Oakland, CA – When you win, you’re rewarded, even if it’s for a short time. While there’s plenty of room for improvement. The Raiders accomplished something that’s been hard to do in the past and that’s share the spotlight.
They tied the Denver Broncos for first place in the AFC West with a 34-31 win over the San Diego Chargers. Now, 4-1 Oakland moves into first along with the Broncos who lost to the Atlanta Falcons today. Despite the ugly win, Oakland scored three touchdowns in the second half.
“Alright, a little Wild West out there today,” said head coach Jack Del Rio. “A couple of AFC West teams going at. That’s what the idea is, come out of here with a smile on your face and celebrate being tied for first after five weeks. We’re happy with that.”
Not the best offensive start for Derek Carr and his offense. Carr threw an interception on the second series and failed to convert off three turnovers by the Chargers in the first half. Sebastian Janikowski kicked three field goals, missing one from 50 yards. Amari Cooper had two opportunities for two touchdowns but failed to drag both feet into the end zone.
“It was frustrating because it was little things,” Carr said in reference to the slow start. “The interception- they were holding our running back, on a screen, so I threw it at the running back, hoping to get the call. It was just bad. I told the guys; hey it’s my fault that we started this slow. I’ll pick it up. We’re fine. I’m fine. Let’s just win this game.”
Philip Rivers threw two interceptions in the first half but managed to connect with Ty Williams for a 29-yard touchdown. That was only touchdown scored in the first half. San Diego’s defense did a good job of keeping the Raiders out of the end zone forcing Janikowski to kick three times before halftime.
After Rivers fumbled on opening drive to start the third, the Chargers bounced back quickly when Rivers found Hunter Henry for a 59-yard pass. That setup Rivers pass to Melvin Gordon for an 18-yard touchdown making it a 17-6 game. But don’t count the Raiders out yet. Carr finally connected with Cooper after multiple incomplete passes for a 64-yard touchdown trimming the led by one.
“The difference is defense,” Khalil Mack said. “We can’t have too many of these games coming down to the wire so we got to learn from these games and continue to get better. We had a few turnovers in there. Karl [Joseph] turnover there was big. There are some things though that we got to finish coming down the stretch.”
The penalties were endless and continues to be the biggest problem for Oakland. David Amerson got called for a holding penalty that setup Henry’s 1-yard touchdown pass from Rivers extending the Chargers lead 24-16. Unable to get into the end zone, the Raiders settled for Janikowski’s 48-yard field goal.
Another turnover by San Diego late in the third led to a touchdown and two-point conversion for Oakland. Gordon fumbled the ball and Karl Joseph recovered. That setup Carr’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. The Raiders wanted to extend their lead and went for the two-point conversion making it a 27-24 game.
“I thought right foot, left foot and a catch,” said Rio. “There was a pass interference or an illegal contact, whichever way…Whether the ball’s in the air or not, I couldn’t judge that from my angle. He was definitely in the pocket. It was definitely an illegal contact of some sort. I thought he did re-establish himself, therefore it would be a touchdown.”
Carr’s short pass to Cooper in the end zone led to a long discussion among the refs early in the fourth. It appeared Cooper was pushed out of bounds, his foot stepping on the line, led to a flag. That call was ruled as a defensive pass interference. Oakland challenged the call and it was then ruled an incomplete pass.
The Raiders were still in good position and celebrated with a 1-yard touchdown from Jamize Olawale extending Oakland’s lead 34-24. The Chargers responded with a 4-yard touchdown from Antonio Gates to keep it competitive. Being down by 3 points, San Diego knew they had a chance to tie the game with 1:39 left in the game. But a bobbled snap ended their hopes and Oakland got the victory.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” Rivers said. “You think, ‘Is there any way we can find a way to do this’? Obviously it wasn’t going to win us the game, but it was going to get us right there and who knows. We may have it right back there again or we go to overtime.”
The Raiders faired well in their first division game, they will host the Kansas City Chiefs next weekend at home. In the end, Oakland didn’t have to do anything but run the ball and the clock. The Chargers fumble on a field goal attempt was the nail in their coffin. The win was great but there’s another divisional game to focus on. Unlike the Bolts being 1-4, the Chiefs looks to be a more competitive game.
“It’s nice, but the road still goes through Denver,” said Carr. “They are the Super Bowl champs, division champs. We’ve earned absolutely nothing yet. We’ve earned four wins in five games, which is a great feeling. It feels very nice, trust me, don’t twist that, it feels really nice, but we haven’t done anything yet.”