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.
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.
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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.