Chargers still haven’t gotten over pass-interference call
Adrian Phillips, the Chargers safety who has played so many different positions and experienced so much in six NFL seasons that he’s considered a coach on the field, was stumped by the question.
“Honestly, man, I couldn’t even tell you,” said Phillips, one of two deep safeties on the play in which cornerback Casey Hayward was flagged. “I have no answer for you. I guess if you would try to coach it differently, the only thing you could say is … I don’t know, I really don’t have an answer.”
The teams appeared headed for overtime when Michael Badgley’s 46-yard field pulled the Chargers even at 20-20 with 14 seconds left. After the ensuing kickoff, Denver took over at its 28-yard line with nine seconds to play.
Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton, who caught two first-quarter touchdown passes, split to the right with Hayward in coverage, about nine yards back. Phillips and fellow safety Rayshawn Jenkins provided backside help.
Sutton ran a go route. Hayward gave the receiver a relatively wide berth as he escorted Sutton down the field. Quarterback Drew Lock’s long pass was a few yards wide of both the receiver and cornerback.
Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley says better tackling and tighter pass coverage is needed so third and short turns into three and out.
Sutton altered his route at the last second, turning toward the sideline. As Hayward looked up for the ball he collided with Sutton at the Chargers 37-yard line. Field judge Aaron Santi threw his flag for interference, ruling Hayward had cut off Sutton’s path to the ball.
Three seconds remained, enough for Brandon McManus to kick a game-winning 53-yard field goal as time expired.
“I probably could have turned my head earlier than I did,” Hayward said after practice Friday in preparation for a Sunday game in Jacksonville. “But I might not have been able to locate the ball if I turned earlier, and I may have lost [Sutton]. I just need to be in better position.”
Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley felt Hayward was in good position up until the point of contact.
“We had A.P. and Rayshawn back there in case it was a post [pattern],” Bradley said. “Casey is on the outside, and he ran a straight line. It wasn’t like Casey converged on him.
“When the ball was coming, Casey leaned and looked back. I guess they felt like he cut him off. That was the explanation we got, so that’s what we have to go with. We talked about how we would do it if we were in that situation again.”
Bradley argued with officials after the game, his frustration rooted in a belief that Hayward’s actions did not constitute interference.
“You meet with officials in training camp, you sit down and say, ‘All right, let’s make sure we’re on the same page here as far as helmet-to-helmet [contact], how do we tackle,’ and we’ve had some really good conversations,” Bradley said. “It’s not to prove them wrong and say, ‘Look at these bad calls you made.’
“It was more, ‘Just teach us. How are you going to call it so we in turn can go into the room and teach our players that way.’ When I saw it, I thought, we’ve had these conversations, and as long as you’re going back looking for the ball, it wouldn’t be pass interference. That was my argument.”
With five days to digest the play, Phillips was still genuinely perplexed by it.
“It just stinks — it was one of those situations where there was nothing Casey could really do,” Phillips said. “He has a right to the ball just like the receiver has a right. It’s one of those calls that’s on the refs. Maybe another ref would have saw it a different way, maybe not.”
A fool’s errand
Add the inability to execute a trick play to the lengthy list of problems in this disappointing season. The Chargers have tried a few with little success, their latest netting zero yards in the third quarter Sunday.
On second-and-seven from the Broncos 42, quarterback Philip Rivers lined up as a receiver near the right sideline and backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor took the snap in shotgun formation.
Taylor threw a backward pass to Rivers, who was supposed to throw to Taylor. But Taylor was hit and unable to run his route. Rivers scrambled for a few steps and fired the ball into the turf, narrowly avoiding an intentional grounding call.
“It didn’t work because when Tyrod threw the ball the guy knocked the … out of him,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “Those are always outhouse or castle plays. When they work, you’re a genius. When they don’t work, you’re an idiot.”
Receiver Mike Williams (knee) and tackles Russell Okung (groin) and Sam Tevi (knee) were full participants in practice Friday and were removed from the injury report. Reserve linebacker and special teams player Nick Dzubnar practiced Friday but was listed as questionable.
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