January 16, 2018

Raiders Defeat Chargers, 34-31

Week five matched the Oakland Raiders up with the visiting San Diego Chargers.  The Chargers were coming off a 35-34 loss to the New Orleans Saints and the Raiders were coming off a 28-27 win over the Baltimore Ravens.  The Chargers won the coin flip and deferred to the second half.  Kicker Josh Lambo sent the opening kickoff through the end zone and the Raiders started at their 25-yard line.  On second and ten from the 39, quarterback Derek Carr attempted to throw a screen pass to running back DeAndre Washington and the ball was picked off by defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.  He was brought down at the 30-yard line.

With very good field position, quarterback Philip Rivers and his offense looked to capitalize on the turnover.  On third and two from the 22, Rivers completed a pass across the middle to tight end Antonio Gates.  He was hit by linebacker Perry Riley and the ball fell to the ground.  Safety Reggie Nelson recovered it and the Raiders got the ball back at their 11-yard line.

On third and ten, Carr completed an 11-yard pass to wide receiver Amari Cooper.  Three plays later, Carr looked for Cooper again and he caught the pass for a gain of 26 yards and a first down at the San Diego 45-yard line.  Then, Carr was sacked for a loss of one yard and right guard Gabe Jackson was flagged for holding.  That moved the Raiders back to their 44.  From the 44, Carr tossed a short pass to running back Jalen Richard and he took it down to the San Diego 34 for a first down.  A couple of carries by Richard and completions to Washington and wide receiver Michael Crabtree put the Raiders at the three-yard line.  On third down from the two, Carr floated a pass for Cooper in the end zone.  He caught it, but failed to get both feet in bounds.  Kicker Sebastian Janikowski came into the game and his 20-yard field goal attempt was good.  With four minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Raiders led 3-0.

On the first play of their next possession, Rivers went deep down the middle for wide receiver Travis Benjamin and the ball was picked off by cornerback Sean Smith.  He returned the ball to the San Diego 32-yard line and the Raiders looked to capitalize.  But two false starts and some pretty conservative play calling got them nowhere.  To top it off, Janikowski missed a 50-yard field goal attempt.  In other words, opportunity knocked and the Raiders failed to answer.

The Chargers took over at their 40-yard line.  Completions to Benjamin and wide receiver Dontrelle Inman moved them to midfield.  A neutral zone infraction on the Raiders gave them five more yards.  Three carries by running back Melvin Gordon and a completion to Gates put the ball at the 29.  From there, Rivers went deep for wide receiver Tyrell Williams and he hauled it in for a touchdown.  Lambo made the point after and the Chargers led 7-3 with 13:07 to go in the first half.

The Raiders took over at their 25.  Completions to Cooper, Washington and a 17-yard run by fullback Jamize Olawale quickly put them at the 50.  Another pass to Cooper and some more running by Richard gave the Raiders a first down at the eight-yard line.  But once again, they couldn’t get the ball into the end zone.  Janikowski came on and his 26-yard field goal attempt was good.  With 7:13 remaining in the first half, the Chargers led 7-6.

Another deep kickoff meant the Chargers would start at their 25 again.  A false start moved them back five yards.  From the 20, Rivers looked for Benjamin and he made the catch and ran up the right sideline for a gain of 54 yards and a first down at the Oakland 26-yard line.  But the drive would stall at the 18 and Lambo had no problem making his 36-yard field goal attempt.  With 4:24 remaining, the Chargers led 10-6.

The Raiders punted on their next possession and the Chargers would try to put one more scoring drive together before the half ended.  On third and 16 from the 18, Rivers launched a deep bomb for no one in particular and the pass was picked off by rookie safety Karl Joseph.  He returned the ball to the San Diego 44-yard line and now the Raiders had a shot to score before halftime.  But Carr was sacked by rookie defensive end Joey Bosa for a loss of 12 yards on first down.  But two passes to Richard gained 18 yards and with two seconds to go, the Polish Cannon was brought into the game for a 56-yard attempt.  He blasted the ball through the uprights and at halftime, the Chargers led 10-9.

The Chargers started the second half from their 25 and on first down, Rivers was sacked by defensive end Stacy McGee.  The ball came loose and rolled to the left side of the field.  The Chargers were able to recover it and they would make the Raiders pay for not recovering that fumble.  From the 20, Rivers completed a pass to tight end Hunter Henry.  As he was running down the field, I was wondering where the Raiders were.  There wasn’t a black jersey in sight!  Smith finally pushed him out of bounds at the Oakland 21-yard line.  Two plays later, the Chargers executed a perfect screen pass to Gordon and he took it into the end zone untouched.  Lambo made the point after and the Chargers led 17-9 with 12:31 remaining in the third quarter.

The Raiders took over at the 25 and on third and ten, Carr completed an 11-yard pass to Crabtree.  Two plays later, he went deep for Cooper up the left side.  Cooper caught the ball in stride and took it all the way for a 64-yard touchdown.  Janikowski made the point after and the Chargers led 17-16 with 11:25 to go in the third quarter.

Return man Dexter McCluster returned the ensuing kickoff to the 25 and Rivers decided to go deep down the middle again.  Despite there being two defenders in the area, Williams made the catch at the Oakland 25-yard line.  From there, Gordon ran up the right side and was brought down at the one-yard line.  From the one, Rivers found Henry in the end zone for an easy touchdown.  Lambo made the point after and the Chargers led 24-16 with 5:29 to go in the third quarter.  All those deep passes made this game resemble a shootout from the good old days.

Another kickoff through the end zone put the Raiders at their 25-yard line again.  A completion to wide receiver Seth Roberts and some solid running by Washington moved the Raiders into San Diego territory again.  But on third and eight from the 32, Carr opted to throw a short pass to Olawale and it was good for only two yards.  That meant they had to call on the kicker again.  Janikowski had no trouble making his 48-yard attempt and the Chargers led 24-19 with 4:41 to go in the third quarter.

On first down from the 25, Gordon ran up the middle.  If Nelson hadn’t been there to trip him up, he most likely would have scored on a 75-yard touchdown run.  Instead, he only picked up nine yards.  Gordon got the call again on second down and he was hit by McGee.  The ball came loose and Joseph pounced on it at the 38-yard line.  That was the break the Raiders needed and on second and six from the 34, Carr scrambled for six yards and a first down at the 28.  Three plays gained seven yards and head coach Jack Del Rio opted to go for it on fourth and three instead of kicking another field goal.  As the play clock went down to single digits, it looked like Carr was going to try and draw the Chargers offside.  But he took the snap and floated a pass up the right side that was hauled in by Crabtree for a touchdown.  Now THAT was a gutsy call! I was very impressed.  They decided to go for two and Carr found Cooper in the end zone for a successful two-point conversion.  With 1:09 to go, the Raiders led 27-24.

With six seconds to go in the third quarter, the Raiders finally forced the Chargers to punt.  I was wondering if that was ever going to happen.  Fortune smiled on the Raiders as rookie punter Drew Kaser shanked the punt out of bounds.  It only went 16 yards and the Raiders got the ball back at the San Diego 32-yard line.  Richard got the drive off to a good start with an 11-yard run.  Washington ran up the right side for six yards and wide receiver Andre Holmes made a nice catch on the left sideline for a gain of eight and a first down at the seven-yard line.  From the seven, Carr fired a strike that was caught by Cooper for an apparent touchdown.  After a lengthy zebra convention, the Chargers were flagged for pass interference and the ball was moved to the one-yard line.  Olawale capped the drive off with a one-yard touchdown run.  Janikowksi made the point after and with 12:46 to go in the game, the Raiders led 34-24.

Now that they had a ten-point lead, I was really hoping the Raiders could forced another turnover and put this game away.  That didn’t happen.  From the 25, the Chargers went to work.  Passes to Benjamin and Henry moved the ball to the 49.  A pass to Gates and a short run by Watt netted a first down at the Oakland 40-yard line.  Another catch by Benjamin and some more running by Gordon set up a first and goal at the seven.  Two plays later, Rivers tossed a short pass to the left and Gates hauled it in for a touchdown.  Lambo made the point after and the Raiders led 34-31 with 6:21 to go in the game.

All the Raiders needed to do was get some first downs and eat some time off the clock.  But the Chargers had other ideas and they forced the Raiders to punt after just three plays.  Marquette King punted and the Chargers would take over at their 33-yard line.  Passes to Benjamin and Williams moved the Chargers to the Oakland 27-yard line.  From the 27, Rivers found Benjamin for a gain of eight yards.  On third and two, Gordon got the call again and despite what the blind announcers said, he was brought down short of the first down marker.  Lambo came into the game for what looked to be a pretty easy field goal attempt to tie the game.  The snap looked good, but Kaser couldn’t hang on to it and the ball slipped through his hands.  It was recovered at the 35 and with two minutes to go, all the Raiders had to do was get one first down and the game would be over.

But that didn’t happen.  Three plays gained two yards.  With 20 seconds to go, King got off a high 51-yard punt and McCluster returned it to the 21.  With 11 seconds to go, the Chargers needed a miracle.  Rivers completed a pass across the middle to Benjamin and he tried to lateral it back to another receiver.  But the ball rolled out of bounds and just like that, the game was over and the Raiders came away with a 34-31 victory.  That win gave them a 4-1 record and they are tied for first place in the AFC West with the Denver Broncos.  It was another heart-breaker for the Chargers and they fell to 1-4.

For the Chargers, Philip Rivers completed 21 of 30 for 359 yards, four touchdown passes and two interceptions.  Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin combined for 12 receptions and 234 yards.  Williams also had a touchdown.  On the ground, Melvin Gordon gained 69 yards on 16 carries and caught one touchdown pass.  As a team, the Chargers rushed for 72 yards on 19 carries. Defensively, cornerback Casey Hayward led the team in solo tackles with eight.

For the Raiders, Derek Carr completed 25 of 40 for 317 yards, two touchdown passes and one interception.  Amari Cooper and Jalen Richard led the team in receptions with six apiece.  Cooper had the most receiving yards with 138 and a touchdown.  Richard was the leading rusher with 31 yards on eight carries.  All totaled, the Raiders rushed for 89 yards on 25 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Perry Riley led the team in solo tackles with six and also forced a fumble.  Not bad for a guy they just picked up off of waivers on Tuesday.  Stacy McGee also had a good game with 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

Well, it certainly wasn’t pretty.  The Raider defense gave up lots of big plays and didn’t put much pressure on Rivers.  But they did force four turnovers.  Also, there was a lot of holding by the Chargers.  But the zebras didn’t seem to notice and they were never flagged for holding.  Speaking of flags, the Raiders were flagged only six times for 36 yards.  That’s a nice improvement from last week.  Up next is a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs.  They are coming off a bye week and they’ll be ready for the Raiders.  Until then, take it easy.

The Raider Guy

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