Raiders stave off Chargers in AFC West airshow

It wasn’t pretty, but the Raiders muscled their way over the San Diego Chargers for their fourth win of the season, forcing five turnovers en route to a 34-31 win Sunday afternoon.

The fourth turnover of the game proved pivotal, as it turned the tide of the game.

This story has been updated with additional material and quotes from the Raiders locker room at the Oakland Coliseum.

The Chargers were up 24-19 with four minutes left in the third quarter, and running back Melvin Gordon fumbled the ball on a run up the middle. Defensive lineman Stacey McGee smacked the ball loose and the Raiders pounced on it for the recovery.

On the ensuing Raiders drive, Derek Carr orchestrated a 45-yard score, capped by yet another gritty fourth-down call by head coach Jack Del Rio.

Del Rio has shown utmost faith in his offense to perform on fourth down, and his faith was rewarded once more. On 4th-and-2 from the Chargers’ 21, Carr (25-for-40, 317 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) went for it all on a ball to the end zone to Michael Crabtree.

Crabtree proved clutch once more, and beat his cover man to the end zone for a score. The Raiders (4-1) converted a two-point conversion to go up 27-24.

Del Rio said about the play:

“It’s like all these situations, you make the call, what you think is best for the team and then you count on your guys going out and executing. (Crabtree) got open and made a nice play.”

Oakland tacked on a touchdown with a one-yard Jamize Olawale rumble in the fourth quarter to go up 34-24, but the Chargers didn’t go down without a fight.

The Bolts scored midway through the fourth quarter on a Rivers 4-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates to tighten the game to 34-31. But with just under three minutes remaining, the Chargers botched a 36-yard Josh Lambo field goal attempt to hand the ball back to Oakland.

The Raiders forced four turnovers in the game, but were unable to take full advantage of three in the first half, netting just a pair of Sebastian Janikowski field goals in return. Janikowski converted 4-of-5 field goals on the afternoon, slicing wide right on a 50-yarder in the first quarter.

The second turnover of the game was a Sean Smith interception of Philip Rivers. Rivers (21-for-30, 359 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT) tried to hit a streaking Travis Benjamin in the middle of the field, but Smith recovered on the ball and intercepted it with outstretched arms.

The interception was Smith’s second of the season, and he said he wants the defense to continue to compete:

“It’s just finish, just finish a guy off. You now what I mean? Especially when we are not seeing anything new. We are well coached, well prepared and just have to come out there and play man.”

The interception set the Raiders up in Chargers territory, but the Silver and Black failed to capitalize for a touchdown. Carr nearly connected with Cooper for six at the back corner of the end zone, but Cooper was unable to get both feet down on a beautiful pass.

While the Raiders did manage to win the game, Carr’s performance was inconsistent.

On the first drive of the game, he floated an interception right into the chest of awaiting Chargers defensive lineman Brandon Mebane on a busted screen.

Carr said about the slow start and interception:

“It was frustrating because it was little things. The interception, they were holding on to the running back, on a screen. I threw it at the running back hoping to get the call, and the nose tackle picks the ball off. It was just one of those things man.”

Carr almost threw another pick on the Raiders subsequent drive, but the linebacker was unable to haul it in. After almost throwing the pick, Carr whiffed on a wide open Jalen Richard, and sailed the ball well over his head.

Carr said:

“The ball I overthrew Jalen (Richard) on, he’d probably still be running. I went to throw the ball to (Crabtree) and then tucked it because I knew how open Jalen was. I tried to reset my feet and tried to get it to him fast because he was so open…It was just bad.”

On the Raiders’ second drive of the third quarter, Carr was almost picked off again.

He threw a ball behind Amari Cooper, and cornerback Steve Williams had it hit him right in the hands. Williams bobbled the ball on the way down to the ground though, resulting in an incompletion.

Carr finished with a respectable 317 yards and two touchdowns, but the Raiders early offensive struggles continue to be a concern. He made throws when it counted late in the game, but the Raiders don’t want to have to play catch-up all season.

It was another close finish for the Silver and Black, but Del Rio said he’ll take the wins anyway he can:

“I’m OK with 3-2 or 50-49. Winning at the end of day is what we are about. We’ll keep looking to correct things that we know we have to do better. We’ll continue to enjoy the victories.”

The Raiders host the Kansas City Chiefs next week in a key divisional matchup.