BALTIMORE -- Brandon Staley was willing to try anything to inject life into a dormant Los Angeles Chargers offense. The Chargers suffered a brutal punch early in a heavyweight title fight, only to get up and realize they had little chance to deliver that knockout blow of their own.
Staley used his aggressive fourth down decisions to beat the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns, although the Chargers still had a chance when he used an aggressive call to spark his team. This occasion was very different.
Los Angeles was down 24-6 midway through the third quarter with the game slipping away from the Chargers, as they were facing a fourth-and-1 from their own 19 yard line. Staley forbade any opportunity to punt the ball and go for it deep in his own territory. The Chargers didn't convert as Justin Herbert's pass to Josh Palmer was incomplete.
Game. Set. Match.
Even though the game was lost, Staley isn't shying away from his aggressive nature on fourth down. He had the situation he wanted when he drew that play call up, a key factor behind his wild fourth down aggressiveness.
"We weren't desperate," Staley said. "We liked the down and distance, the matchup, and yea we needed to get something going. That wasn't the entire motive -- certainly part of it -- and they just covered us up a couple times. We were just a little bit off.
"Give credit to them (Baltimore's defense), they earned it."
Staley's aggressive nature on fourth down has been a breath of fresh air across the NFL, but is the Chargers head coach channeling the recklessness of Mr. Toad? Toad's willingness to up the ante on the latest, greatest innovation ended up costing him his fortune. Is Staley's aggressiveness on fourth down going to cost the Chargers down the line as well?
The Chargers were third in the NFL in fourth down conversion rate entering Sunday's game -- an astonishing 87.5%. That's 7 of 8 fourth down opportunities converted successfully. In Sunday's loss, the Chargers were 1 for 4 on fourth down, with the lone conversion -- a Justin Herbert quarterback sneak -- coming when the game was out of hand late in the fourth quarter.
Staley has gone for it on fourth down six times this season in his own territory or at midfield. Prior to Sunday's game, the Chargers were 4-for-4 in those situations -- including Los Angeles converting a fourth-and-2 from its own 24 with the Chargers down 14 points early in the third quarter last week against the Browns.
He tried the same this week twice in the Chargers own territory, only for Los Angeles to go 0-for-2 in those situations. The first failed fourth down conversion attempt gave the Ravens three points in a 14-0 game early in the second quarter, as Herbert's pass intended for Mike Williams was incomplete on a high throw.
Perhaps the Chargers find a way to remain in the game if Staley punts in that situation. Staley won't think twice about that decision.
He's going for it -- no matter the risk.
"I'm always going to trust Justin's judgement," Staley said. "We got to make sure we're physical on the outside and strong with the ball and the ball is where it needs to be. I'm definitely good with the decision. We're going to continue to trust him (Herbert) in those situations."