austin-ekeler-chargers.jpg
Getty Images

One of the wildest games of the 2021 NFL season had a bizarre ending, showcasing how important it is in the league to have the ball last. With under two minutes to play, the Cleveland Browns knew they had no chance to beat the Los Angeles Chargers unless they let them score. 

Here lies the problem -- the Chargers didn't want to score (at least not until there were only a few seconds left on the clock). 

The Browns were leading 42-41 with 1:38 to play and no timeouts left with the Chargers having a first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. All Los Angeles had to do was run the clock down and kick a chip shot field goal as time expired for the win. The Browns made sure that field goal never came. 

Austin Ekeler got the carry and was stacked at the line, but Browns defenders pushed the running back into end zone for the score -- which turned out to be the winning score -- all for an opportunity to get the ball back. The Chargers took a 47-42 lead with 1:31 left and failed to convert the two-point attempt, giving Cleveland an opportunity to win the game in the final seconds. 

Cleveland didn't win the game and fell 47-42, but they gave themselves a chance for the win by pushing Ekeler in for the score. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley is still unsure if the play was legal. 

"I have to get the ruling there. It was my interpretation you couldn't get pulled in," Staley said after the game. "You can see that Austin is clearly trying to go down. I feel like I need to get an interpretation on that. I certainly didn't try to go in on that one." 

Staley also told Ekeler not to go into the end zone and even said he could have had Justin Herbert take a knee in that situation. The Chargers were trying to hold onto the ball until a few seconds were left to kick the winning field goal. 

The Browns foiled those plans. Herbert could do nothing but tip his cap to them. 

"That's one of those situations where we instructed him not to go into the end zone, and he did a great job of stepping up and giving himself up before the end zone," Herbert said. "The Browns grabbed him and brought him into the end zone. That's a smart play by them. That's something that we have to talk about and continue to develop so that we can be better on that in the future."