Today’s loss by the Raiders to the Chargers was Oakland’s fourth in a row and dropped them into the cellar in the AFC West. The Chargers broke with tradition by actually making a last-second field goal and winning the game. Normally, that doesn’t go well for them.
But not everything was awful about this game. Some things went well, some didn’t. But there were a few problems the Raiders have had this season that turned into strengths today.
1) Oakland wide receivers
For the past few weeks, Amari Cooper hasn’t been a big part of the Raiders offense. The Raiders have struggled to get the ball down the field and the receivers have had difficulty getting open. But with the return of Derek Carr today, the Raiders’ top three receivers- Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts- combined for 14 catches for 114 yards. Crabtree caught a touchdown where he juked a defender and got into the corner of the end zone. The Chargers don’t have the best corners in the world, but the receivers made plays when they had to, unlike during the previous month.
2) TJ Carrie
Carrie hasn’t had a great season thus far, sliding down the depth chart as a position without a lot of depth at all. But he was Oakland’s standout defender today. He had eight tackles (seven solo), two passes defensed and a quarterback hit. Carrie stepped up with the cornerback spot thin and showed why he is still on the roster.
3) Melvin Gordon
After a tough rookie season where he was benched due to constant fumble problems, Gordon has become virtually the only former Wisconsin running back to make a big splash in the NFL. Gordon scored both of Los Angeles’ touchdowns today, the first on a fourth-down dive into the end zone and the other on a screen pass. He had 83 yards rushing and 67 yards receiving, and was the Chargers’ second-leading receiver.
The Raiders lost, yes, but they didn’t lose any ground on the division leaders. The Chiefs lost to the Steelers at home, and the Steelers really have their number. The Steelers showed a “blueprint” for beating the Chiefs, but good luck following it if you don’t have Antonio Brown or LeVeon Bell.
The Giants didn’t really show anything special in their victory at Mile High against the Broncos, it was more that Denver came out flat and couldn’t really get anything done against the Giants’ defense. It was more or less the same game plan the Giants used to beat the Patriots in two Super Bowls. What was far more surprising was the Giants’ ability to move the ball at will against the Denver defense without their top three receivers. Is this a bad week for Denver, or a reflection of their real identity? They looked similar to how they looked against the Bills. And, really, the Raiders too, but Oakland couldn’t quite capitalize on their deficiencies.
1) The Raider coaching staff
I’m not usually one to point the fingers at the coaches, but today was a bridge too far. Todd Downing’s offensive scheme is a massive step back from what the aggressively mediocre Bill Musgrave had implemented last season. The plan was clearly for Derek Carr to get the ball out quickly, but that meant abandoning the deep pass for the most part. This allowed San Diego to play close to the line of scrimmage and at no point were the Raider receivers able to catch the ball and run. The running game was also impacted by this, and the Raiders’ offensive line couldn’t open any big holes for the backs.
Ken Norton Jr’s defensive scheme wasn’t as bad as it usually is, and the team defended the run well. Los Angeles only rushed for 80 yards and 2.9 yards per carry. But the third-down defense was abysmal, and Philip Rivers was able to pick apart the Oakland defense on third down. Good defenses don’t look like Oakland’s did today. Norton is hampered by a complete lack of a middle linebacker of any quality for his entire tenure with the Raiders, but Oakland should be able to generate more of a pass rush than they do. The Raiders’ total lack of consistency on defense is on Norton’s head, and we’ll see if he keeps it.
2) The refs
This isn’t just for the Raider game. In fact, the penalty situation in the Raider game wasn’t as bad as you might think. The Chargers had four penalties for 32 yards, while Oakland had five penalties for 40 yards. However, the Raiders did have two phantom calls- a false start against Donald Penn that simply didn’t happen and a holding call on Gabe Jackson that negated a huge catch by Amari Cooper. Both of these were drive-killing calls.
The refs also robbed the Jets of a touchdown against the Patriots earlier in the day on maybe one of the worst penalty calls I’ve ever seen in my life when they determined Austin Sefarian-Jenkins had fumbled through the end zone instead of scoring a touchdown. Give me a break.
3) DeAndre Washington
Washington touched the ball four times and had two yards from scrimmage. He caught one pass for ten yards and rushed three times for negative eight yards. That’s really bad. Washington doesn’t bring much to the team that Jalen Richard doesn’t bring, and if he doesn’t contribute on special teams he isn’t justifying his presence much.
4) The Green Bay Packers
If you thought the Raiders were bad without Derek Carr, just watch the Packers for the rest of the season. Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone today against the Vikings and is likely out for the rest of the season. As Rodgers is Green Bay’s only good player, Green Bay now has zero chance to do anything this year and frankly ought to “Pack” it in. Congratulations to the 2017 NFC North Champions, the Detroit Lions.