Raiders

Raiders takeaways: What we learned in 26-24 Week 10 win over Chargers

Raiders takeaways: What we learned in 26-24 Week 10 win over Chargers

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OAKLAND – The Raiders didn’t have much time to prep for a huge game. That was a bummer for all involved heading into this Thursday night clash with the Chargers, but the Silver and Black found themselves with a late lead on a surging AFC West rival.

This game wasn’t necessarily well played by either team – midweek games rarely are – but it was close down the stretch.

The Raiders held a late lead but lost it, leaving them with four minutes to respond.

Respond they did. The Raiders marched right down the field to score a go-ahead touchdown and the defense was able to preserve the victory.

The Raiders beat the Chargers 26-24 in a drama-field victory in what is likely the last night game at Oakland Coliseum.

Here are three takeaways from a tense Thursday night game that went down to the wire:

More fourth-quarter magic

It’s hard to thrive needing to win a game with a last-minute fourth quarter drive. The Raiders did Sunday against Detroit, as Carr orchestrated a masterful drive to give his team a late lead that the defense made stand up.

The Raiders needed another one Thursday night, with four minutes left on the clock and mandatory action.

They were down against the Chargers and needed a touchdown to win it. A field goal wouldn’t suffice.

Quarterback Derek Carr led the offense right down field and then Josh Jacobs cashed in with a go-ahead 18-yard touchdown run.

The tension didn’t die, because Daniel Carlson missed the extra point.

The defense had to make it stand. They did and, with a bit of symmetry. Karl Joseph closed it out for a second straight week. The safety had a passed defensed to formally beat the Lions, and intercepted Philip Rivers on 4th down to shut down the Chargers' comeback attempt.

The Raiders have proven capable in the clutch several times this season, a valuable characteristic as we head down the stretch.

Raiders’ QB pressure up, run D down

The Silver and Black worked L.A.’s offensive line on passing downs. Worked ‘em. That’s definitely surprising after longstanding struggles getting after the quarterback, but Clelin Ferrell, Maxx Crosby and Benson Mayowa tormented Rivers all night and forced several errant throws.

The Chargers, however, were so effective on the ground they seemingly could’ve run every down.

That’s the opposite of what normally happens to the Raiders defense. Melvin Gordon gashed the Raiders front seven to the tune of 108 yards on 22 carries.

The Raiders also had five sacks, 10 quarterback hits and tons of pressure working against a pair of backup Chargers offensive tackles. The edge rushers were able to get after the Bolts despite being down in numbers, with Arden Key placed on injured reserve Thursday and Josh Mauro ruled out with a groin injury.

The defensive script flip could help long-term if the rookie pass rushers – Ferrell had 2.5 sacks, Crosby had half a sack -- can stay hot and build off the confidence gained in this game. The run defense should come back, especially against lesser runners, but the pass rush could use to pick it up a notch.

Penalty kill(-ers)

The Raiders had four interceptions in the first half. Only two of them counted. The other two were negated by penalty, including one nabbed by Erik Harris in the end zone when Crosby lined up offsides. The Chargers scored on the next play.

That’s an extreme example of good work negated by penalty, which happened at a shocking clip in the first half. The Raiders were flagged eight times for 77 yards in the first half alone and finished with 12 penalties for 97 yards on the night.

[RELATED: Watch Harris' pick-six vs. Chargers]

Gruden must’ve been fuming after three offsides penalties and two personal fouls on special teams in the first half, infractions all committed by rookies. Plain and simple: the Raiders should’ve had more points and the Chargers less if not for careless penalties.

This isn’t a one-game problem. The Raiders entered Thursday’s game with 640 penalty yards, the most in the NFL. That will get you beat in close games. It’s a problem the Raiders have to get fixed, especially pertaining to pre-snap and dead-ball fouls.

Raiders' Darren Waller honors Frank Smith for unlocking true potential

Raiders' Darren Waller honors Frank Smith for unlocking true potential

Darren Waller used to hate football. With a passion.

That fact contrasts with the joy exuded while playing now as an elite NFL tight end. He loved every minute of a breakout Raiders season where he had 90 catches for 1,145 yards, but he's most proud of being consistent and, for the first time in forever, being someone you can count on.

Waller has been clean and sober more than two years now. That change has brought happiness back to his life and the game he once despised.

“I hated football from high school up until I got suspended [in 2017],” Waller said. “The sport was just a means to impress people and seem cool and cover up all these voids. I thought that, if I was successful, I could be happy. It wasn’t doing the trick, so there was a huge void in me I thought I could fill with drugs and alcohol.

“It took me having a near-death experience to question the things I was doing in my life. I stepped away from the game for a bit. If it was God’s plan for me to come back to the game, it’s now clear that it was. I came back with a new perspective and started enjoying it. I was open to coaches and have relationships with these people.”

The near-death experience came from a bad batch of pills two months after his yearlong suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy while with the Baltimore Ravens, when he sat in his car fighting to stay awake while thinking he might not make it out alive. Waller went to rehab shortly after that, a life choice he considers the foundation of all the good that has come since.

Waller’s personal life improved quickly, but his career didn’t really take off until the Raiders signed him off the Ravens practice squad late in 2018 and he started working with tight ends coach Frank Smith.

Smith challenged Waller to be great, a goal achieved in a shockingly short span. Waller’s now considered among the NFL’s elite tight ends and has become a role model for so many struggling with addiction by telling his story to anyone who will listen.

Waller believes that Smith unlocked true potential by caring about the person over the player, helping him in recovery and on the football field. That’s why Waller honored Smith at this year’s Coaching Corps’ Game Changer Awards, where athletes from different Bay Area professional sports teams honor coaches special in their lives.

Waller honored Smith at a Thursday ceremony in San Francisco, which will be broadcast Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“I never had a relationship with a coach like I do with Frank,” Waller said. “I honestly text him more than I text my friends. We laugh every day at practice, but I seriously respect him as a teacher and a coach and an authority figure you can talk to as a friend. Nothing’s off limits. We can be real and honest with each other about everything. That’s so important to me, having him in my life.”

Smith values his relationship with Waller, which has grown over their two years working together.

“He’s an extremely intelligent person who is athletic,” Smith said. “But, if you don’t love football and give it everything you’ve got, you won’t progress. He’d be the first to tell you he wouldn’t sacrifice for the game. We weren’t seeing the best version of him. We were seeing a clouded version of himself blurred by his substance abuse. Then football was taken away, and he learned what he wanted to do.

"Now we’re seeing the full commitment, the full potential be realized.”

Smith admits that coaching Waller is different. His commitment to recovery mandates more involvement in Waller’s personal life, making sure his support system is in place. Smith took on that responsibility without hesitation, balancing his personal and professional duties while remaining an authority figure. He recognized Waller as a special case right away, that he was working with someone who could be great.

“He was humble. He was hungry to learn and hungry to work,” Smith said. “With his story, you can see every day how he cherishes life and embraces every obstacle. He never makes an excuse for anything, even with things that somebody else does. He’s the type of person who really has an effect on you, especially if you let him show you his transformative process.”

[RELATED: Carr 'looking forward' to being Raiders' QB in Vegas opener]

Waller let Smith in right away. He’s an open book about his struggles with drugs and alcohol and could tell that his position coach would help him in all aspects and stoke his passion for the game he thought he’d lost forever.

“Frank helped so much with my transition to the Raiders,” Waller said. “He has a friend that was in recovery like I am, who worked the 12-step program and went to rehab. He was able to understand me by understanding his friend. We learned a lot from each other, and he was able to welcome me in without putting too much pressure on me. But he wasn’t allowing me to be someone just happy to be there. He had me set goals, something I never did before that.

"He really opened my eyes to the fact that I could be great. I never really thought I could be great. I was too worried about all the pressure and the negative things. I never saw the game in a positive light. He helped me see that football can be so much fun if you’re not worried about things outside of what you can control.”

“Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards” presented by Levi’s airs Tuesday, January 28 at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area

NFL rumors: Chargers have 'moved on' from longtime QB Philip Rivers

NFL rumors: Chargers have 'moved on' from longtime QB Philip Rivers

For 14 seasons, the Raiders and Philip Rivers have been rivals. Rivers' first NFL start fittingly came against the Raiders in 2006, his third professional season. 

That rivalry might be done, though. The Athletic's Jay Glazer said Monday on FS1's "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" that the Los Angeles Chargers have "moved on" from Rivers. 

Rivers, 38, will become a free agent this upcoming offseason. The 16-year veteran has spent his entire career for the Chargers, but it's unknown if he will continue playing in 2020. He already has moved his large family to Florida this offseason. 

The gunslinger was the No. 4 pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. He has an 18-9 career record against the Raiders with 47 touchdown passes -- his most against any opponent -- and 22 interceptions.

[RELATED: Carr 'looking forward' to being Raiders' QB in Vegas opener]

If the Chargers do move on from Rivers, they could try to grab a QB early in the 2020 draft. The Bolts own the No. 6 pick, and our own Josh Schrock has them taking Oregon's Justin Herbert in the first round. 

As the Raiders move to Las Vegas, it could be the end of an era with their Philip Rivers rivalry.