This Chargers QB sneak is one of the worst plays ever


Right off the bat: the play we’re going to talk about in this post was absolutely not the worst of all time. It’s really, really bad, but that’s not enough to put it in worst-of-all-time contention, a position which I think* belongs to the Indianapolis Colts’ two-man fake punt, which remains one of the funniest things that’s ever happened in a football game. When a botched play gets its own Wikipedia page, you know it’s historically bad.

*My friend Will disagrees, giving it to Washington and Jim Zorn in 2009 for a very, very funny fake field goal. I’ll let you be the judge. Either way, these are plays worth watching.

But the thing about the Colts play is that you could sort of squint and see why they tried it. They were attempting to confuse the Patriots defense and see if they could trick them into giving up the first down via penalty. Things got confused and went horribly wrong, but the intent was not wholly unsound. In another universe, against a less-disciplined defense, it might even have worked. Maybe. It was still pretty silly.

There is, on the other hand, absolutely no universe in which this works out for the Los Angeles Chargers:

What possible rationale could there be for attempting to have Justin Herbert squeeze in here while his offensive line is engaged in the act of running away? This isn’t a QB sneak, it’s a QB salient. Sure, there are only three seconds left in the game and this touchdown could never have mattered anyway, but that doesn’t mean you send poor Justin Herbert strolling blithely into harm’s way.

How could this have ever worked? What is the scenario that Shane Steichen dreamed up in which this play leads to something good? Are the defensive linemen supposed to be so intent on beating the folks trying to block them that they forget to go after the ball? I’m not a Football Expert, but it seems to me like having an entire defense ending up on top of your quarterback is not just the most common outcome here, but the only realistic one.

Assuming this was deliberate (which … it can’t be, right? There’s got to be a missed audible or something here), sending his line into pass protection on a sneak wasn’t the only terrible decision from Anthony Lynn’s coaching staff in this game. The clock management was remarkable for the sheer depravity. Two plays before this, with the Chargers down by two scores, on the Bills’ 2-yard line, and with time running down, they opted to … run? With no timeouts left?

Anyway, this was a mess of a game for the Chargers, and I’m glad it reached its grand climax in Justin Herbert getting stampeded while his blockers milled about behind him. Some coaching snafus are straightforwardly sad; at least this ill-conceived clusterfuck had the good grace to be hilarious.

If you can come up with any explanations (or jokes. Jokes are good too) as to what the hell was supposed to happen here, I welcome them in the comments.



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