COSTA MESA, Calif. — Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley on Monday expressed no second thoughts about his late-game, late-fourth decision a day earlier that almost proved costly in a 30-28 win against the Cleveland Browns.
Staley also said he later met with a team captain and wide receiver Keenan Allenwho 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 a wide receiver Mike Williams fell incomplete. With 1:10 remaining, the Browns took over and advanced the ball 10 yards in front of kicker. Cade York missed a potential game-winning 54-yard field goal.
“Since I’ve been the head coach, we’ve gotten really close,” Staley said of Allen. “We met this morning. Anyone who’s been a part of competition knows that when you’re not a part of it, you can feel a certain way. Keenan’s heart is with me, with us. I understand where he was. in that moment because he’s not with his team or in the fire, that’s money down that he’s used to being out there … We’re going to get closer because of it. We’ve already gotten closer this morning.”
Allen, a 10-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 scoring probability model agreed with Staley’s decision to go for it on fourth down Sunday.
The winning percentage in walking for it was 84.1%, while the winning percentage for punting was 78.9%.
“There will be some decision that some majority will 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 Thank you, who amassed 199 all-purpose yards on Sunday, of Staley’s decision to go for it. “I mean we’re still talking here about Brandon Staley and we saw everything last year that we did and so it came out at this point where he believed in us. He said we had pretty good success and he gave we got a chance to go get 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 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 played a whale of a game. We liked our match out and that’s what I felt was the best decision for us at the time.”
On Monday, a defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph Daywhich was part of a significant offseason makeover to the Bolts’ defense that included the additions of an edge rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback JC Jacksonexpressed no reservations about Staley’s choice to give the offense one final chance 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’ll never question that man. I’ll never question his decisions because he has a reason. That’s why he’s the head coach … I ride with him regardless.”
The Browns ran five plays before attempting a 54-yard game-winning field goal. Goalkeeper Jacoby Brissett was 1-of-4 for 10 yards and running back Kareem Hunt was stopped for no gain by Derwin James in the series.
“The way our offense played in that game gave me full confidence in the matchup and the way our defense defended in the passing game, their kicker, all that good stuff. I mean that factored into it,” Staley said . “But we trusted our offense to make a play and, um, that was the decision I made and, and felt like it was the right one.”