An interesting, and confusing, moment played out last night, in the fourth quarter of the Chargers’ loss to the Chiefs.
With the game tied at 17 and the Chargers inside the Kansas City five, a pick-six from rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson triggered a 14-point swing, giving the Chiefs a 24-17 lead.
Making the interception easier for Watson to secure was the fact that tight end Gerald Everett didn’t break back to the ball. He didn’t because he couldn’t. He couldn’t because he was exhausted.
Everett tried to tap out before the play, after making two straight catches. The second entailed a 23-yard rumble that left him trying to get a replacement to enter the game. It didn’t happen, because the Chargers remained in hurry-up mode. Quarterback Justin Herbert lined up the offense, snapping the ball with 26 seconds on the play clock.
The obvious goal was to take advantage of a tired defense that couldn’t make replacements. The problem is that Everett was tired, too.
“It was just of unlucky what happened,” coach Brandon Staley told the team after the game, when asked about the situation. “It was unfortunate. We felt like we could push the pace and, you know, it didn’t work out.”
Staley was asked about the play itself, given that the ball was thrown behind Everett, who didn’t make a move back to get it.
“Just, you know, when it was matched to the flat, you know, the tight end has the option to come back in,” Staley said. “And so I think Justin was expecting him to come back in on that. But, you know, it’s just one of those unlucky things that happen, and obviously we’ll learn a lot from it.”
One thing to learn is this: Don’t stubbornly stick with a no-huddle offense when your own guys are gassed.
The Chargers players rushed to the line. Everett clearly needed to come out. He had his hands on his knees before the snap.
There’s plenty of blame to go around. The coaching staff needed to realize that Everett needed a break. The coaching staff shouldn’t have called a play that made Everett one of the first reads. Herbert arguably should have realized that Everett, who had caught two straight passes, may have been tired. And Everett could have been a little more demonstrative in his effort to get someone’s attention.
If all else fails, go to the ground. Is it faking an injury if a guy simply can’t keep going? Everett was on empty. With more than enough time on the clock and the game in a precarious situation, someone should have done something to ensure that the worst-case scenario wouldn’t happen — a game-changing play that made it much harder to the Chargers to steal a win.