Chargers’ Brandon Staley sticks to his roots despite dramatic postseason loss

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SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. — It’s 5:39 a.m. in Orange County, and Chargers coach Brandon Staley is in a rush to get to work 25 minutes away. But he can’t rush his drive too much through the thick fog enveloping the area around his home, not far from the Pacific Ocean.

“In the morning, you can get this fog, which is kind of cool,” said Staley, an Ohio kid exposed to California life for the first time in 2020. He speaks of it not in annoyance for adding five minutes to his commute — but rather in a Hey, look at this awesome rolling fog tone.

“My wife is from Chicago. I’m from Cleveland. I don’t know what our picture of California was, but coming to southern California we couldn’t believe how much it feels like home.”

Staley, 39, has a natural eagerness to him, which the football world should see a lot of this year. The Chargers were doomed by a leaky defense last year — the dramatic postseason-elimination loss to the Raiders has left a scar — and the offseason has brought in credible reinforcements: cornerback J.C. Jackson, pass rusher Khalil Mack, run-stoppers Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson, guard Zion Johnson. With mature-beyond-his-years quarterback Justin Herbert piloting a top-five NFL offense, the pieces are in place for a young team to make a 2022 run, even in the stacked AFC West.

Staley’s not just a coach, though. He’s become a lightning rod for progressive football. The Chargers led the NFL in fourth-down conversions last year with 22, and they were fourth in efficiency, making a first down on 65 percent of their fourth-down tries. But it’s the one they didn’t convert — fourth-and-one from their own 18- in the third quarter of that final game in Las Vegas, leading to a Raider field goal in a three-point loss — that prompted a torrent of criticism.

The young coach is wounded but unbowed. The analytics community, quietly, loves Staley. “He’s our Trojan horse,” said one team research analyst in the growing community of numbers-crunchers throughout the league. Meaning: Staley’s taking the heat from many who think it’s insane to go for it on fourth-and-one deep in your own territory in a tight game, but four models say (narrowly) it was the right thing to do. Another analyst told me, “Everyone screamed about fourth-and-one from the 18-, but no one mentions the Chargers were six of seven on fourth down in their biggest game of the year, and they lost because they were awful against the run.”


Raiders 35, Chargers 32, Week 18, game 272, Sunday night. America watching.

“That was the … that’s the toughest loss that I’ve ever been a part of as a competitor for sure,” Brandon Staley said, merging onto I-5, fog dissipating. “Then to watch the playoffs unfold how they did, you know, to see the AFC Championship Game and then the Super Bowl, that was a tough month for me. As tough a month as I’ve had.

“But I think it was a good month for me because I got a lot of work done in that month. I really took a hard look at myself number one, our team, our organization, how we did things, make those after-action reports in all phases. I got a lot of work done. As hard as it was, I think it set the stage for the type of offseason that we’ve had but it was as tough as it gets.”

Ryan Tannehill told me he got professional help,” I said. “Not suggesting you did or you needed it, but can football send you into, even temporarily, a really depressed state?”

“When things matter to you so much, like I’m sure they do for Ryan…I think the finality of the NFL and sometimes how you lose, you can’t help but be affected, because of how much it means, how much you care. But that’s part of competition. I think when you compete, especially in the NFL, you’re gonna sign up for losses like Ryan had, like we had. There’s gonna be these really tough moments. That’s what gets you back going again, though, knowing that you get an opportunity to prove yourself again. You have to show that resilience and I think that’s what it’s about for me. You learn a lot from everything and then you gotta bounce back and you gotta come back better. That’s what I spent my time learning this offseason.”

One thing that sticks with me about that game — and that spurred GM Tom Telesco to over-scout run defenders last winter — was the very end, the last two plays of the 2022 NFL regular season. The Raiders had second-and-11 from the LA 46 with 80 seconds left. Tie game. If it ended in a tie, both teams would have made the playoffs. Next two snaps: Josh Jacobs for seven, Jacobs for 10. Daniel Carlson’s 47-yard field goal won it.

“My regret,” Staley said, “is that in what should’ve been able to get us out of there with a tie. They ended up splitting us on a 10-yard run and that’s what I’ve been thinking about — our execution on that last play. That’s the tough side of things, having to live with that. I didn’t do a good enough job. That’s the tough side of things. That’s what gotten me moving this whole offseason.”

Staley was hired after coaching the league’s top-rated defense with the Rams in 2020. The Chargers were 23rd in team defense last year, allowing more points than Jacksonville and Houston. That led to the offseason urgency to fix the defense. In Staley’s first year as an NFL assistant, 2017, he coached the Bears’ outside linebackers and got to know Mack well. Now he’s gambling that Mack, at 31 and coming off foot surgery, can be the Mack of five years ago. It’s a big gamble.

“I felt like we were missing…that presence up front,” Staley said. “I think Derwin James is as good of a leader as there is in pro football. I think Joey Bosa is one of the top defensive players in pro football. But I think to establish a culture and the type of mindset, you gotta bring in players who can live that. I think there’s no better example of that than Khalil. I saw it happen in Chicago. He’s a fierce competitor.”


Fourth-and-one. Regrets?

Of course you regret something when it doesn’t work. That’s human nature. But in the six or seven minutes we discussed it, these were the five words that meant the most: “The mindset, I don’t regret.”

I don’t see Staley changing. And he shouldn’t.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley showing off his John Carroll coffee mug. (NBC Sports)

“I think as a coach any time something doesn’t go down, you’re gonna challenge yourself and say, ‘Was that the best thing? Did I give myself, our team the best chance to win?’ That was a moment in the game that I felt like we could take advantage of to really give our team a lift. And looking back on it, when we didn’t make that fourth down, it had an impact on our offense for a couple of possessions. Defensively, we stopped them right away. I like the way we were playing but it had an impact on our offense for a few possessions and so I think I underestimated that, what that could do if we didn’t make it. But the mindset, I don’t regret. That’s obviously something that in one of the many decisions in that game that if you had to do over again and you knew it was gonna happen, you obviously wouldn’t do it. But the mindset of why we did it, I think in games like that, you have to go meet moments like that head-on.”

There’s a Twitter account run by a football analyst for The Athletic, Ben Baldwin, called the 4th down decision bot (@ben_bot_baldwin). Baldwin uses historical data for each team and each situation and analyzes each fourth-down decision to go for it during the NFL season. He provides, by the numbers, a percentage for the team to win if it goes for it and if it doesn’t. He first-guesses, essentially. On this play — Raiders up 17-14, Chargers with fourth-and-one at their 18-, 8:57 left in the third quarter, Chargers with 15 running-back rushes for 77 yards to this point — the 4th down decision bot said the Chargers had a 44 percent chance to win the game if they went for it, a 41 percent to win if they punted. The recommendation (“STRONG”) was to go for it. NFL partner Next Gen Stats and two other public analytics sites also said the right call was to go for it.

Austin Ekeler got swarmed trying to pierce the left side of the line. Loss of two. Maybe the Chargers will put the ball in Herbert’s hands even on a short one the next time. Herbert was six for six throwing it for conversions on the other six times Staley went for it on fourth down.

There’s a bit of an old-school/new-school divide on fourth-down tendencies. The four coaches who went for it on fourth down the fewest times in the league last year, in order: Pete Carroll (11 fourth-down attempts), Andy Reid (15), Bruce Arians (16), Bill Belichick (17). But Sean McVay (19 tries) and Kyle Shanahan (20) were close, so it’s not definitive that the youngsters are all changing the landscape.

“We had two primetime games at the end of the season that were really, really, really the big games. We didn’t win. There were some [fourth] downs in there that people are gonna scrutinize. That’s part of it.

“But then there were five or six, seven games for sure — five games for sure, six seven depending how you look at it — where I know that we don’t win without that mindset. What you have to be able to do is look at the entire season and then in those games that everyone is rightfully talking about, just be really critical of yourself and that’s what I’ve tried to do. I know that what I’m not gonna apologize for is how our team played in those games because our team played exactly how I would want them to play.”

Fourth-down attitude is the bright shiny object; it’s easy to take shots when the team doesn’t convert a controversial one, and it’s understandable because it’s such an untraditional decision. But this was the big picture for the ’21 Chargers: They lost three of their last four. They gave up 34, 41 and 35 points in those losses. They weren’t enough of a complete team and didn’t deserve to make the playoffs. Now they’ve done something about it —but that something isn’t a change in philosophy by the head coach. It’s a change in personnel.

Now Staley was in the parking lot in Costa Mesa. Time to go to work.

“I know the mindset I tried to create within our team,” he said. “I know that’s not gonna change. Not one bit.”

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

How to watch Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TV, live stream info, preview for Sunday Night Football game

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It’s the Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday, October 2 in a rematch of Super Bowl LV where Tom Brady earned his seventh ring. Sunday’s matchup marks the sixth meeting between Patrick Mahomes and Brady with the 45-year-old veteran holding a 3-2 edge in the series.

RELATED: Tom Brady’s Super Bowl wins, rings, MVPs, losses: Every appearance, NFL stats, records

Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock with Football Night in America. See below for additional information on how to watch the game.

RELATED: If Chiefs-Buccaneers is moved, it will be played at U.S. Bank Stadium

Football Night in America will feature a weekly segment hosted by former NFL quarterback Chris Simms and sports betting and fantasy pioneer Matthew Berry, which highlights storylines and betting odds for the upcoming Sunday Night Football game on NBC, Peacock, and Universo. Real-time betting odds on the scoring ticker during FNIA also will be showcased. Peacock Sunday Night Football Final, an NFL postgame show produced by NBC Sports, will also go deep on the storylines and BetMGM betting lines that proved prominent during the matchup.

RELATED: FMIA Week 3 – Broncos’ Coaching Experiment Pays Off, Dolphins Win ‘Beast’ Game, and What We Learned About the NFL in September

Be sure to start your NFL Sunday with Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Football Pregame show beginning at 11 AM ET on Peacock and the NFL on NBC YouTube channel.

Kansas City Chiefs

Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) picked up their first loss of the season last Sunday after falling 20-17 to the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Kansas City struggled offensively in Week 3 as the team was held to just three points in the second half. The Chiefs are still working to fill the void in the passing game since trading star WR Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins in the offseason but according to Mahomes, that doesn’t excuse Sunday’s loss.

RELATED: Patrick Mahomes –  I don’t expect growing pains, offense has to gel together

“I don’t expect any growing pains,” Mahomes told reporters at ESPN.com. “Obviously have new players and you don’t know everybody’s going to respond to tough situations. . . . We’ve got to gel all together. It starts with me. There were certain throws I was putting on guys’ back hips instead of in front of him. There were certain situations where we were just barely off of it.”

Mahomes, who signed a 10-year, $450 million contract extension, in July 2020–the richest contract in American sports history by total value–is in his fifth season as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback and hopes to lead Kansas City to its seventh straight AFC West title. The Chiefs are the only team to ever win six consecutive AFC West titles, which is tied for the 3rd-longest division title streak of any team in NFL history.

RELATED: Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes: All-time QB matchups, records, stats

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brady and the Buccaneers (2-1) are also coming off their first loss of the season–a 14-12 defeat at home from Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers last Sunday afternoon. With WRs Mike Evans (suspension) and Chris Godwin (hamstring)–Brady’s top two targets–and Julio Jones (knee) out in Week 3, Tampa Bay’s offense racked up a total of just 285 yards in the loss. Additionally, the team is still adapting to the turnover at the WR and TE positions from this offseason. Despite some challenges on offense, Tampa Bay’s defense has remained consistent and currently leads the NFL in scoring defense (9.0 pts/gm) and also ranks in the top 5 in total defense.

RELATED: NFL QBs with most Super Bowl wins – Where does Tom Brady rank ahead of Super Bowl 2023


How to watch the Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

  • Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida
  • When: Sunday, October 2
  • Start Time: 8:20 p.m. ET; live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET with Football Night In America
  • TV Channel: NBC
  • Stream liveWatch live on Peacock or with the NBC Sports App

What time is kickoff for the Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers game?

Kickoff is at 8:20 p.m. ET.

RELATED: 2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

For all your NFL jersey and gear needs ahead of the 2022 season, click here!


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

How to watch the NFL on Peacock: Full Sunday Night Football Schedule, live stream info for the 2022 season

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The 2022 NFL Season is in full gear. This week it’s Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a rematch of Super Bowl LV. Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. with Football Night in America. Kickoff time is at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.

RELATED: If Chiefs-Buccaneers is moved, it will be played at U.S. Bank Stadium

Every Sunday Night Football game this season will be available on both NBC and Peacock. See below for the full 2022 Sunday Night Football schedule as well as additional information on how to watch every game on Peacock.

RELATED: How to watch Matthew Berry on NBC Sports

2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule:

*Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Thursday, Sept. 8 (Week 1) – Josh Allen’s four touchdowns power Bills to 31-10 victory over Rams

Sunday, Sept. 11 (Week 1) – Bucs take care of business against Cowboys, who lose Dak Prescott late

Sunday, Sept. 18 (Week 2) – Packers roll over Bears 27-10 as Aaron Jones, Preston Smith star

Sunday, Sept. 25 (Week 3) – Broncos do just enough to pull off 11-10 win over 49ers

Sunday, Oct. 2 (Week 4) – Chiefs at Buccaneers

Sunday, Oct. 9 (Week 5) – Bengals at Ravens

Sunday, Oct. 16 (Week 6) – Cowboys at Eagles

Sunday, Oct. 23 (Week 7) – Steelers at Dolphins

Sunday, Oct. 30 (Week 8) – Packers at Bills

Sunday, Nov. 6 (Week 9) – Titans at Chiefs

Sunday, Nov. 13 (Week 10) – Chargers at 49ers

Sunday, Nov. 20 (Week 11) – Bengals at Steelers

Thursday, Nov. 24 (Week 12) – Patriots at Vikings

Sunday, Nov. 27 (Week 12) – Packers at Eagles

Sunday, Dec. 4 (Week 13) – Colts at Cowboys

Sunday, Dec. 11 (Week 14) – Chiefs at Broncos

Sunday, Dec. 18 (Week 15) – Patriots at Raiders

Sunday, Dec. 25 (Week 16) – Buccaneers at Cardinals

Sunday, Jan. 1 (Week 17) – Rams at Chargers

Sunday, Jan. 8 (Week 18) – Matchup TBD

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

What devices are compatible with Peacock?

Peacock is available on a variety of devices. See the full list here.

In addition to Sunday Night Football, what else can I watch with Peacock Premium?

Premium is your key to unlocking everything Peacock has to offer. You’ll get access to all the live sports and events we have, including Premier League and WWE Premium Live Events like WrestleMania. You’ll also get full seasons of exclusive Peacock Original series, next-day airings of current NBC and Telemundo hits, plus every movie and show available on Peacock. There is always something new to discover on Peacock Premium.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!