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Chargers' Brandon Staley on fourth-down decision in win vs. Vikings: 'I make no apologies for that'

Chargers head coach Brandon Staley is well known for his devil-may-care approach.

It almost cost Los Angeles a 28-24 win Sunday against the Vikings.

Staley made one of the boldest calls of his head-coaching tenure with a four-point lead over Minnesota and 1:51 remaining in the contest, dialing up a fourth-and-1 run by Joshua Kelley from L.A.'s 24-yard line.

The play-call failed. Fortunately for Staley, the Chargers defense did not. The unit held strong for seven plays to absolve its head coach of blame for a loss and deliver the Bolts' first win of the season.

"It was fourth down and less than a yard," Staley explained in his postgame news conference. "They had no timeouts. And I believe in our offense. I believe in our offensive line, our tight ends, our quarterback. I felt like we had a good play for what they would be in, and it didn't go down. We were protecting four points, not three.

"If it was a three-point play it would have been a different decision. I felt like our defense could play the way it did down the stretch. Again, I've got full confidence in our group. It's your job as a head coach to make sure your team knows you have belief in them. We came here to win. It was a tough road game against a team that made the playoffs, so we were trying to go win the game. I make no apologies for that."

Staley might see little downside to going for the throat rather than shifting the Vikings, without any timeouts, back to their own side of the field via a punt. He might feel the message of belief he sent to his squad was needed while sitting at 0-2.

The point remains, though, that he essentially forced his defense into a red-zone drill to prevent Los Angeles from falling into an even deeper hole to begin the year.

Such a decision could have marred an exhilarating game and an inspiring performance from quarterback Justin Herbert and wide receiver Keenan Allen. Herbert delivered with 405 yards and three touchdowns on 40-of-47 passing. Eighteen of those completions and over half of his yards (205) went to Allen, and the 31-year-old wideout also threw a 49-yard TD pass to fellow WR Mike Williams.

But even if Staley's high-flying offense did not come through for a crucial yard to ice the game, his repaid faith in the defense meant the Chargers' previous heroics weren't all for naught.

Although L.A. allowed third- and fourth- down conversions to Minnesota during that condensed final drive, it held strong on first-and-goal with 12 seconds remaining. On Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins' fourth attempt of the drive to tight end T.J. Hockenson and 50th pass of the day, he was forced into his first interception -- a diving pick by linebacker Kenneth Murray on a tipped tight-window throw.

Whatever consternation fans might have held over the Chargers' brazen approach was replaced by jubilation in that moment, and Staley's message was heard by Herbert, who echoed his coach's philosophy after the win.

"Yeah, it's a yard," he said. "Got to get a yard. That's on us as an offense to get that yard. It's one of those plays that we practice all the time, and it's unfortunate that it didn't go our way. But I'm rocking with our defense -- our offense, as well -- we believe in those guys to get that stop."

With little regret, and three games already decided by just nine points combined, there figures to be many more moments when Staley must weigh going for broke in the season ahead.

Again, at least one of the Chargers' leaders seems just fine with doing so.

"We'll get it next time," Herbert said.

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