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Game Recap: Defense steps up in 26-24 win against the Chargers

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

In a bizarre turn of events, the Raiders defense was the best unit on the field tonight. Oakland relied on turnovers created by the secondary and a pass rush that suddenly came to life and forced Los Angeles QB Philip Rivers into bad decisions and forced throws all night.

The Chargers got the ball first on offense and drove it 48 yards into Oakland territory. The referees were heavily involved in this one, nullifying a Karl Joseph interception on the drive. That didn’t stop the Raiders from getting a turnover, however, as the drive ended with an Erik Harris interception and 59-yard return to give the offense the ball deep in Charger territory.

The offense struggled to get into a groove all night and was only able to move the ball 9 yards and settled on a field goal to start. Erik Harris and the defense got back on the field, and it only took them four defensive plays before the once CFL player grabbed yet another interception. This time, Harris took matters into his own hands and returned the pick back to the house to put the Raiders up 10-0.

The Chargers and Raiders would each trade punts on the subsequent drives, with each team’s pass rush getting home to notch sacks. When the Chargers got the ball back towards the end of the first quarter, they meant business. They took the drive 77 yards and drained over 8 minutes off the clock against a defense that had seemingly been on the field the entire game to that point. The drive ended with a touchdown pass to Hunter Henry, who was left alone in the back of the endzone after a blown coverage.

When the Raiders offense got the ball again, they still couldn’t gain much traction, leaving it to the defense to take the field yet again. The winded defensive unit couldn’t stop Rivers and the Chargers offense, who elected to run the ball on a front four missing two defensive ends in the rotation. Erik Harris made another incredible read and break on a red-zone pass to notch what would have been his third interception of the game. However, the Raiders drew their third neutral zone infraction in the game, giving the ball back to the Chargers with only a few yards to go. A Melvin Gordon TD run capped off the drive and put the Chargers up by 4 points.

When the Raiders offense took the field, they weren’t going to let the defense have all the glory. Gruden leaned on the ground game, including a key fourth-and-1 conversion by Alec Ingold. Ingold wasn’t done yet and needed to atone for his two penalties earlier in the half, getting his number called again on the goal-line. Carr hit Ingold in the flat and fullback got his body across the plane of the endzone to give the Raiders a 17-14 halftime advantage.

The second half would be much slower. The Raiders got the ball to start and droveit 69 yards before settling for a field goal. On the Chargers next two drives to start the second half, they moved the ball a total of negative-16 yards. A sack by Clelin Ferrell ended the first drive, and the second drive was stopped by a combo sack split between Benson Mayowa and Maurice Hurst, forcing a fumble that Los Angeles would end up recovering.

Again, the Raiders offense hit a wall and their next two drives proved futile with the Chargers scoring a field goal in between to make the score 20-17. The fourth quarter came around and the Chargers would make it interesting. Rivers was able to get things going in the passing game, aided by several Oakland penalties that extended their drive for 80 yards, eventually ending in a TD pass across the middle to RB Austin Ekeler.

Derek Carr and the offense got the ball back with only a few minutes left in the game. Down 24-20, they needed Carr to work another fourth quarter comeback victory. The offense didn’t disappoint. Carr completed four straight passes to move the ball into Los Angeles territory. Rookie WR Hunter Renfrow caught two of those passes for first downs. The drive ended with a great run from RB Josh Jacobs following a big block from C Rodney Hudson, who cleared a lane for the young ball-carrier to rumble 18 yards for a score.

But the game wasn’t over just yet. A missed extra point from Daniel Carlson made the score 26-24, and all the Chargers needed to do was kick a field goal to win. Rivers got the ball back with a little over a minute left in the game. The Raiders defense stepped up yet again forcing 5 consecutive incomplete passes and sealing the game with another interception, this time from Karl Joseph.

The Raiders defense ended the game with 5sacks and 3 interceptions on the day, holding the most prolific passer in the NFL this year to only 207 yards through the air. Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell were all over Rivers the entire game. The rookies combined for 3 sacks and numerous hurries that helped decide this game.