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The Morning After: Raiders vs Chargers

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Los Angeles Chargers v Oakland Raiders Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It’s pretty rough when a 20-6 loss doesn’t seem that bad. It is even more rough when the team is so bad that 20-6 is actually not a bad loss at all. Sadly, that’s where we are right now with this Jon Gruden led football team.

This was actually a pretty good game all things considered for the Raiders. It was the swing at the end of the first half and start of the second half that pushed this game out of range, but even into the 4th quarter they did still have an opportunity. With how bad the last few games have been even just being in the 4th quarter with a semblance of chance to win is a positive.

That 5 minutes of game play between the end of the 1st and start of the 2nd was definitely the killer though. The Raiders absolutely needed to stop at least one of those two touchdown drives and when they didn’t the writing was on the wall for the game to be over. This team was showing capable of being competitive if the game stayed close, but once the Chargers had a two touchdown lead it was over.

Having gone 3 out of the last 4 games without a touchdown is one of the more demoralizing stats for the Raiders though, and that’s saying something considering their near constant dysfunction for almost two decades now. The Oakland offense just can't get out of it’s own way though, and this game was a good example of that.

The very first drive of the game the Raiders got all the way down to the 1 yard line and then turned it over on downs. The missing points on that drive were a huge difference in the game, had they been able to get even a field goal on that drive then the game wouldn’t have felt so out of reach towards the end.

That’s not to blame Oakland for going for it there when they got stopped at the one though, they definitely had to try for the touchdown there. At 1-7 on the year you have nothing to lose, playing a division rival and having a chance to get an opening drive touchdown is something you can’t pass up.

However, I do have a problem with the play calling to try and get that touchdown. If you are down to your last chance then you should call something that has more than one option to get where you need to go, the shovel pass play to Dwayne Harris was essentially a run and it did not surprise the Chargers at all. Neither did the 3 Doug Martin runs before that play.

They had 4 plays from the 7 yard line, they did not give Carr a single play that had multiple reads for him to try and get that touchdown. Even though the shovel pass to Dwayne Harris technically counts as a pass, it still was this one thing works or nothing. Why put all your eggs in one basket? Call something that allows more options to get the touchdown in at least one of those 4 plays.

The same type of problem happened at the end of the game too when Derek Carr gave up and threw the ball into the dirt on 4th and 5 on their last real chance in the game. In that play, when it was all or nothing on 4th down, the Raiders called a play designed to be reliant on one option. If that guy doesn’t get it done then the play fails, at least that’s what Derek Carr said about his decision on that play after the game.

I disagree with Carr on his comments after the game, even trying to force the ball somewhere that it might get intercepted is still better than throwing it into the ground for a turnover on downs. The thing is though, he shouldn’t have been in that situation to begin with. When everything is on the line there is no excuse in calling a play with only one option that will work, spread the team out and increase your chances of success.

The offense was able to get moving several times in this game against a very good Chargers defense but key mistakes doomed them too many times. Another one of those key mistakes was Derek Carr’s fumble on a strip sack at the start of the 2nd quarter. Oakland was in field goal range there when Carr got devastated by Melvin Ingram, and that led to the point swing at the end of the half that doomed the Raiders all together.

At that point the Raiders felt like they had the momentum of the game, and they could have recaptured it with another solid drive after the defense came up with the big stop to force a field goal after the fumble. Instead they went 3 and out, and after that the Chargers got their end of half touchdown and start of second half touchdown. Just like that it was a 17 point swing LA’s way in a 20-6 loss.

Still, at least it wasn’t an embarrassing loss. The Raiders had a chance against a quality team that has now won 6 games in a row, and the loss is better for them in their chance at the number 1 pick in next year’s draft. It would have been great to get the win anyway, but honestly it’s just nice that they were at least competitive.

Lastly, shout out to rookie punter Johnny Townsend who had an outstanding game. His 42 yard scamper on the fake punt should have resulted in points for the Raiders if not for the goal line stand from the Chargers, but he also had a great day punting the ball. He could have and should have been let go by now but Gruden is showing faith that he can be a great punter, and Townsend rewarded that faith with an excellent day averaging 54 yards per punt.

Now it’s on to the Arizona Cardinals next which is actually a huge game in figuring out the draft order because the Cardinals are also in the running for it with just 2 wins on the season. This is also the best chance the Raiders have at getting another win the rest of the way with a brutal end of year awaiting Oakland with Baltimore, KC twice, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Denver the remaining games on this awful 2018 season.

This is a game that the Raiders need to play well in, because they don’t have a lot to look forward to the rest of the way. They certainly have the inside track for the top pick with that tough of a schedule, so if they are going to win another game this year they will need to do it next week against Arizona or odds are it won’t be happening.