Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) greets injured Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr after an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. The Ravens won 30-17. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer
OAKLAND — Looking to get back into the win column and avoid their first four-game losing streak since losing 16-straight regular season games from Nov. 24, 2013 to Nov. 16, 2014, the Raiders welcome one of their AFC West rivals in the Los Angeles Chargers for an important matchup in Week 5.
Oakland (2-3) is currently in the middle of a three-game home stand at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, having lost in Week 5 to the Baltimore Ravens 30-17 and host their most bitter rival, the Kansas City Chiefs, on Oct. 19 in prime-time on Thursday Night Football.
Kickoff for Sunday’s game is at 1:25 p.m. PT.
With starting quarterback Derek Carr sidelined for the game with a traverse process fracture in his back, backup quarterback EJ Manuel filled in admirably for Carr completing 13-of-26 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown in his first start for the Silver and Black. Manuel found a comfort level with wide receiver Michael Crabtree in the game, connecting with Crabtree for a 41-yard touchdown strike in the second quarter.
Crabtree finished as the Raiders’ top receiver for the day, collecting six catches for 82 yards to go along with the aforementioned touchdown after missing Oakland’s 16-10 loss Week 3 loss in Denver.
Oakland’s other starting wide receiver Amari Cooper was again a no-show, recording just one catch for eight yards on two targets. The ground game was paced by running back Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 43 yards on 12 carries and his second touchdown of the year (all at home). Backup running back Jalen Richard contributed to the offense as well, rushing for 37 yards on nine carries.
The Raiders do expect Carr to start Sunday and hope to rejuvenate an offense that ranks in the middle of the league in points per game (21.6), which is good for 16th, but rank 23rd in rushing yards per game (90.6), 26th in passing yards (188.6), and 30th in total yards per game (279.2) through the first five games of the season.
Carr has thrown for 753 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions this year.
Last year through five games, Oakland ranked sixth in total offense scoring just a shade under 28 points per game.
Oakland’s offensive line, which was a pillar of strength for the team last year after only giving up 18 sacks in 16 games, have already surrendered 12 sacks this season through five games.
With the Chargers ranking third in the NFL with 17 sacks this season, the offensive line will have their work cut out for them. Defensive end Melvin Ingram leads the Chargers and the AFC in sacks with 7.5, while fellow defensive end Joey Bosa is not far off with 4.5 sacks.
Bosa made an immediate impact in his first pro game last year against the Raiders, sacking Carr twice en route to 10.5 sacks and being named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year after missing the first four games of the season in a contract dispute.
Second-year outside linebacker Jatavis Brown has become one of the league’s surest tacklers, leading the Chargers with 46 tackles (32 solo) this season. Last year when the Chargers called San Diego home, they finished tied for the league lead with 18 interceptions.
This season, the Chargers have recorded just two picks and have been bludgeoned by opposing teams on the ground. Los Angeles ranks dead-last in stopping the run, allowing 161.2 yards rushing per game.
In Week 2, the Chargers allowed 122 yards to Jay Ajayi, 172 yards to Kareem Hunt in Week 3, and 136 yards to LeGarrette Blount in Week 4.
That should bode well for Oakland, who still has yet to have a running back crack 100 yards rushing in a game this season. Lynch leads the Raiders with 57 carries for 194 yards and two touchdowns, while Richard is second on the team in rushing with 24 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown.
But the second-year Richard leads Oakland with 5.3 yards per carry this season, not the 10-year veteran in Lynch, who is second with 3.4 yards per carry.
Los Angeles (1-4) picked up their first win of the 2017 season, winning 27-22 against the winless New York Giants (0-5) at MetLife Stadium last Sunday. Starting quarterback Philip Rivers completed 21-of-44 passes for 254 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Now in his 14th season, Rivers ranks in the top-10 among all starting quarterbacks this year, pacing fifth in passing yards (1,365) and seventh in touchdown passes (9). His 266.8 passing yards per game ranks sixth among passers. Rivers has only thrown five interceptions this season and has been sacked just six times, a testament to the Chargers much improved offensive line.
The Chargers average 19.8 points per game, ranking 19th in the league, but can put up yards offensively, ranking 11th averaging 345.6 yards per game.
Running back Melvin Gordon was unstoppable running the ball and catching the ball against the Giants. Gordon carried the ball 20 times for 105 yards and led the Chargers with a game-high six catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns.
Gordon is tied for fourth in the NFL with five total touchdowns (two rushing, three receiving) this season.
The third-year running back from Wisconsin caught the game-winning touchdown from Rivers with less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter to cement the Chargers’ victory.
Rivers is 14-8 in 22 career games against the Silver and Black, throwing for 37 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. His 37 touchdowns against the Raiders are the most that Rivers has thrown against any team in the NFL in his career.
Former California wide receiver Keenan Allen is the Chargers’ best wide receiver, leading the team with 28 catches for 401 yards and a touchdown.
Oakland has won the last four-straight meetings against the Chargers after sweeping both games in 2015 and 2016.
Los Angeles will host Oakland in Week 17 at the StubHub Center in Carson.