It’s generally a bad practice to try and boil any game that lasts for 60 minutes down to any one specific moment or play that decides the outcome. But in the case of the San Diego Chargers’ Week 9 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins, that rule of thumb gets completely thrown out the window.
Calling out head coach Mike McCoy for this particular issue may seem like a low-blow for a guy that has infused so much energy into what has been a relatively lifeless team for the better part of the past half-decade, but there really is nowhere else to place the blame for a loss like this. After a Danny Woodhead catch and run that was ruled a touchdown on the field was overturned and placed at the one-yard line, San Diego had a first-and-goal with two timeouts trailing by a score of 24 to 21.
To properly set the scene, however, we must rewind the genesis of the drive which occurred at the Chargers’ own eight-yard line with 2:10 on the clock. San Diego managed to move down the field swiftly on the arm of quarterback Philip Rivers and position themselves at the Washington one-yard line with 21 ticks still left in the contest. This type of offensive performance deserves to be rewarded with confidence and a true trust in what the team has been orchestrating on the field for the past 91 yards.
Now by that I’m not saying to continue spreading things out in a shotgun with such a short area of the field to work with, but going with a handoff up the middle to Woodhead was very Norv Turner esque. That sounds like harsh criticism, but it’s that style of predictable play-calling that would get the Bolts in trouble in the past. A run up the middle isn’t surprising any defense in that situation so why not rely on Rivers to make the right call on a quick read pass to start the sequence?
Following the failed run up the gut, two passes went harmlessly incomplete and forced the Bolts to settle for a field goal. While that did get the game into overtime and keep the Chargers alive, it really felt like the game was lost on that goal line failure. Why not just give Rivers a run-pass option? Heck, I could have even signed off on a quarterback sneak attempt at least once with two timeouts in the bank.
Sometimes teams can over-think critical down and distance situations, and that seems to be exactly what happened to the Bolts here. Just look at what Matthew Stafford did with the Detroit Lions last week by simply running a quick play and sneaking the ball in himself. Even though that was a fake spike situation and a different scenario from the Chargers’ predicament, it would have been nice to see a little more courage out of the coaching staff in this situation.
After years of watching this team be coached not to lose instead of trying to win, this loss and its recurring flashbacks will take a while to get over.