How a failed speed option on third down compromised Chargers in loss

Chargers running back Josh Kelley stiff-arms Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde.
Running back Josh Kelley stiff-arms Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde during the second half of the Chargers’ 27-17 loss Sunday.
(Jeffrey T. Barnes / Associated Press)

Trailing by 10 points, the Chargers had a third-and-one situation at the Buffalo seven-yard line early in the fourth quarter Sunday.

With rookie Josh Kelley in at running back, offensive coordinator Shane Steichen attempted a speed option that the Bills immediately detected and turned into a three-yard loss.

“You love it when it works,” coach Anthony Lynn said after a 27-17 loss to the Bills. “I mean, it’s been 100% this year, but they stopped it. I have no problem with the call that Shane made right there.”

Given the circumstances, the Chargers could have tried to run the ball up the middle. But they attempted that on fourth and one on the first play of the fourth quarter and Kelley lost a yard.


“Yeah, I like to run right at them for inches,” Lynn said. “But ... that play’s been really good for us. They played it well.”

The Chargers forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter, but an uneven offense hamstrung by some questionable play calls annihilated their comeback chances.

After Kelley was stopped on the speed option, Lynn said he originally planned to go for it on what he thought would be fourth and two. But he changed his mind when he discovered it was fourth and four.

“They spotted the ball fourth and two,” Lynn said. “So we’re going for it at fourth and two. But then they backed [it up to] to fourth and four.”

Lynn called a timeout to discuss the spot with the officials. He then opted for a field goal with Michael Badgley converting from 27 yards out to make it 24-17 with 10:16 remaining.

The Chargers did not have a smooth day offensively. On an afternoon when they won the turnover battle 3-1, they also converted only three of 16 third downs and lost despite running 21 more plays than the Bills did.

“I thought we were out of sync a little bit,” Lynn said. “We dropped some balls early. We threw some bad balls. At times, we didn’t run it consistently.”