The reverberations from that Colts loss were felt all the way in the desert. All of a sudden, playing good football wasn’t the best choice for the Chargers and Raiders to get into the playoffs. The hilarious scenario that had been discussed all week actually happened. With the Colts losing to the Jaguars, if the Chargers and Raiders finished Sunday Night Football in a tie they would both advance to the playoffs — leaving the Steelers out. Their best bet would’ve been for coaches Brandon Staley and Rich Bisaccia to meet in the desert where Sam and Nicky met at in Casino, and cut a deal.
Instead, they chose to respect the integrity of the game, and actually compete for those two open playoff spots. It was quite a battle that looked like the Raiders would win when they were up 15 points with 4:41 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Chargers facing 4th-and-21 from the Raiders’ 22-yard-line.
Herbert then put on a show worthy of a Vegas residency. He zipped a 22-yard rocket between five Raiders defenders for a touchdown pass to Joshua Palmer. Then, as another head-shaking “analytics” discussion took place in the broadcast booth, the Chargers were successful on a two-point conversion. Herbert led them down the field again on a final drive with a beautiful ball to a double-covered Mike Williams. Then Staley showed the other side of analytics — there are times to play it safe, like when a tie score gets your team to the playoffs so kick the extra point.
Now it’s overtime in a game that neither one of these have to win, but they must not lose. They traded field goals, and then after the two-minute warning, the Raiders didn’t appear to be trying as hard as possible to get into field-goal range. They went with vanilla running plays and… called no timeouts.
It was there. Both teams went through the charade of an exhilarating overtime game that likely pulled in great ratings and no one could be mad at the Raiders or Chargers for just coasting that final 38 seconds into the playoffs with two exhausted teams.
Then, on 3rd-and-4, Staley called a timeout.
A timeout, with 38 seconds between him and the playoffs. Force the Raiders to make that call. They’re moving the ball on you but haven’t yet stopped the clock, and they’re still out of field goal range. The Raiders had already let 15 seconds run off the play clock and did not look in any type of rush to run a play. There was a possibility they still might have called a timeout if they converted the first down, but don’t give them time to rest, think on a better play, and potentially leave an extra 31 seconds on the clock for them to end your season.
It was a boneheaded decision to end the day, but what a day it was. Week 18 Sunday, was like the NFL’s own reboot of 24, except without the torture — unless you work or root for the Steelers and watched all of Sunday Night Football.