Kick an extra point and play for overtime. Or roll the dice with a chance to win.
Brandon Staley is the Chargers head coach. So they rolled the dice. And they won.
After Austin Ekeler scored a 1-yard touchdown on first-and-goal, the Chargers trailed the Cardinals, 24-23 with 15 seconds remaining in regulation. Staley didn't send out the kicking unit. He kept his offense on the field. Quarterback Justin Herbert took a shotgun snap, then found Gerald Everett uncovered at the goal line for the go-ahead two-point conversion.
The two-point conversion capped a successful Chargers comeback after they trailed 10-0 early and 24-17 in the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals failed to convert on a desperation possession with 15 seconds remaining, and the Chargers held on for a 25-24 win thanks to Staley's gamble paying off.
Was Staley's decision analytically sound?
Since Staley took over the Chargers last season, analytics-based gambles have become his trademark, much to the chagrin of Chargers fans when they don't work out. But on Sunday, the strategy secured a critical win as Los Angeles improved to 6-5 to keep pace in a competitive AFC playoff race.
The win doesn't put the Chargers on the right side of the playoff picture, where a 7-4 record was required on Sunday to make the cut. But it keeps them a game back of the field and provided a significant boost to their playoff hopes.
Playing the results is a fallacy when it comes to analyzing calculated risks in football or elsewhere. But nothing matters more than winning in the NFL, and the Chargers needed a win on Sunday. Per ESPN's Seth Walder, Staley's decision amounted to a true coin flip in terms of win probability. Staley really felt like gambling with a chance to win on the road.
Los Angeles entered 2022 as a preseason playoff favorite for the second time in Staley's two-season tenure. After missing the playoffs last season, the Chargers were looking at an uphill battle in 2022 after a two-game losing streak dropped them to 5-5. If the Chargers miss the postseason again, the process of Staley's calculated risks won't matter much in the face of the results of two disappointing seasons.