For their 14th game of the year, the Oakland Raiders headed south to San Diego to take on the Chargers. San Diego is also known as “Oakland South.” That’s because half the crowd is usually made up of Raider fans. Well, it was a lot more than half this time. I’d say it was about 75 percent Raider fans. The Raiders were coming off a 21-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chargers were coming off a 28-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
The Raiders won the toss and deferred to the second half. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski kicked the game off and return man Isaiah Burse was brought down at the 18-yard line. Filling in for injured running back Melvin Gordon was rookie Kenneth Farrow. He got the call on first down and gained six yards. That was followed by a 20-yard pass from quarterback Philip Rivers to tight end Hunter Henry. Another carry by Farrow and two passes to wide receiver Dontrelle Inman gave the Chargers a first down at the Oakland 49. On third and eight from the 47, Rivers went deep for wide receiver Travis Benjamin and he caught it for an easy touchdown. It was easy because Benjamin burned cornerback T.J. Carrie badly and he was wide open. Kicker Josh Lambo made the point after and the Chargers led 7-0 with 10:32 to go in the first quarter.
Return man DeAndre Washington returned the kickoff to the 29. Quarterback Derek Carr led the offense onto the field and due to an injured pinky, Carr still had to work exclusively from the shotgun and pistol formations. This drive got off to a good start as Carr connected with wide receiver Michael Crabtree for a gain of eight yards on first down. Carries by Washington and running back Latavius Murray moved the Raiders into San Diego territory. On third and eight from the 44, Carr went deep for tight end Mychal Rivera and he made the catch for a gain of 29 yards. But the drive would stall at the 27. Janikowski came on and his 45-yard field goal attempt was good. With 4:53 to go in the first quarter, the Chargers led 7-3.
The Chargers went three and out on their next possession and the Raiders took over at the San Diego 48-yard line. That was due in large part to a facemask penalty on the punt return by former Raider Kamari Toomer. A neutral zone infraction on defensive end Joey Bosa and two carries by running back Jalen Richard moved the Raiders to the 14. Then disaster struck. Murray ran up the middle and while he was trying to push the pile for some extra yardage, he fumbled and the Chargers recovered the ball at the nine-yard line.
But the Raider defense forced another punt. Drew Kaser punted and the Raiders looked to take the lead on this possession. From the 37, Murray ran up the middle for four yards. Washington got another carry and that was good for 11 yards. Wide receiver Amari Cooper finally had a ball thrown his way and he caught it for a gain of 28 yards and a first down at the San Diego 20-yard line. Three plays later, Carr looked for wide receiver Seth Roberts and the ball was picked off at the three by cornerback Trovon Reed. That was truly a horrible pass by Carr.
But the Raider defense forced the Chargers to punt again. The Raiders had good field position, but they still couldn’t yank their heads out of their asses and Marquette King punted again. The ball landed in the end zone and the Chargers took over at their 20-yard line. An 11-yard pass to tight end Antonio Gates and carries by Farrow and running back Ronnie Hillman had the Chargers moving into Oakland territory. On third and seven from the Oakland 31, Rivers found Benjamin near the right sideline wide open for a gain of nine yards. But this drive would stall at the 17 and Lambo came into the game for a 35-yard field goal attempt. It was good and the Chargers went up 10-3 with 1:29 to go in the second quarter.
With little time to go in the half, the Chargers expected the Raiders to pass on every down. To tell you the truth, I thought they would definitely be passing. Instead, Richard got a carry on first down that was good for nine yards. Then Murray ran up the middle for a gain of 33 yards. That was followed by a 12-yard run by Washington. Three running plays moved the Raiders to the San Diego 21-yard line. On third and seven from the 18, Carr threw for tight end Clive Walford and the pass was incomplete. But there was a flag on the play. Safety Dwight Lowery was flagged for defensive holding. That gave the Raiders a first down at the 13. From there, Carr lofted a high pass for Crabtree. It was originally ruled to be incomplete, but replay showed Crabtree caught the ball and had both feet in bounds. Janikowski made the point after and at halftime, the score was tied 10-10.
Things got off to a nice start for the Raiders as Lambo kicked the ball out of bounds. Starting at the 40, Carr took to the air. Catches by Crabtree and Walford netted a first down at the San Diego 41-yard line. A false start penalty moved them back five yards. Carr looked for wide receiver Andre Holmes and found him for a gain of 23 yards and a first down at the 23. On third and two from the 15, Carr tossed a short pass to Crabtree and he dropped it. The Chargers weren’t keeping the Raiders out of the end zone. The Raiders were keeping themselves out of the end zone. Janikowski came into the game and his 33-yard field goal attempt was good. With 10:48 to go in the third quarter, the Raiders led 13-10.
Burse returned the kick to the 23-yard line. On first down, Rivers connected with Inman for a gain of 21 yards. A short gain by Farrow and another pass to Inman put the ball at the Oakland 44-yard line. An 11-yard pass to wide receiver Tyrell Williams and another deep ball to Inman moved the Chargers to the seven. From there, Rivers fired a strike into the end zone that was caught by Henry for a touchdown. But the extra point was no good. With 6:14 to go in the third quarter, the Chargers led 16-13.
The teams traded punts for a while and with 13:54 to go in the game, the Chargers got the ball back at their five-yard line. Three runs by Farrow moved the ball to the 16. From there, Farrow ran up the middle and he was hit by linebacker Perry Riley. The ball was jarred loose and recovered by linebacker Malcolm Smith at the 14. Now this was a great chance for the Raiders to take the lead. On first down, Carr tossed a screen pass to fullback Jamize Olawale and he took it down to the one. Two carries by Murray and a pass for Walford went nowhere. Three plays gained zero yards and Janikowski had no trouble making a 19-yard field goal attempt. That tied the game at 16-16. But I was not happy. The defense gave the offense a golden opportunity to take the lead and they failed miserably. All they needed was one freaking yard!!!! It was very similar to what happened in the game at Kansas City.
The defense forced the Chargers to punt once again. That was due in large part to cornerback David Amerson. On third and two from the 33, Rivers completed a pass to Williams. Before he could turn to head up-field, Amerson hit him with a beautiful flying tackle to hold him to a gain of one yard. The punt went through the end zone and the Raiders took over at their 20-yard line. From the 20, Murray got loose again. This time it was for a gain of 27 yards. From the 47, Carr connected with Roberts for a gain of 22 yards. On third and eight from the 29, the Chargers brought a heavy blitz and forced Carr out of the pocket. He ran up the right sideline and appeared to get a first down. However, the zebras didn’t see it that way and marked the ball short of the marker. Head coach Jack Del Rio challenged the spot and the play was reversed. That gave the Raiders a first down at the 21. On third and eight from the 19, Carr was sacked for a loss of seven yards by linebacker Melvin Ingram. That meant it was up to Janikowski. He snuck the ball inside the left upright and the Raiders led 19-16 with 2:40 to go in the game.
Janikowski didn’t blast the ball through the end zone on the ensuing kickoff. Instead, the kick was fielded at the five by return man Geremy Davis and he was brought down at the 14-yard line. Rivers looked for Benjamin on first down and the pass was incomplete. The Raiders brought some pressure on second down and Rivers was sacked by linebacker Bruce Irvin for a loss of five yards. It was more of the same on the next play. The pressure from the defense forced another incomplete pass. That brought up fourth and 15. The crowd was loud and going crazy and I felt like I was watching a game at Oakland Coliseum. Rivers took the snap, felt immediate pressure and threw a deep pass intended for Inman. The pass was picked off by safety Reggie Nelson. That sealed the deal and the Raiders came away with a hard fought 19-16 win. The win improved their record to 11-3 and the Chargers fell to 5-9. This win also got the Raiders into the playoffs. For the first time since 2002, the Raiders would be in the playoffs! Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Nope. I’m not kidding.
For the Raiders, Derek Carr completed 19 of 30 for 213 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Michael Crabtree led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 60 and a touchdown. The ground game was running on all cylinders and Latavius Murray led the way with 81 yards on 13 carries. As a team, the Raiders rushed for 145 yards on 29 carries. Defensively, David Amerson led the team in solo tackles with six. He made the play of the game when he stopped Williams short of a first down in the fourth quarter. Bruce Irvin also had a solid game with five solo tackles, two sacks and two tackles for a loss.
For the Chargers, Philip Rivers completed 17 of 30 for 206 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Dontrelle Inman led the team in receptions with with five and receiving yards with 68. There wasn’t a whole lot of room for the Chargers to run in this game. All totaled, they rushed for just 73 yards on 22 carries. Kenneth Farrow had the most yards with 39 on 15 carries. He also lost a fumble deep in San Diego territory. Defensively, safety Jahleel Addae led the team in solo tackles with eight.
After the game, the Chargers looked in disbelief. I don’t think it was because they lost another close game. I think it was because the crowd was full of Raider fans. Rivers had to use a silent count due to the crowd noise. How many teams have to do that at home? This may be the last time the Raiders play the Chargers in San Diego. It really looks like they’ll be moving to Los Angeles.
Am I happy that the Raiders made it to the playoffs? You bet I am. But they have a lot of work to do. They can’t be turning the ball over in the red zone. They also need to find a way to get the ball into the end zone. Getting stuffed from one yard out is totally unacceptable. Also, where is Amari Cooper? He has been practically invisible the last two games. Hopefully Carr can start taking snaps from under center in the next game. Speaking of that, the Colts will be coming to Oakland next week. They are coming off a big win over the Vikings and are still in the playoff hunt. They’ll be ready for the Raiders. Until then, take it easy.
Merry Christmas from The Raider Guy