OAKLAND – Winning is hard in the NFL. Each one must be enjoyed. That was part of Jack Del Rio’s message after his Raiders beat the Chargers 34-31 Sunday at Oakland Coliseum.
Raiders defenders won’t enjoy this one much. They certainly weren’t chipper after giving up 31 points, 423 yards and a whopping 8.3 yards per play to an injury-riddled Chargers offense. Forcing four turnovers couldn’t change that.
“We’re not even close to where we’re supposed to be at,” Irvin said. “It’s bad. I’m glad we got the win but I’m not in a good mood about how it’s going.”
The biggest issue was big plays, which came in bunches. The Raiders gave up seven plays of 20-plus yards and three of 50 or more. That allowed the Chargers to keep pace in a frenetic second half where points piled up.
“(We have to) stop playing Santa Claus. Stop giving out presents,” Del Rio said. “We gave out a couple today, a couple of 50-yard passes gift wrapped and placed them under the tree. At some point we’ll stop doing that.”
The Raiders defense entered Sunday’s game dead last in yards allowed. They were particularly porous in the first two games, with over 1,000 yards permitted against New Orleans and Atlanta. The defense played better over the next few games, especially collecting well-timed turnovers.
The Raiders had four against the Chargers. Linebacker Perry Riley punched one out on San Diego’s opening drive. Then Sean Smith made an athletic interception. Karl Joseph tallied his first NFL interception. Then Stacy McGee forced another fumble that Joseph recovered.
The offense turned those acts into 13 points, a disappointing sum limited to just two field goals off turnovers in the first half. That kept the game close far too long, and put victory in the balance until the Chargers botched a field goal.
“We know everyone is capable of playing the way we need to win the game,” Sean Smith said. “For us, I feel like we should have won this game easily. With the talent we have on defense, it shouldn’t have been close. You have somebody who shouldn’t have been in the game still in the game. These hard fought games are fun, but at the same time they’re unnecessary.”
The Raiders are happy to make corrections after a win, but defender believe improvement in mandatory. Continuing this level of defensive play will eventually haunt the Raiders.
“A win is a win, they’re very hard to come by. But when you think about those yards, when you go into the details as a defense this is going to catch up to us,” Smith said. “We have some work to improve but we’ll take this win.”
Irvin agreed with that assessment. Part of his frustration stems from inconsistency. These Raiders believe they’re far better than what they’ve showed.
“You can’t have a good couple plays then give up explosive plays,” Irvin said. “Unless we fix that, everybody including myself, we’re going to continue to be an inconsistent defense with a lot of talent. Once again, I’m happy about the win, guys played their butts off, but we’re far from where we need to be at.”