The Raiders lost yet another game today. In other news, the sky is blue, water is wet, and cats are jerks. The Raiders didn’t score a touchdown again and their run defense got beaten like a drum, but there was no lack of effort this week like there was against the 49ers. There were a few bright spots.
1) Johnny Townsend
Where has this performance been all year? Townsend was great in the kicking game today, but we’ll get to that. The first time Townsend saw the field, he was unleashed like the Kraken on a 42-yard run that set the Raiders up for they first points of the game. In doing so, he reached a top speed of 20.48 MPH, faster than any rush from either Alvin Kamara or Kareem Hunt this season. Usain Bolt was last seen looking over his shoulder.
As a punter, Townsend was gold today. He had three devastating punts against the Bolts, averaging 54 yards per punt. That’s worlds better than the sub-30 YPP he’s been sporting much of this season. Is this the new Johnny Townsend? Let’s hope so.
2) Melvin Gordon
There’s a big difference between the Chargers now and the Chargers of a few years ago, and it’s the emergence of Melvin Gordon as an elite running back. He had 18 carries for 93 yards against the Raider rush defense, to go along with five catches for 72 yards including a 66-yard catch and run for a touchdown on a screen pass.
3) Brandon LaFell
With the Raiders trading Amari Cooper, one might think the Raiders don’t have a true number one receiver. And, they don’t. But LaFell has been doing his best to fill that role, and he clearly has the trust of Derek Carr. LaFell had four catches for 47 yards today in a solid performance. I don’t know if he’ll be around next year, but he’s doing his best right now.
4) Maurice Hurst
Once again, Hurst shows why he is a draft steal for the Raiders. He had Oakland’s lone sack to go with four tackles, one for loss. On a line with more pressure from the outside, Hurst would be even more valuable, but as it is he is the only guy on the line who can consistently disrupt the offensive plays. Clinton McDonald and Jonathan Hankins also had good efforts today, but Hurst really shined.
1) Raiders offensive line
I want to be clear that this refers specifically to the Raiders’ woes in pass protection. They were perfectly fine in the running game, and the team rushed for 114 yards. However, they were abysmal protecting Carr, allowing four sacks. The rookie tackles were awful, and it’s clear that Kolton Miller is still hurt. There were a few instances when Kelechi Osemele was absolutely taken to the cleaners, and that cannot happen. Carr is as good as anyone when he has protection, but when he’s under pressure he makes mental errors. For that reason, a performance like this is unacceptable.
2) Raiders secondary
This was actually a better effort from the back end of the defense than what we’ve seen from them lately, and I’ll wager that the absence of Reggie Nelson contributed to that. But the tackling was abysmal, and Charger receivers were able to pick up extra yards on third down almost every time. The tackling was non-existent on Melvin Gordon’s touchdown catch, which put the game out of reach for the Chargers. That being said, Karl Joseph did pop some people pretty hard today.
3) Red Zone offense
Neither team had much success in the red zone today. The only touchdown in the red zone was a Charger score from Keenan Allen just before the end of the first half, but other than that the Raiders’ red zone defense was stalwart. The Oakland red zone offense was trash yet again, and their execution in goal-to-go situations this season has been horrific.
4) The Patriots
I can only pick on the Raiders so much. We all know the season is over, and the only thing left to play for is draft position. This team isn’t even worth whining about, because it’s in complete transition and doesn’t resemble anything close to how it will look in a few years. But for the Patriots, change is scary and cruel. Today they got absolutely shellacked by the Titans, and it’s the worst beating Tom Brady has ever taken in the winter. It’s looking like the road to the Super Bowl won’t be running through New England this season, which is good for anyone who is sick and tired of them winning all the time, and bad for anyone who doesn’t want the Chiefs to go to the Super Bowl. I choose to forget Kansas City, just for today, and have a hearty belly laugh at the Patriots. I advise you all to do the same.