Chargers hold on to beat the Raiders
September 15, 2022
In the 2022 offseason, the Los Angeles Chargers started with about $58 million in salary cap space, according to Spotrac.com and had eight draft picks in the 2022 NFL draft. The money and the picks allowed the Chargers to reshape the roster, which was very evident in a Week 1, 24-19 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood last Sunday.
Quarterback Justin Herbert threw three touchdown passes in leading the Chargers to victory. The three touchdown passes went to three different receivers; all players acquired in the offseason. The first touchdown went to fullback Zander Horvath, the 260th pick out of 262 players in the 2022 NFL draft, who caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Herbert early in the second quarter to give the Chargers a 10-3 lead, a lead they never relinquished.
After catching four passes for 66 yards early in the game, wide receiver Keenan Allen suffered a hamstring injury in the game, which took him out and gave the backups and newcomers a chance to excel. They did not disappoint.
Wide receiver DeAndre Carter, acquired from Washington in the offseason as a return specialist, caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Herbert in the 2nd quarter to give the Chargers a 17-3 halftime lead. Tight End Gerald Everett, acquired from Seattle in the offseason, caught an 18-yard scoring pass to give the Chargers a 24-10 lead in the third quarter. That touchdown would prove to be the winning score.
Charger head coach Brandon Staley was pleased with the punt game, which has not always been an area of strength for the Chargers. Punter JK Scott, a free agent acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars, averaged 49 yards per punt on four punts, with one punt pinning the Raiders offense at their own two-yard line.
"We needed everybody on this team that was active in order to finish this game," Staley said. "I think, in all three phases of the game, you saw that depth expressed itself. Starting in the kicking game, us onboarding JK Scott and what he was able to do for us in the punt game, netting almost 49 yards (per punt), a punt inside of the two-yard-line, the hangtime, forcing fair catches. The operation was really critical to our success."
Staley added that, "All of the receivers that had to step up when Keenan goes out, those four guys holding the rope for us, I thought that was really, really big in the game. I thought you saw all three backs carry the ball. I thought, you saw at the end of the game there, being able to finish the game with the football. I was really, really excited to see that."
The defense, which looked good in training camp, looked even better in their first live action together. Linebacker Khalil Mack, acquired from the Chicago Bears for a second-round draft pick and a sixth-round draft pick, was the star of the day on defense. Mack had six tackles, three sacks, and four quarterback hits.
"On defense, I think you saw that it's going to take a village to defend against a team like that; in the secondary, at linebacker, rushing inside," Staley said. "I thought you saw all of that depth on display. It's just a credit to our organization, just talking to our organization ownership, personnel department, coaching staff, onboarding these guys. That's what you need in the NFL."
The difference in this game was sacks and turnovers. Herbert took care of the ball on offense and Mack and Joey Bosa put consistent pressure on the Raider offense. The Chargers had six sacks and intercepted Raiders quarterback Derek Carr three times. The Raiders had zero sacks and zero turnovers. As Staley said after the game, "you have no sacks and no turnovers, you're going to have a real chance in every game that you play."
The Raiders kept six running backs on their 53-man roster, but on Sunday they seemed to have forgotten the running game. Of the 56 Raider offensive plays in the game, 43 were pass plays. Of the 37 passes that Carr attempted, 17 were targeted at wide receiver Devante Adams. Considering the defensive pass rush that Mack and Bosa can generate, running the ball more might have kept the pressure off Carr.
With the Chargers leading 24-19 late in the fourth quarter, the Raiders had a 3rd down and three at their own 40-yard line. Carr was sacked on third down by a combination of Bosa and defensive end Morgan Fox. On fourth down, Carr was sacked by Mack, ending any hope the Raiders had of winning the game. The Chargers needed one first down to officially end the game and they got it, with running back Sony Michel getting the first down on a three-yard run.
"I was very proud of our group," Staley said. "I saw 11 guys that believe that they were going to close it, and they played like it today. I think, as a coach, that's what you're looking for, that they have that look in their eye, that confidence in one another that what we call, we're going to go execute and bring us home. What I thought you saw in two minutes there was our rush and our coverage playing together to bring us home."
The win puts the Chargers in a tie for first place in the AFC West with the Kansas City Chiefs, with both teams at 1-0. Which leads to the next Charger game this Thursday Night, September 15th, in Kansas City against the Chiefs. The game will be exclusively available on Amazon Prime Video, a subscription streaming service available on Amazon. The game will start at 5:15 PM PST.
The Chiefs have won six consecutive AFC West division titles. The winner of this game will be all alone in first place in the AFC West at 2-0. A victory by the Chargers would also give them a 2-0 record within the division, which would be huge in the battle to finally dethrone the Chiefs. The challenge for the Chargers is traveling and playing on a short week. Plus, the challenge of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who threw five touchdown passes on Sunday in a win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson, who, missed the Raider game on Sunday recovering from ankle surgery, should be back for the Chiefs game, but Allen is expected to be out with the hamstring injury. The Chargers will need to rely on their depth and their newcomers again in this game to win another tough matchup.