An unusual and chaotic scene played out Sunday afternoon in the final seconds of the Los Angeles Chargers’ 28-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings had converted a fourth down to the Chargers’ 6-yard line with 35 seconds remaining. They had no timeouts, but instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock, they attempted to line up and quick-snap the Chargers, hoping to score the winning touchdown before the defense was fully set.
There was one problem. The crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium was so loud that quarterback Kirk Cousins couldn’t hear coach Kevin O’Connell’s playcall, both Cousins and O’Connell said afterward.
Cousins spent a whole 23 seconds trying to understand O’Connell before deciding to simply make a play decision on his own. It came to an end when Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. intercepted a tipped pass intended for tight end T.J. Hockenson to end the game with seven seconds remaining.
“Just couldn’t hear him with the noise,” Cousins said. “Just ended up calling a play, and the play I called was the same play he was trying to get to.”
When the defense is on the field, NFL teams encourage the audience to be loud, and when they are on offense, they encourage the fans to be quiet. After the Vikings converted on fourth down, the 66,878-person crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium became animated, and many cheered for them to spike the ball to increase the amount of opportunities they would have to score from the 6-yard line.
“Sometimes that happens,” O’Connell said of the home crowd fan noise. “It’s not always noticed when we’re in a normal two-minute mode.”
O’Connell made it clear that he didn’t believe that the play’s execution was affected by the passing time. He conceded, though, that spiking the ball would have been a wiser choice given the way the situation turned out.
Theoretically, Cousins asserted, he could have made the decision to spike the ball by himself. He claimed, though, that he makes an effort “not to make a habit of” making such arbitrary decisions during games.
A 30-yard pass from quarterback Justin Herbert that tipped off Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans’ hands and into those of receiver Joshua Palmer was one of many plays that went the Chargers’ way on Sunday. This score ended up being the game-winning score. However, the Vikings dominated those circumstances in 2022, winning 11 games by a single margin. In 2023, they have played three games with a single score and lost each one.