OAKLAND – The Raiders spent the season’s first quarter finishing well, with comebacks and defensive stands a regular feature while amassing a 3-1 record.
The San Diego Chargers, by contrast, were kings of collapse. They led at the two-minute warning four times and ended up 1-3.
Sometimes trends change. On Sunday, they stayed exactly the same.
The Chargers were on the comeback trail late in this one but botched a game-tying field goal attempt. The Raiders retained their slim lead and secured a 34-31 victory at Oakland Coliseum.
Missed Raiders opportunities, especially in the first half, kept this game close. Teams with a better roster and a plus-3 turnover ratio, as the Raiders accomplished Sunday, generally win blowouts.
That wasn’t the case here.
This one hung in the balance until the end. Only a disastrous field goal attempt tilted things back in the Raiders’ direction.
They’re now 4-1. That win, in combination with a Denver loss, puts them in a first-place tie in the AFC West through five games.
The Raiders play Kansas City next week at Oakland Coliseum.
A low-scoring affair turned into an offensive showcase in the second half. San Diego scored quickly on its opening series a four-play drive sparked by a long catch-and-run by tight end Hunter Henry. Melvin Gordon finished that series with a touchdown catch.
The Raiders responded with a touchdown. The Chargers fired back with another TD, and the home team responded with a field goal.
Then the Raiders created separation. Head coach Jack Del Rio went for it on 4th-and-2 and Michael Crabtree caught a touchdown. Then the Raiders forced a three-and-out, San Diego’s punter shanked one and Jamize Olawale punched it in from a yard out to give his Raiders a 10-point lead.
The Raiders forced three turnovers in the first half, yet went into the locker room down 10-9. They failed to score touchdowns on two red-zone trips, missing opportunities to capitalize on real chances to go up big in this game.
Sebastian Janikowksi missed from 50 yards out but converted from 56 to end an awkward first half where the Raiders led most every statistical category save the total points.
The biggest disappointment came when a first quarter drive that lasted 16 plays and a full eight minutes ended outside the end zone.
Carr didn’t look right early on, yet hit Amari Cooper twice in the end zone on passes ruled incomplete with the receiver failing to get both feet in bounds.
Filling in or Murray: Latavius Murray was ruled out with a toe injury, leaving rookie runners Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington to shoulder the load. The Raiders split carries early on, and planned to go with a hot hand. They got some important plays from those guys and fullback Jamize Olawale, who had a 17-yard run.
Washington had 23 yards on nine carries, and had five receptions for 29 more yards. Richard was also a dual threat, with eight carries for 31 yards and six receptions for 66 yards.
The Raiders had 89 rushing yards in total, and missed their primary back in key moments.
Sitting it out: The Raiders were thin at a few spots, including linebacker and tight end. They had to get creative making up for Lee Smith’s absence, using offensive lineman Denver Kirkland as an eligible receiver to add heft on rushing downs.
Perry Riley Jr. started next to Cory James at linebacker over Malcolm Smith, who was active – the Raiders had more injuries than allowed on the inactive list – but not ready to play.
Vadal Alexander started his second straight game. Austin Howard was active for the first time since Week 2 but still working his way back to health. Menelik Watson and Matt McCants remain out with injury.
Latavius Murray was ruled out earlier in the week with a toe injury.
What’s next: The Raiders stay home and in the division, with a Week 6 showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Coliseum. That should be a good test of teams expecting to battle for a playoff spot.