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NFL readers Q&A: How did Chargers’ Brandon Staley, Rams’ Sean McVay miss this?

Chargers head coach Brandon Staley speaks to the media after defeating the Cleveland Browns.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley had a lot of explaining to do about his failed decision to try for a first down on fourth down late in Sunday’s game, giving the Browns a chance to attempt a potential game-winning field goal. Luckily for him, the kick failed.
(Ron Schwane / Associated Press)
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Readers had a lot on their minds after the Rams’ and the Chargers’ latest games. Rams beat writer Gary Klein, Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller and NFL beat writer Sam Farmer answer some questions:

The decision by Brandon Staley to go for the first at the end of the game was odd to say the least. What rationale can he use as his excuse?
David Sanchez, Canoga Park

Miller: Analytically speaking, there was nothing odd about Staley’s decision. Among the fourth-down models that forecast potential outcomes, two of the most prominent — ESPN and Ben Baldwin — favored going for it there. Next Gen Stats had the choice closer to a toss-up. The week before, Staley made the same decision in a similar situation in Houston. The offense picked up the first down in that case and then put the game away. Since that decision worked, no one said a word about it.

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Why didn’t Sean McVay foresee the obvious coming decline of the offensive line?
Scott Templeton, Nine Mile Falls

Klein: Don’t know that I would say that McVay or anyone else could foresee an “obvious coming decline.” After last season, tackle Andrew Whitworth retired and right guard Austin Corbett signed a lucrative contract with the Carolina Panthers. The Rams re-signed left tackle Joe Noteboom, who has been groomed as Whitworth’s replacement, and center Brian Allen, and used their first pick in the draft — a third-round pick — to select Wisconsin lineman Logan Bruss. Noteboom and veteran Rob Havenstein looked like they would be solid at tackle, left guard David Edwards was a returning starter at left guard. But injuries wiped out any plan. Bruss’ season ended in the preseason, Allen was injured in the opener, David Edwards suffered a concussion during practice before the game against the 49ers and Coleman Shelton was injured during that game. Noteboom and Havenstein have not performed as well as anticipated.

The Rams were dominated at home by the Dallas Cowboys. Quarterback Matthew Stafford absorbed a nonstop pounding and turned the ball over three times.

Oct. 10, 2022

Do they play a Black national anthem before each game?
Neil Jurgensen, Canoga Park

Farmer: No, the song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” isn’t played before every game, only before marquee league events. So it was played before the draft, the kickoff opener Buffalo at the Rams and will be played before the Super Bowl. It’s something the NFL has done since the 2020 season.

What’s with the commitment to Cam Akers? To me he is the worst running back we have. No power, no burst and poor decision making on cutbacks. He had three consecutive negative run plays.
Russell Hosaka, Redondo Beach

 Rams running back Cam Akers (3) is stopped by Cowboys defensive end Sam Williams.
Rams running back Cam Akers (3), shown being tackled by the Cowboys’ Sam Williams, was ineffective against Dallas.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
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Klein: Akers and Darrell Henderson opened the season as the Rams running backs, and Malcolm Smith was added a few weeks ago. Akers has 51 carries for 151 yards and a touchdown, Henderson 34 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown. Henderson started the first three games, Akers the last two. McVay said early in the season that Akers needed to demonstrate more urgency. It looked like he got the message when he ran well against the Arizona Cardinals — but then he fumbled at the goal line. Don’t minimize how poor play by the offensive line impacts the running backs. But Akers certainly needs to play better.

Why praise Nasir Adderley who is the weak link in the secondary? He gets so out of position and misses numerous tackles. He cannot hold the edge and misreads many plays. When is JT Woods expected to return? He has got to be better than Adderley.
Harvey Smith, Dayton, Nevada   

Miller: You’re on to something and the Chargers agree since Adderley was benched Sunday against Cleveland in favor of Alohi Gilman. I’d expect Gilman to stay in the lineup this week against Denver. Regarding Woods, the Chargers don’t think he’s better than Adderley. They don’t think he’s good enough to be active on game days each week at this point. Woods has been a healthy scratch three of the first five games.

Chargers-Browns takeaways: The Chargers’ ground game was nearly nonexistent the first three weeks of the season, but Austin Ekeler has picked up the pace and ran for a career-high 173 yards against Cleveland.

Oct. 10, 2022

The Rams seem completely lifeless. Is there any hope for them this season? With their remaining schedule, best-case scenario seems like 9-8. But wouldn’t be shocked if they finish 6-11.
Francisco Marquez, Victorville

Klein: The Rams offense qualifies as lifeless — it has scored one touchdown in the last nine quarters — but I wouldn’t say the same about the defense. You’re right about the schedule, though. The Rams should beat Carolina, which just fired its coach and is without its top two quarterbacks. But after that it’s the 49ers, at Tampa Bay, the Cardinals, at New Orleans, at Kansas City and the Seahawks and Raiders before a trip to Green Bay. The Rams finish against the Broncos, the Chargers and at the Seahawks. I would expect the Rams to be busy making moves during the week of their open date and leading up to the Nov. 1 trade deadline.

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