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Cruel Twists Of Fate

Justin Herbert openly rooting for the tie and not getting it is one sad, sad clip

January 10, 2022

If you watched Sunday Night Football for even one second, you were made very aware of the extremely unique situation the L.A. Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders found themselves in. The fact it was ever a possibility in the first place gave the AFC West divisional matchup one of the eeriest vibes for a football game in recent memory.

As we explained last week, the scenario would not have been made possible without a Jacksonville Jaguars victory over the Indianapolis Colts, which is exactly what we got early on Sunday afternoon. That meant that the Chargers and Raiders could, if they wanted, simply kneel the ball out for 60 minutes, tie 0-0, and both get into the playoffs. It was quite clear from the start of the game that neither team was planning on doing that ... yet. 

As the game wore on, the Raiders took control, building a commanding 29-14 lead late in the fourth quarter. That's when Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert staged one of the more miraculous two-touchdown comebacks of the season, knotting the game at 29-29 and sending it to OT, thus bringing back the tie discussion. What was a win-and-you're-in scenario (which would also have put the Pittsburgh Steelers in the postseason) became a "OK, maybe we should just tie here...." scenario. 

After exchanging field goals, it was 32-32 with under three minutes to play, and the Raiders began slowly marching toward midfield, where some serious decisions were about to be made. If Derek Carr was able to get them into field goal range, there was no reason not to go for the win and kick the field goal, thus ending their division rival's season. If not, though, a tie was the next-best outcome, and it was so close to happening that Herbert got caught openly rooting for it on the sideline. You don't have to be a professional lip-reader to figure this one out:

Again, at this point, everyone knew the deal and for a brief moment, it looked like the tie was the best option for all involved. But still, to see a QB openly begging for it was pretty jarring. 

Chargers head coach Brandon Staley apparently did not share Herbert's sentiments, as he wound up calling a questionable timeout with 38 seconds left and the Raiders facing 3rd and 4. There's no way to tell what would have happened had Staley not called that TO, but according to Carr it changed the Raiders strategy, and the offense wound up picking up a first down and kicking the game-winning field goal. Had he held on to that timeout, the Raiders may very well have granted Herbert's wish. Now, instead of getting Herbert vs. Josh Allen and Joe Burrow vs. Bill Belichick next Saturday, we get a Bills-Pats rematch, Raiders-Bengals (meh), and another game of noodle-arm Big Ben. Like Herbert, we never rooted for a tie so badly.