In their first division game of the season, the Chargers were flat out embarrassed on Sunday against their “rival” (business partner) Oakland Raiders. The 37-29 beat-down (the game was nowhere near as “close” as the score indicates) dropped the Chargers to 2-5 on the season, their worst seven game start since the 2010 season when they also started 2-5.
“I don’t believe it’s the preparation part of it,” head coach Mike McCoy said. “We had a really good week of practice to be honest with you. Energetic, good execution, we had good plans. It comes down to coaches, players, doing our jobs better. It comes down to execution.”
Fall behind early, AGAIN!
The Raiders scored 20 points in the second quarter and finished the first half with a 30-6 lead over the Chargers. San Diego fell behind early, as quarterback Philip Rivers threw a pass to wide receiver Stevie Johnson that deflected off his hands and fell into the waiting arms of Malcolm Smith. Two plays later, the Raiders scored their first touchdown. It didn’t get easier for the Chargers. Derek Carr finished the half 17 of 22 with 215 yards and two touchdowns; Sebastian Janikowski kicked three field goals; and the Chargers defense gave up plays of 52-yards and 44-yards on Carr passes. It was ugly all around.
“That first half was pathetic,” McCoy said.
Big plays kill this team, AGAIN!
Another all too familiar storyline for this Chargers team is the frequency with which they allow big plays. It was much of the same for San Diego on Sunday against the Raiders. Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and Clive Walford scored on plays of 52, 25, and 23-yards, respectively. Cooper caught another pass for 44-yards, and Walford hauled in a 19-yard pass. Latavius Murray and Taiwan Jones had runs of 17 and 19-yards. The tackling, as it has been all season, was atrocious.
“They came into our home and marched the ball up and down the field on us to be honest with you,” cornerback Brandon Flowers said. “We can’t play like that, not in this league. We will get whooped like that if we try and play like that again.”
A week after throwing for 503 yards against one of the better defenses in the NFL, Philip Rivers finished with 336 yards against the Raiders and was intercepted twice. It wasn’t his best game. Oakland played tough in coverage but Rivers missed a number of throws he routinely makes. Moreover, the Rivers-to-Allen combo that was so nasty last week was not as effective this time around. Allen caught nine passes for 89 yards. Ladarius Green, who started for Antonio Gates after he was ruled out with a knee injury, had four receptions for 45 yards, including a 31-yard catch-and-run that went for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Gordon put on “timeout”
Although running back Melvin Gordon was active for this game, he didn’t see a snap until midway through the third quarter. Running back Branden Oliver started the game and split time with Danny Woodhead in the backfield until that point. Gordon, though limited in practice, said all week that he would play Sunday and that his ankle felt healthy; however, early on Sunday it was reported that the team might keep him out for “precautionary reasons.” Gordon had two fumbles in last week’s loss to the Packers and has had four total this season. He ran seven times for 29 yards against Oakland while Oliver finished with nine carries for 35 yards and Woohead had five rushes for 26 yards.
“I hate watching,” Gordon said. “I hate watching. It doesn’t sit well with me, watching my teammates go out and try and make plays and I’m on the sideline, looking helpless, when I know I could help change things out there.”
Too little, too late
The first touchdown of the game for the Chargers came early in the fourth quarter, on a 31-yard catch-and-run from Rivers to tight end Ladarius Green. The touchdown made the score 37-13, Oakland. San Diego attempted an onside kick directly afterward, but it was recovered by the Raiders. Oakland later punted after just three plays, and Rivers led the Chargers on another scoring drive, this time finding Danny Woodhead for an eight-yard touchdown pass that made the score 37-21(after San Diego converted the two-point conversion). The Chargers would again attempt and fail to recover the onside kick. San Diego scored one more time in the final seconds on a Rivers-to-Woohead six-yard touchdown pass. They again converted the two-point conversion to make the score 37-29 but it was too little, too late. Had the Chargers been more aggressive earlier in the game, perhaps they wouldn’t have had to play catch-up from such a wide margin. Instead of going for it on fourth-and-one from the Raiders 23-yard line, head coach Mike McCoy elected to kick a field goal. The Chargers were down by 10 at that point late in the first quarter. It wasn’t a bad decision at the time. But what was a bad decision was when McCoy later decided to settle for another field goal at the end of the half, knowing the Raiders were set to receive to start the third quarter, that made the score 30-6.
“We dug ourselves too deep of a hole to get out of,” Rivers said. “We almost did get out of it. There’s nothing that makes this any better but at least we can stand by what I’ve always said and that is we’ll fight until its over regardless of the score.”