If you watched only the first half of the Las Vegas Raiders trip down to SoFi Stadium to go toe-to-toe with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon, you’d of thought it was a runaway victory for the Bolts as they led 24-7 going into halftime.
Yet, the Silver & Black made a go of it in the second half. And a play where offensive pass interference could’ve been called was not, which helped decide the outcome — which is astonishing considering what preceded that play in particular.
The Raiders defense (surprisingly) stiffened and drained the Chargers by holding fast. The offense, in turn, generated momentum behind rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell and running back Josh Jacobs, and that resulted in not only a second-half shut out of the Bolts, but also 10 points scored to make it 24-17 — a one-score contest.
The Raiders appeared poised to take advantage of the Chargers’ dubious failed 4th-and-1 attempt. But Las Vegas’ attempt to tie the game was thwarted by an equally questionable play call that saw L.A. cornerback Asante Samuel read the rollout pass play to perfection and intercepted O’Connell’s pass intended for wide receiver Jakobi Meyer.
But the game wasn’t over at that point.
Las Vegas’ defense appeared poise to rise to the occasion again by getting Los Angeles into a 3rd-and-10 play. Ever the aggressor, the Chargers decided to end the ball game by throwing deep. Raiders speedy cornerback Jakorian Bennett found himself matched up with the intended target — wide out Joshua Palmer — and the live play and replay showed Palmer fully extending his arm to gain separation for the game-sealing catch. That sequence holds importance as Meyer was called for extending his arm and pushing off in similar manner in triple coverage on would-be deep ball that he hauled in but was nullified by offensive pass interference.
But those are the breaks for the Raiders (1-3) as the Chargers (2-2) were able to deploy in victory formation and kneel to end the game and preserve the 24-17 victory. O’Connell finished 24 of 39 for 238 yards with zero passing touchdowns, one rushing score, and one interception. He was sacked seven times, though, with six coming from former Raider and current Chargers edge rusher Khalil Mack (who had zero sacks entering the game, by the way). Due to the duress and pressure, O’Connell fumbled three times losing two of them — which put the Chargers in supremely favorable field position that allowed them to jump out to the 24-7 halftime lead.
“Playing quarterback in our league starts with taking care of the football,” Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said of O’Connell in the post game press conference. “I thought he adapted to the game a little bit as it went on. And we’ll take every opportunity to learn from the mistakes that we made as a team, and I’m sure he will also as a quarterback and try to get better from it.”
“I think I have a lot to correct from this film,” the rookie noted during his media session. “I just made too many mistakes. I just didn’t do enough.”
Film and corrections. The hard lessons keep on piling up for Las Vegas and, unfortunately for the team, it looks nowhere close to apply what its learning and improving from the painful exercises. It’s sounding like a broken record at this point that’s playing on a rusty record player.
“It’s really a multitude of things,” Adams said in the locker room media scrum. “It’s just being more urgent early on and communicating better so that we can execute. It’s not one thing. It’s not, ‘Do this thing and we’ll be golden.’ It’s both sides of the ball. I just feel like we’re not maximizing. Everybody can definitely tap into another gear. We’ve just got to do that before it gets to a point where it’s a must-win every game.”
Let’s hit the quick slants as fast as the game turned in the frantic final quarter:
—Unsurprisingly Jacobs led the Raiders ground game with 17 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown. Surpsingly, he led he team in receiving with eight grabs for 81 yards.
—Raiders wideout Davante Adams finished with eight catches for 75 yards. He left the game with a shoulder injury but returned and was involved in the offense and wasn’t merely a decoy.
—Maxx Crosby was his usual disruptive self off the edge as the Raiders pass rusher racked up two sacks and eight total tackles. He could’ve had a third sack but the play was wiped out of an offsides penalty on Raiders cornerback David Long Jr. in the first quarter.
—Raiders defensive tackle Jerry Tillery was ejected after a late hit on Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert who was out of bounds after a scramble. The penalty was a costly one as Herbert galloped 12 yards for his first rushing touchdown. He finished with two.
—Safety Tre’Von Moehrig snagged the Raiders first takeaway on the year with an interception he retuned for 11 yards. He had his mitts on other passes for potential picks but could only snare that one.
—Herbert was limited to 13 of 24 for 167 yards and threw one touchdown and an interception. He was sacked twice (by Crosby) and had to move around the pocket as the Raiders pressured the Bolts’ signal caller.
Quote of Note:
“I think the magnitude of each play is what I’m learning, and what I learned today is how important each play is, how important each drive is. Just have to do my job on each play, even if it’s a little bit harder one play versus another. Just got to focus, can’t look ahead or can’t look behind. Each play, one play at a time.” —Raiders quarterback Aidan O’Connell on what he learned from Sunday’s loss