By Craig Ellenport | Dec. 14, 2018
For the casual NFL fan, the Los Angeles Chargers’ win at Kansas City on Thursday night may have been a big surprise. It shouldn’t be. In their last 21 games dating back to last season, the Chargers are 17-4 – the best record in the NFL over that stretch. The team’s record, along with Anthony Lynn’s bold decision to go for two points and the win at the end of regulation against the Chiefs, has made the second-year head coach one to watch.
Lynn is currently tied for eighth in Head Coach Ranking with a grade of 7.4, though there’s a good chance that ranking will improve after the Week 15 grades are calculated. Not bad for a coach whose career got off to an 0-4 start last season. Since then, however, Lynn has improved in all key factors.
We first noted that improvement after the Chargers followed the 0-4 start in 2017 with three straight wins. After beating Denver 21-0 in Week 7, we noted Lynn’s impressive game planning on both sides of the ball. There was also a key fourth-down situation in that game that we questioned – the Chargers failed to convert, but it was an early sign that Lynn was a young head coach unafraid to push the envelope.
In HCR’s 2018 coach preview, Lynn drew praise for his temperament – a balanced approach that kept the team from getting too high or too low. This demeanor suited the Chargers well Thursday night as they fought back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
As for Lynn’s decision to go for two points and the win at the end of regulation in Kansas City? Ironically, the Chargers won a game earlier this season when the Tennessee Titans tried the same thing against them in their game in London. When that attempt failed, the Chargers won and we questioned the Titans’ decision in our game post.
We felt the Titans were better off playing for overtime in that contest. Against the Chiefs, however, it did make sense for Los Angeles to take a chance. Even though they would have had momentum going into overtime, why give QB Patrick Mahomes and the explosive Chiefs offense a chance to beat you?
To that last point, Lynn also showed off his improved game and clock management skills down the stretch. Trailing 28-21 in the closing minutes, the Chargers used their first two timeouts during the Chiefs offensive possession. After sacking Mahomes to force a punt from the Chiefs’ 6-yard line, the FOX booth questioned why Lynn didn’t call his third timeout. Why not? Because he didn’t have to.
With the Chiefs backed up, even a good punt was going to set up the Chargers with decent field position. They started their final drive at their own 40-yard line with 2:37 left. With one timeout and the 2-minute warning, that was more than enough time. In fact, any more time on the clock might have opened the door for Mahomes to get one more shot in regulation.
Even with the loss, the Chiefs remain the top seed in the AFC for now. But look out for the Chargers and their impressive head coach.