Derek Carr Said The Chargers Timeout ‘Definitely’ Changed The Raiders Strategy Late In Overtime

The Chargers and Raiders played the final game of the NFL regular season and produced arguably the best game of the season, with Las Vegas winning a thriller, 35-32.

The Raiders led by 15 with five minutes to go in the game, but from there the Chargers would go on a 15-0 run that was aided by five fourth down conversions, all of over six yards, on their next two drives, including a touchdown on 4th and 21 and a touchdown with no time left on the clock in regulation — both ridiculous throws by Justin Herbert.

It was one of the greatest fourth quarters of the season, aided by the added intrigue that both teams would advance to the playoffs with a tie after the Colts lost to the Jaguars in a stunning result earlier in the day. With Pittsburgh beating Baltimore, all they needed was someone to win to make the playoffs, but a tie would’ve put both L.A. and Vegas ahead of them for the final two wild card spots. There was some hope on corners of the internet for a Kneel-Off for the Playoffs, but what manifested in Las Vegas was significantly better than that.

In the overtime period, both teams kicked field goals on their opening possessions, with more fourth down magic from L.A. to set theirs up, and as the clock wound down, the Raiders moved the ball to midfield. Once there, they seemed content to run out the clock until Chargers coach Brandon Staley seemed to panic over the thought Vegas may not just let it roll to zeroes and called a timeout with 38 seconds left. From there, the Raiders ran it again, but this time Josh Jacobs bolted well into field goal range and, rather than letting the clock run out, Vegas called a timeout with two seconds left to trot the automatic Daniel Carlson out for the game-winner.

In his walk-off interview, Derek Carr said the Chargers timeout led to a change in plans for the Raiders, who still may have played for the win but certainly were jolted into pursuing the first down a bit more aggressively as there was no longer a guarantee L.A. would’ve let the clock roll if they got stopped short.

Raiders players even seemed to tell Chargers players the plan changed after the timeout, and the handshake at midfield between Rich Bisaccia and Staley was a bit icy after Staley seemed to balk.

As for the two coaches, Bisaccia seemed to indicate the Raiders were trying to set up a field goal while also content to let things run out should they not get into a comfortable range, while Staley said they weren’t comfortable with their personnel and wanted to get a better run look on the field (which obviously didn’t work out.)

While the timeout is bad optics, the real issue for L.A. was their inability to get Jacobs on the ground short of the sticks. It’s hard to imagine Vegas wanting to run the risk of a 55-plus yard going wrong, but once they were well within Carlson’s range at 47 yards, it was an easy choice.

We’ll obviously never know for certain what the plan was from Las Vegas, but the optics for the Chargers aren’t great considering how things panned out after the timeout. Now, the Raiders will head to the playoffs and the Chargers will watch from L.A., thinking about what could’ve been.