OAKLAND – The Raiders won their second tense close contest in five days, showing great poise under pressure while surging into the thick of the playoff chase with a 26-24 win over the Chargers on Thursday night.
The Raiders are typically reliant on a steady ground game to control games, but their beleaguered defense came through in a big way with quarterback pressure and key takeaways.
Winning a different way showed impressive in-game resilience, a quality vital to a team trying to secure a playoff spot.
Nobody wants to talk about the postseason right now and rightfully so, focusing instead on another job well done. The Raiders found a way to win a pressure-packed affair against a division rival. That’s what mattered most on Thursday night as the Silver and Black won their second straight game and moved to 5-4 as we move into the season’s second half.
Here’s how the team graded out in our Week 10 Raiders report card:
The Raiders posted their lowest rushing total of the year on Thursday night, with 78 yards on 21 carries. That number was inflated by a game-winning 18-yard touchdown run by Josh Jacobs, who was averaging just 3.0 yards per carry before that. Jacobs and the typically reliable rushing operation fell on some hard times against a tough Chargers defensive front intent to make Derek Carr beat them through the air.
It wasn’t a great effort, with some odd play calls – DeAndre Washington’s shotgun run on 3rd-and-short was baffling – but the ground game came through when it mattered most.
Rodney Hudson and Alex Ingold sealed off the one side, Richie Incognito locked down the left and Jacobs ran to the end zone untouched to set victory in motion. Still, it wasn’t a great day overall for what’s typically a team strength.
The Chargers pass rush is hard to handle, and Raiders had some setbacks in protection. Carr was sacked three times but did well to evade other pressure and make plays on the run. Carr’s numbers were OK for tough sledding, completing 21 of 31 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown to Ingold.
The most important stat: Zero interceptions for a third straight game. Taking care of the football is vital in close games, and Carr has done an excellent job of that.
The Raiders run defense is typically solid, but Melvin Gordon gave them fits. The feature back had 108 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, frequently spinning out of tackles near the line of scrimmage. It seemed like the Chargers could’ve been successful running every time, but kept the offense balanced despite that.
Scat back Austin Ekeler was just OK on the ground, with six carries for 19 yards. The Raiders only had a seven-man rotation up front and are always thin at linebacker, but they’d say they should’ve done better, even against a talented back like Gordon.
We all know Erik Harris gets a game ball. He had two interceptions and another negated by penalty that had no impact on the play. Karl Joseph had a pick to seal it, and another lost to a flag. This wasn’t all about the secondary, however.
The Raiders pass rush was ferocious behind rookies Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby and veteran situational pass rusher Benson Mayowa. The Raiders sacked Philip Rivers five times, hit him five more times and forced him into game-changing mistakes. The pass defense normally gets poor marks. Not so on Thursday night. That group was awesome in both rush and coverage.
Case in point: The Chargers threw the ball eight times with a minute left, needing just a field goal to win it. They completed zero passes and gained zero yards. The Raiders certainly hope Joseph and Lamarcus Joyner recover quickly from injuries suffered in this game.
Daniel Carlson missed an extra point after the Raiders went ahead with a minute left. The mistake meant the Chargers could’ve won it with a field goal. That huge mistake could’ve cost the Raiders the game. He’s lucky it didn’t.
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These Raiders are tough. They faced adversity from a quality opponent and never folded. They gave up a late lead, snatched it right back with Derek Carr’s 18th fourth-quarter comeback and the defense made it stand. They won outside their comfort zone, which might be the most impressive part of this whole affair.
That’s a credit to veteran leadership and excellent coaching. Jon Gruden and Paul Guenther did excellent work creating a game plan and adjusting to what didn’t work. That kept these Raiders right in the playoff hunt.