You could feel the collective frustration of every sports fan outside of Pittsburgh last night. It was as if we all punched the couch at the same time. You could hear it in the wind, a spiritual “THUNK.”
Everyone was rooting for the tie between the Raiders and the Chargers. It would have been unique. Something we hadn’t seen before. And beneficial. Both the Chargers and Raiders get into the playoffs, we don’t have to listen to Cris Collinsworth talk about Ben Roethlisberger anymore. Valhalla.
But I’ll let you in on something, and it’s poignant because as you’re reading this the Bears have already fired their coach. I’ve sat through seven Bears coaches in my lifetime. Not a one of them could manage the clock to save their life. Timeouts were always thrown about like emergency bug spray when you find a surprise collection of fruit flies by the sink. It was almost as if they couldn’t count. Our latest headseted doofus, Matt Nagy, would just get rid of his timeouts early in each half, either before or after his team took a penalty (or both), just so he wouldn’t have to worry about them with less than two minutes remaining.
Brandon Staley comes from us. His pro coaching career started here, as a prized pupil of Vic Fangio. He followed Fangio to Denver, and from there he got the Chargers job. But he was here long enough to have the brain worms, or their seeds (I know worms don’t come from seeds but eggs seem just a little too gross) implanted. You can’t escape. We get you every time.
By some miracle, and Justin Herbert simply forcing his receivers to catch the ball by drilling it into their chests at every turn, and through a marathon last drive that somehow took 18 plays, the Chargers had forced overtime after being down 15. Tying a game when trailing by 15 is kind of unique itself! It had to mean we were getting our tie.
And even more unlikely, both the Raiders and Chargers had kicked field goals in overtime. We had our dream scenario. A tie to end the season, the kind of ridiculous farce the NFL deserves, one that would see each team get what they want — entry into the playoffs.
And the Raiders were happy to let it just…be. On their last drive, the clock was running, they were facing a third down, and it looked like they were happy to just let it run out. They were at midfield, and a field goal would have been tough. The clock was running, it’s important to note that again. One knee, or dive for three yards, and everyone was out, preparing for next week.
And Staley took a timeout.
Now the clock is stopped, the Raiders can’t really just take a knee without losing face or whatever it is NFL teams have. So they ran a real play on third down, got into field-goal range, game over, Chargers season over, our fantasy dead and buried. And that means more football for the Steelers, which precisely no one wants because it makes everyone dumber.
Football coaches have a nasty habit of overthinking it, trying to overdose on their own genius. And because Staley fell into that trap, we all lost. It was within our grasp. Maybe it wasn’t the kneel-fest we wanted, or the three yards and a cloud of dust-a-thon we might have hoped for to stall out for the tie nakedly. But we still had it.
One stupid timeout. On such margins are NFL seasons decided, because for the most part, most of the teams are the same. This is the way he wants it, but not the way we want it.
Anyway, here’s Ja Morant becoming a booster rocket:
Here’s an even better angle:
That just doesn’t look right. Like, we can see him jump with just his legs, and yet he just keeps going. There comes a point when Morant should start coming down again. But he just…doesn’t.
Anyway, we can sit here and just piss ourselves. That’s about the distance in ability.