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Analysis: Vikings, Chargers trade inexplicable decisions. Jets’ commitment to Wilson still baffling

Analysis: Vikings, Chargers trade inexplicable decisions. Jets’ commitment to Wilson still baffling


The Vikings and Chargers traded inexplicable decisions in the final two minutes. The Jets are sticking with a baffling choice for the foreseeable future.

After Los Angeles coach Brandon Staley set Minnesota up for a win, Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell and quarterback Kirk Cousins gave him a reprieve with their inability to manage the clock.

Minnesota had a first and goal at the Chargers 6 following a 9-yard pass from Cousins to T.J. Hockenson on fourth down on a play that began with 42 seconds remaining. With no timeouts left, the call should’ve been easy. Spike the ball, huddle up and get three shots at the end zone with about 30 seconds to go.

Instead, the Vikings rushed to get off another play and wasted nearly 20 seconds. Cousins had trouble hearing O’Connell because of the crowd noise and ended up throwing an interception on a deflected pass that sealed a 28-24 loss on Sunday.

“Looking back on it, I just should’ve clocked it and taken the three snaps from there to try to punch the ball in the end zone,” O’Connell said.

The Vikings (0-3) wouldn’t have even been in position to screw it up if Staley didn’t go for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 24 up four points. Joshua Kelley was stuffed and Minnesota got the ball with 1:47 left in excellent field position.

“We came here to win. It was a tough road game against a team that made the playoffs, so we were trying to go win the game,” Staley said, defending his bold move. “I make no apologies for that.”

Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson, a two-time Super Bowl champion, said on Fox’s postgame show that Staley’s decision was “such a dumb call.”

Staley’s aggressive approach on fourth down — there are “Fourth and Staley” T-shirts available online — has been a hot topic since he became a head coach in 2021. It’s backfired a few times, including the final game of his rookie season.

In that game, Staley was 6 for 7 on fourth down. But the one miss was critical. He went for fourth-and-1 at his own 18 down 17-14 in the third quarter. Austin Ekeler lost 2 yards on a run, the Raiders ended up getting a field goal and went on to win the game 35-32 in overtime to eliminate the Chargers, who needed a win or tie to make the playoffs.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert defended the call against the Vikings.

“Got to get a yard,” he said. “That’s on us as an offense to get that yard. It’s one of those plays that we practice all the time, and it’s unfortunate that it didn’t go our way.”

The most perplexing decision in the first three weeks of the NFL season isn’t a call on the field. It’s the Jets choosing not to add a quarterback after Aaron Rodgers tore his left Achilles tendon in Week 1.

New York turned back to Zach Wilson and didn’t even bring in a backup more experienced than Tim Boyle, who has thrown 106 passes in his career. Wilson, no surprise, has struggled.

He was 18 of 36 for 157 yards in a 15-10 loss to New England on Sunday. Wilson didn’t throw any interceptions, but he took a safety late in the game instead of throwing a short pass to an open receiver and couldn’t get the offense moving on a rainy day.

Jets coach Robert Saleh and others in the organization are trying to sell the idea that the team would’ve had a tough time early in the season even with Rodgers because it takes time to adjust to a new offensive system, new teammates and a revamped offensive line.

“He’s who gives us the best chance to win,” Saleh said of Wilson. “So that’s basically the cleanest answer I could give you.”

There are far more accomplished quarterbacks who are available. Matt Ryan is a former NFL MVP. Nick Foles was a Super Bowl MVP. Carson Wentz threw 27 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions in 2021.

The 38-year-old Ryan is calling games for CBS after a disastrous season in Indianapolis. He’s not the guy who threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 20 TDs two years ago with Atlanta, but he’s an upgrade.

Foles hasn’t had success since leaving Philadelphia, but the 34-year-old has proven he can manage a game effectively.

The 30-year-old Wentz has the most upside of all the unemployed QBs. He had a terrible, injury-plagued season in Washington last year after the Colts gave up on him because they lost two straight games to finish 9-8 and out of the playoffs in 2021. Wentz had a slow start in Indianapolis and a bad finish, but then-coach Frank Reich wanted him back.

Over a 10-game span in which the Colts went 7-3, Wentz completed 64.3% of his passes for 2,256 yards, 19 TDs, 4 picks and a 100.5 passer rating. He’s played winning football for long stretches of his career, and he’s also played poorly for extended periods, including 2020, the end of 2021 and end of 2022.

Wentz also has dealt with negative criticism from anonymous teammates that continues to haunt him. Several veteran leaders, including Jason Kelce in Philadelphia and Darius Leonard in Indianapolis, have praised Wentz, but he can’t seem to shake false narratives.

Of course, the Jets could try to trade for Cousins, Jacoby Brissett or someone else. First, they have to realize Wilson isn’t the answer.

The Jets (1-2) have playmakers on offense and a stingy defense. They’ve got a talented roster that could end the NFL’s longest playoff drought but they need a capable QB.

TOP PHOTO: FILE – Minnesota Vikings players’ helmets stand in line along the sidelines for the first day of the NFL football team’s training camp Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in Eagan, Minn. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

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