Chargers GM Tom Telesco: Fourth-down confidence built on 'level of trust'

Stopping the Los Angeles Chargers offense on third down is difficult enough, but downright demoralizing when doing so merely precedes a fourth-down conversion -- something the AFC West leaders are quickly becoming known for.

That fourth-down success is built largely on a level of trust, according to Chargers general manager Tom Telesco, that permeates from the front office, to the sideline, to the field, and ultimately past the first-down marker. 

"I mean, everybody's talking about these fourth downs we're going for. It's been aggressive, but not reckless. But a lot of that is the trust between Brandon, the coaches and the players," Telesco told the Pat McAfee Show on Tuesday. "Trusting the offense that we can convert on those, and then trusting the defense if we don't convert because we're not gonna convert 80 percent of fourth downs throughout the course of the year. That just isn't gonna happen."

So far, it's happened at an even better clip than that. The Chargers have converted 7 of 8 fourth downs this season for a rate of 87.5 percent – third-best in the NFL behind the Arizona Cardinals (3 for 3) and Denver Broncos (8 for 9). Central to the Chargers' fourth-down success, coach Brandon Staley recently told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, is the team's faith in both star quarterback Justin Herbert, and an analytics team that prepares coaches with detailed risk assessment of various fourth-down opportunities.

"In all those fourth-down situations, they all had a life of their own," Staley said. "That needs to be expressed. Just because you make one, doesn't mean you are playing with house money and are more likely to go with it. You treat each as its own, but we've done a good job of assessing risk."

In five games, the Chargers (4-1) have piled up 124 first downs, 142 points, and an average of 411 yards per game -- more than enough to continue stacking wins. And extending drives with fourth-down conversions has been a big part of it.

"You continue to grow week-to-week with this team and, like I said, it's a huge trust factor right now between the staff and the players and it's leading to wins right now," Telesco added. "But we got a long way to go."

The Chargers play at Baltimore this Sunday, and the Ravens' fourth-down defense has been tested just twice all season (1 for 2), tied for the NFL-low. Expect that sample to grow on Sunday.

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