gave us a chance to kick the field goal to win it. So, we were certainly talking about it.”
A tie would have put the Raiders in a pretty tough spot for the Wild Card round. Visiting Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs might be the last thing any team in the AFC wants to do.
But by beating LA, Las Vegas locked down a meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals, who have minimal postseason experience across their roster.