The Chargers are 2-6, but they’ve been in every game this season, with all of their losses coming down to the final moments, including Sunday’s loss to the Raiders, in which an apparent game-winning touchdown on the last play was overturned by replay. So why do they keep losing close games?
One answer may just be bad luck. But another answer is that poor clock management has been extremely costly for the Chargers.
As noted by Warren Sharp, the Chargers had the ball at the two-minute warning, trailing 31-26, needing to go 55 yards to score the game-winning touchdown against the Raiders. With all three timeouts, two minutes should have been plenty of time for the Chargers to score the game winner. There’s no guarantee of driving 55 yards, of course, but the clock should not have been what ended the Chargers’ chances.
The clock was what ended the Chargers’ chances.
On the first play after the two-minute warning, Justin Herbert ran the ball and was tackled inbounds. The Chargers let 28 seconds run off the clock before finally deciding to call timeout. On the next play, the Chargers were tackled inbounds again. And again on the next play, when the Chargers used their second timeout. And then they were tackled inbounds again on the next play as well. Two plays later they were tackled inbounds again and used their third and final timeout with 28 seconds left.
In all, the Chargers got out of bounds on just one of their first seven plays after the two-minute warning, and they used all three timeouts in that time.
On the play after the Chargers’ third timeout they completed a pass inside the 5-yard line, but the clock was running, so they had to waste first-and-goal spiking the ball, rather than running a play. On second-and-goal the Chargers knew — and the Raiders knew — that they had to pass, because a run would keep the clock running and end the game. The Chargers’ second-and-goal pass was incomplete with one second left. And then on third-and-goal time expired on the overturned touchdown.
The Chargers should have had another fourth-and-goal play, but time expired. The Chargers should have had more flexibility with their play calling and the ability to threaten the Raiders with a short-yardage run, but they were out of timeouts so they had to pass. The clock management was inexcusable.