The Los Angeles Chargers and the Oakland Raiders faced off in Oakland on Thursday, Nov. 7, for an AFC West contest that went down to the wire. The Raiders defense balled out with one of their best performances of the year against a struggling Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, with the defensive effort putting the Raiders on top by a final score of 26-24.
Oakland defensive coordinator Paul Guenther seemingly sent the house at Rivers all night, with the Raiders’ front seven bullying the Chargers’ offensive line throughout the contest. The constant pressure of Rivers forced an errant ball out of his hands, and the Raiders’ strong safety Erik Harris capitalized, picking off the pass and giving quarterback Derek Carr and Raiders offense the ball at the Chargers’ 31-yard line. Following several failed attempts at running the ball up the gut with rookie running back Josh Jacobs, and with Carr being taken down by defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, head coach Jon Gruden elected to take the easy field goal. Gruden sent out his kicker, Daniel Carlson, who made quick work of the 40-yard attempt.
With Guenther not easing up, and the Chargers’ offensive line continuing to get overwhelmed, Rivers stood tall in the pocket, delivering three consecutive strikes to move the chains and the Chargers offense down the field. When Rivers had found his rhythm, he seemingly lost it again. On his fourth pass attempt of the drive, he threw another errant pass, and Harris, the ballhawk once again, came down with the interception. In his first five attempts, Rivers had five completions: three to Chargers players and two to Harris. Harris wasn’t going to give the spotlight to Carr and the offense though and proceeded to run the ball 56 yards back to the house, giving the Raiders an early 10-0 lead.
At the end of the first quarter, the Chargers offense finally pulled it together, putting together a 77-yard drive resulting in a touchdown. Carrying the load for the Chargers is the exceptional running back committee of starter Melvin Gordon and scatback Austin Ekeler. The drive was finished with a 2-yard flick from Rivers to tight end Hunter Henry, bringing the score to 10-7.
With Bosa and Ingram giving Carr trouble, the Chargers forced another punt, and their offense quickly drove the ball down the field. Gordon continued to carry the load, scampering through the Raiders front seven, forcing safeties and cornerbacks to take him down. As Los Angeles entered Oakland’s red zone for the second time, Gordon’s number was called and he punched in a 3-yard touchdown up the gut, giving Los Angeles a 14-10 lead.
Oakland, seemingly red hot following the two interceptions and easy points, fizzled out completely until midway through the second quarter. Carr orchestrated a 10 play, 76-yard drive finishing in the endzone. Jacobs had multiple 10 and higher yard runs to assist in the drive, and Carr continued to spread the ball to a wide variety of receivers. Undrafted free agent wide receiver Alec Ingold ended the drive with a 9-yard touchdown reception, which ultimately ended the first half.
The Raiders received the ball to start the second half and tried to increase their 17-14 lead to make it a two-score game. Tight end Darren Waller hauled in a 27-yard catch from Carr on the sideline, giving Oakland great field position. Following Jacobs being stuffed in the backfield and Carr being sacked, Gruden was forced to send out his field goal unit once more. Carlson punched in the 22-yard field goal, giving the Raiders a 20-14 lead.
After both teams struggled to get their offense rolling for multiple drives, eating up the majority of the third quarter, the Chargers starting putting together something promising with three minutes to go. On the first play, Rivers had plenty of time in the pocket with Gordon staying in the backfield to assist in blocking, and uncorked a dime between the hashes to wide receiver Mike Williams for a 45-yard completion to set up the Chargers in Raiders territory. On the very next play, Gordon continued the momentum, barreling through the Raiders for a 24-yard run, putting the Chargers into the red zone. All season, the Raiders defense has been incredible at bending but not breaking and continued to do so in this game by stuffing the Chargers offense in the red zone. Head coach Anthony Lynn was forced to send out his field goal unit, and kicker Michael Badgley nailed the chipshot, 27-yard field goal to cut the deficit to three.
The Chargers forced a punt and sent their offense back out to try and take their first lead since the first quarter. When Los Angeles has their back against the wall on offense, Rivers often turns to perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen. Allen caught a 29-yard pass and a 26-yard pass on back to back plays, setting the Chargers up deep in Raiders territory. Once in the red zone, the Chargers forced the run with both running backs, getting to the Raiders 6-yard line. On third-and-goal, Ekeler managed to sneak through the zone coverage and Rivers found him for a 6-yard passing touchdown, putting the Chargers up 24-20.
As time was running short, past the halfway point in the fourth quarter, the Raiders sent out the offense for what could be their last drive of the game. Running back Jalen Richards had multiple relevant carries and Carr made quick work of the Chargers’ secondary. In the red zone, the Chargers sent an all-out blitz at Carr, but the Raiders’ signal-caller had handed the ball off to Jacobs, who would break through the oncoming blitz for an 18-yard rushing touchdown. Carlson then missed the extra point attempt, making the lead only 26-24, and giving the Chargers the chance to retake the lead with just a field goal.
Rivers and his offense marched back onto the field, and the miscues were abundant. Multiple passes thrown by Rivers were dropped by his receivers, and the final blow came on a deep ball from Rivers to Allen that was intercepted by Oakland safety Karl Joseph. The pick by Joseph brought an end to an exciting contest and puts the Raiders in the driver’s seat for a potential wild card spot, while the Chargers fall to third in their division. With quarterback Patrick Mahomes returning for Kansas City and Oakland holding the tiebreaker and being No. 2 in the division, Los Angeles may be ready to throw in the towel and aim for next year.