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Johnny Townsend offers Oakland’s lone highlight in another tough loss

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The Raiders 2018 season continued its tumble from unsuccessful to embarrassing Sunday.

Given 10 days to prepare for the divisional rival Chargers, head coach Jon Gruden and the Oakland coaching staff was unable to piece together anything that even remotely resembled and effective offensive gameplan. The result was a 20-6 Week 10 slashing by Los Angeles (7-2), one that saw punter Johnny Townsend represent the top offensive performer for the beleaguered Raiders (1-8).

With Derek Carr passing for an empty 243 yards and leading rusher Doug Martin grabbing an equally useless 61 yards on the ground, Townsend was not only responsible for Oakland’s most successful offensive play but one of the few that brought any excitement to the Oakland Coliseum crowd.

Townsend and the punting unit trotted onto the field for a fourth and four less than three minutes into the opening quarter.

The rookie punter took two steps forward, extending the ball in front of his right foot in both hands. But instead of putting his boot to it, he dashed toward the left side of the punting formation. After sliding behind upback-turned-lead blocker Erik Harris, Townsend galloped up the sideline for a huge 42-yard gain.

It was the first momentum-collecting play, swinging the pendulum heavily to the Raiders sideline.

That momentum, however, was short-lived, snatched away by the Chargers who stoned a shovel pass to Dwayne Harris at the 1 yard line for a turnover on downs.

Still, Oakland took the game’s first lead on a 46-yard Daniel Carlson field goal. And behind a stout defensive effort, they held that lead to the midway point of the second quarter before Los Angeles matched with a Mike Badgley 27-yarder.

The field goal was a win for the Oakland defense, protecting a short field following a Carr fumble, but it opened the flood gates of the Charger offense.

Los Angeles found pay dirt on each of its next two possessions, ending the first half and starting the second.

Oakland’s most noteworthy drive following an game-opening failed fourth down came late in the third, when Carr found tight end Jared Cook twice for a combined 41 yards. As has been the case on far too many occasions this season though, the steam behind the Raiders’ promising drive subsided early resulting in another field goal.

Cook was once again a bright light in the midst of a dim performance by the Raiders, hauling in four passes for 52 yards. Jalen Richard added 52 of his own on catches, and, defensively, Marcus Gilchrist recorded his first interception since coming to Oakland last offseason.

Los Angeles was paced by Melvin Gordon, who ran for 93 yards on 18 carries, adding another 72 yards and his only score catching five passes.

Despite their lack of offensive production, the Raiders were very much in the game late in the fourth, down two touchdowns with the ball deep in Los Angeles territory and just over four minutes left on the clock. But Carr, looking for a screen pass to Richard on fourth and five, had nowhere to go with the ball with pressure coming, as it had all afternoon, and spiked it at the feet of his running back effectively ending Oakland’s hopes.

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