By Dave Thomas
There are certain games on the NFL schedule that you figure you have a good shot of winning. With that in mind, many in the San Diego Chargers nation likely circled Oct. 6 on their calendars.
Falling behind early, the Chargers tried to mount a rally, but left Oakland Sunday evening (actually early Monday morning) with a 27-17 loss to the rival Raiders. In doing so, the Bolts essentially fell into last place in the AFC West (tied with the Raiders at 2-3).
Heading into the contest, the Chargers were riding the momentum of a win over NFC East leading Dallas (30-21) a Sunday earlier, while the Raiders were looking for a quality win, thus having only defeated lowly Jacksonville (19-9) to date. While a win over the Bolts doesn’t register as a major win, the Silver and Black will undoubtedly take it.
Key Interceptions Help Drop Bolts to 2-3
After jumping out to a 17-0 halftime lead, the Raiders watched the Chargers climb within 24-17 in the fourth quarter, but a pair of Philip Rivers interceptions closed the door on any hopes San Diego had of completing the rally on this late night in Northern California.
When Sebastian Janikowski nailed a 50-yard field goal with just under four and a half minutes remaining in the contest, San Diego still had a couple of chances left to get back in the game.
After getting inside the red zone, Rivers was picked off by DJ Hayden first, then had future Hall-of-Famer Charles Woodson pick his pocket with less than a minute remaining in the contest (Usama Young also intercepted Rivers). For the night, Rivers finished with three picks (he entered the game having only thrown two to date this season).
On a night when starting running back Ryan Mathews left early in the contest with what was reported to be a concussion, the Bolts had little or no running attack for most of the game.
That being the case, Rivers ended up having to throw the ball 49 times, completing 36 passes for 411 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Still the three interceptions are what most Charger fans will remember about this evening.
For a team trying to stay within striking distance of the unbeaten Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs (both 5-0), the Chargers just took another huge step backwards.
In the past, one of these losses to an average at best team (perhaps the Chargers are looking more and more like that after five games) would have been dropped at the feet of former Head Coach Norv Turner. On this night, clearly having a mediocre running attack left the game in the hands of the veteran QB from N.C. State. Rivers can be awfully good, but from time to time he can be awfully bad. Although the interception in the end zone late in the game could be blamed on rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen falling down, it was still an ugly and ill-timed pick. As for the final interception of the night, Rivers in all likelihood overshot the ball.
While the chances of San Diego winning or even tying up the game at the point were slim, the Bolts were moving the ball, perhaps for a field goal that would have drawn them within 27-20. If they then get the onside kick, anything would have been possible at that point. For the night, the Chargers rushed the ball a combined 19 times for a dismal 32 yards. In most cases, that won’t even win you a game on the junior high school level.
After watching second-year Oakland QB Terrelle Pryor pretty much do what he wanted in the first half, the Chargers looked much more aggressive and spirited on defense over the next 30 minutes of play. Yes, there were some breakdowns here and there where Pryor was able to scramble and complete key third down passes, but overall, the Bolts improved their defensive effort after intermission.
In all, the Chargers sacked Pryor four times on the night, yet the Ohio State product still finished his evening going 18-of-23 for 221 yards and a pair of TDs. Even more impressive, he finished with a QB rating of 135.7.
San Diego held Oakland as a team to 104 yards rushing (starter Darren McFadden missed the game with a hamstring injury). Not coming up with a key turnover in Oakland territory certainly did not help the cause.
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Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.