This game against the San Diego Chargers for the Oakland Raiders was a thing of beauty, at least 3 quarters of the game was anyway. The game ended up being closer in score than it was in reality after the Chargers managed a sizeable comeback during garbage time, but the Raiders had done enough to hit cruise control and still win in the 4th quarter.
The Raiders led 30-6 at halftime, and 37-6 after their first drive of the 2nd half. They scored on every possession that they had the ball at that point, all 6 possessions of the first half and their 1st possession of the 2nd half for 7 consecutive scoring drives. It just does not get much better than that, not unless they had managed to get touchdowns on the 3 chip shot field goals they got from Sebastian Janikowski.
If Oakland can play like that for the rest of the season then this team is not just ready to make some noise, they are ready to compete for a wild card spot. Unfortunately, the final quarter they let their momentum go completely and showed why the playoff talk is still a little premature even if it was when the defense was playing prevent.
This was a great victory that was a lot of fun for Raider Nation to watch, but it should have been a blowout win and not just an 8 point difference. This should have been a signature, this team is for real win but their 4th quarter performance shows this team is still learning what to do at the end of games. It is another item on the list of teaching moments for this young team to look back on as they go forward.
That is ok, they need to learn how to finish games and this was a teaching moment for them in a game that they still ended up winning. They get to be happy and feel great about a well earned victory on the road against a division rival while still watching the film afterward seeing that they need to keep going for all 4 quarters. Most learning moments for this team have come from losing, it is a different experience for them to get to learn how to finish better from a win.
What a win though! They completely dominated this game in every facet while there was still a chance for either team to win. They let their foot off the gas at the end when they had enough points already to cruise to victory, but up til that point it was the most impressive Raiders performance in years.
This was the type of game where everything they wanted to do worked. They came in with a plan to attack the Chargers weaknesses and they executed that plan to perfection. Derek Carr was amazing, Latavius Murray was eating up yards like they were candy, and Amari Cooper was unstoppable. This foundation is set for years to come and it is glorious.
The defense was just as good as the offense, maybe even better. Malcolm Smith is playing like a pro bowl participant, and D.J. Hayden had his best game as a pro. Both players had an interception and double digit tackles, while Hayden added a forced fumble and Smith added a sack. The defensive line is the strongest part of the defense normally, but the linebackers and secondary players were the stars of this game.
Up until the team seemed to stop trying Philip Rivers found absolutely no success. His numbers at the end of the game look stellar because he managed to get over 200 yards and 3 touchdowns in garbage time, but through the first 3 quarters he barely even had 100 yards and threw 2 interceptions.
That is not to say it was flawless. The refs were terrible for both teams in this game but the Raiders had 14 penalties for 143 yards. That is ridiculous and needs to be cleaned up, especially Donald Penn's two separate personal foul penalties that costed possible points for the Raiders both times. Opposing teams will be attacking him going forward trying to make him react, the veteran needs to make sure to keep his temper in check moving forward when that happens.
It was amazing to watch the Raiders be so completely dominating though, even with the massive penalties. The pessimist in me still got nervous when the Chargers made their 4th quarter comeback but that does not overshadow what happened in this game. The entire team came together and played elite football when the game mattered.
The NFL world saw this game for what it was, not what the final score suggests it was. This was an annihilation of a divisional rival, on the road. Sure, it felt like a home game but it wasn't! This was the opposing team's stadium and the Raiders walked in and took it over completely and unapologetically. They embarrassed the Chargers, it is that simple.
Speaking of the fans though, hats off to each and every one of you that raided Qualcomm Stadium. It is a rare feat for an opposing team's fans to completely take over a stadium like you did in this game. That is why players respect the Raider Nation so much and why former players often still rep the silver and black long after they are no longer on the team.
Now the Raiders need to use this game to motivate them for their next match up against the 4-2 New York Jets. The Jets will not be an easy team to beat, they have one of the best defenses in the entire league and are playing extremely well this year. This was a great win for the Raiders, following it up with another win against a likely playoff team would be even better.
If they do win then it will be time to start thinking of this as a possible playoff team. They would be 4-3 and they would hold one of the two AFC wild card spots. However, if they were to lose badly it would be a devastating loss for the team. This can be a turning point for this franchise if they put the pedal to the metal, but they need to do it for all 4 quarters and not just 3 of them.