Raiders show grit, and progress, but can’t get into the win column.
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
OAKLAND, Calif — Chargers running back Branden Oliver’s 1-yard plunge with 1:56 remaining soured interim Raiders head coach’s Tony Sparano’s debut, as San Diego pulled away from Oakland, 31-28 Sunday in front of a Raider Nation crowd of 53,329 at O.co Coliseum.
“We have to be in these kinds of football games,” interim Raiders head coach Tony Sparano said. “We have to win one of these types of football games and that’s how you get this thing turned around.”
Oakland (0-5), got on the board in a hurry in the first quarter, when wide receiver Andre Holmes beat Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers for a 77-yard touchdown pass from Carr on the team’s third play from scrimmage. It was Oakland’s longest scoring pass since 2008, when former quarterback JaMarcus Russell connected with tight end Zach Miller for an 86-yard touchdown.
Carr completed 18-of-34 passes for 282 yards, and a career-high four touchdowns, but threw a deep pass to wide receiver Brice Butler that was intercepted by rookie cornerback Jason Verrett with 1:13 remaining in the fourth quarter to preserve San Diego’s fifth straight win.
“He made a great play,” Carr said. “Brice went up, he had it and the guy made a great play. Those things are going to happen. Yeah, it hurts. It hurts because that’s the way it ended.”
San Diego quickly answered with a touchdown of their own, when quarterback Philip Rivers took San Diego 80 yards on seven plays in 4:30 that ended with a 29-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline to wide receiver Eddie Royal that knotted up the game at 7-7 in the first quarter.
After both teams traded a pair of stalled drives to end the first quarter, San Diego took a 14-7 lead when Rivers engineered a 13-play, 85-yard drive in 7:20 to toss his second touchdown of the game, a five-yard completion to wide receiver Malcolm Floyd midway through the second quarter.
Oakland tied the game up at 14-14, after Carr found wide receiver James Jones from six yards out. It was Carr’s second touchdown pass of the game at that point. The Raiders had a chance to take a three-point lead at halftime, but kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed a 54-yard field goal as time expired.
On Oakland’s first possession of the third quarter, Carr threw his third touchdown of the game when he found Butler for 47 yards that gave the Raiders a 21-14 lead.
Not to be outdone, Rivers threw his third touchdown of the game (an 8-play, 80-yard drive; San Diego’s third 80-yard drive of the game), that resulted into a 1-yard pass to tight end Antonio Gates that tied the game at 21-21 with 2:45 left in the third quarter.
Rivers completed 22-of-34 passes for 313 yards, and three touchdowns, his third straight game with three touchdown passes. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Rivers became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards against Oakland, joining John Elway, Dan Fouts, John Hadl, and Dave Kreig.
Carr and the Raiders took a 28-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter, behind Carr’s fourth touchdown of the game to Holmes for six yards. It was Holmes’ second touchdown of the game, finishing with four catches, for 121 yards to lead all receivers.
Nick Novak booted a 30-yard field goal to pull San Diego closer, 28-24, before the aforementioned Oliver’s go-ahead touchdown that increased the Chargers’ lead for good.
With running back Ryan Matthews and Donald Brown both out with injuries, Oliver looks to be the Chargers new featured running back after picking up his second-straight 100-yard rushing game with 101 yards on 26 carries. The rookie from the University of Buffalo rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in San Diego’s 31-0 thumping of the New York Jets in Week 5.
Floyd finished with five catches for 105 yards receiving and a touchdown to lead the Chargers.
Running back Darren McFadden ran the ball hard, rushing for 80 yards on 14 carries (his highest output of the season), while fellow running back Maurice Jones-Drew chipped in 30 yards on four carries to the lead the ground game for the Silver and Black.
San Diego (5-1) sits alone atop of the AFC West and are tied with the Dallas Cowboys (5-1 after their 30-23 road victory over the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks Sunday), for the best record in the NFL.
Defensively, Oakland played gritty, but couldn’t hold a fourth quarter lead that results in the team’s 10th straight loss dating back to last season. San Diego’s offense kept Oakland’s defense on the field, controlling the football for 37 minutes.
“The goal is to win the game,” linebacker Sio Moore said. “We didn’t do that. We didn’t execute in the last bit of plays when we needed to, how we needed to.
“It’s a very sick feeling because we let a team off the hook that’s not supposed to be let off the hook. They’re not what they’re acclaimed to be, whatever the situation is. I’m pretty pissed about it.”
Moore finished with a team-leading seven tackles (3 assisted), strong safety Usama Young had six tackles, and defensive end C.J. Wilson recorded the Raiders lone sack.
“This group played with a lot of energy…we are going to continue to work our tails off and get better,” Sparano added.
The Raiders host NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals (4-1), who are coming off a 30-20 home victory over hapless Washington Sunday, in Week 7.