To account for a tender Derek Carr, the Raiders (2-4) offensive game plan was altered a bit. Without deep passes to Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, the Oakland offense was left with few positives and just 274 yards of total offense and 13 first downs. Still, a 47-yard sweep run from Cordarrelle Patterson handed the hobbled Raiders a late lead.
But a missed extra point by Giorgio Tavecchio, his first miss of any kind this season, set the table for the Phillip Rivers and the Los Angeles offense to march 78 yards setting up a walk-off 32-yarder from Novak.
The Chargers (2-4) have now won back-to-back games after starting 0-4.
Carr, who suffered a transverse process fracture in his back two weeks ago in Denver, was back on the field a month ahead of schedule Sunday. In response, offensive coordinator Todd Downing scrapped the deep-drop pass plays, looking more to quick throws resulting in a long completion of just 23 yards — before exiting the Week 4 loss at Denver, his longest completion went for 64 yards.
The fourth-year quarterback finished the day completing a very efficient 70 percent of his passes (21-of-30) but for just 171 yards — Carr has not thrown for 200 yards since Oakland’s last win. He was also intercepted twice, including a pick by Trevor Williams on his first pass of the afternoon.
As was the case for much of the game, the Raiders defense picked up the pieces left behind by the ineffective offense.
After forcing a three and out on the Chargers’ opening possession, the Oakland defense kept San Diego off the board yet again, despite coming into play in the shadow of their own goalpost, on their own 30, thanks to a Novak miss from 48.
Among the few positives for Downing’s unit, Carr was able to get Cooper involved once again, feeding him five receptions — albeit for a minimal 28 yards — topping his total of four over the previous three games combined. Cooper, who hauled in 155 catches for 2,223 and 11 touchdowns in his first two seasons, has now caught 18 passes for 146 yards and one score through the first six weeks of the season.
Carr was able to find Crabtree, though, hitting his top target six times for 52 yards and a touchdown.
The two hooked up — rather failed to on one of the game’s more influential single plays.
Down 10-7, the Raiders opened the fourth quarter at the Los Angeles 44 yard line. Caught between field goal and punt position, Downing put the drive in the normally capable hands of his quarterback. But Carr missed a quick out to Crabtree by six feet, low an to the receivers right. Following the play, Carr appeared to be instructing his wideout that the inside-leveraged press defense should have been answered with a sharper out-cutting route.
Either way, however, the play was a microcosm of the Raiders day, at least offensively.
Instead of letting Carr sit in the pocket and pick apart the defense, like he has been able to do throughout his career, Downing called quicker passes and shorter routes, which is as far from the strengths of the receiving corps or the passer.
Marshawn Lynch was another positive, carrying Charger defenders for for 4.8 yards per carry. But once again did not reach the 15-tote threshold, getting 13 carries for 63 yards.
His opposite number, Melvin Gordon, was slowed drastically by a Raider defense that nearly carried its offense to a win. Gordon was held to 83 yards on 25 totes (3.3 yards per run), though he did add another nine catches, 67 yards and a score through the air.
Rivers didn’t need the active running back in what would be a game-winning drive spanning the game’s final 4:09. Instead, he found a wide open Hunter Henry for pick ups of 34 and 23 yards. The tight end finished with five catches and a game-high 90 yards helping Rivers to 268 passing yards on 25-of-26 (69 percent) passing.
Things get no easier for the Raiders when they host the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs (5-1), who suffered their first loss of the season Sunday, in a Thursday Night primetime rivalry showdown.