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By Bill Seals
Sports Reporter 

Chargers use explosive plays at the start and in the end to beat the Raiders

 

October 5, 2023

George Laase

With the Chargers No. 1 running back, Austin Ekeler injured, former UCLA star Joshua Kelley should start the game against the Raiders on Sunday.

The Los Angeles Chargers used two explosive offensive plays and three turnovers to defeat the LasFootball-NFL Vegas Raiders, 24-17. The game was played last Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, with 70,240 fans in attendance, with at least 60% of the fans in attendance supporting the Raiders.

The turnovers led to two second quarter touchdowns for the Chargers, with both fumbles coming from sacks of the Raiders rookie quarterback, Aidan O'Connell and with both fumbles occurring in Raider territory. For the game, Khalil Mack had a season's worth six sacks of O'Connell, along with five tackles for loss, two forced fumbles. Mack was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance.

The explosive offensive plays were needed against the Raiders. On the second play from scrimmage of the game, wide receiver Derrius Davis, who was lined up in the backfield, took a pitch from quarterback Justin Herbert and scampered 51 yards to the Las Vegas 35-yard line. That explosive run led to a 12-yard touchdown run from Herbert, as the Chargers took the opening kickoff and drove 86 yards in nine plays to take an early 7-0 lead over the Raiders.

The second key explosive play on offense came at the end of the game. With the Chargers hanging onto to a 24-17 lead with the ball at their own 11-yard they were facing a tough 3rd down-and 10-yard conversion for a first down. Two minutes remained in the game. Herbert dropped back and threw a beautiful deep ball to wide receiver Josh Palmer, who gathered it in at the 50 yard-line and took it to the Raiders 38-yard line for a 51-yard gain.

It was a gutsy call and took an accurate throw and terrific catch by Palmer to complete. The ball was thrown to Palmer's outside shoulder and caught in Palmer's left hand and pulled in with his right hand. A sack or an interception in that situation would have been disastrous for the Chargers.

An incomplete pass would stop the clock and the Raiders would end up with good field position to tie or win the game. But as Charger head coach Brandon Staley showed on an earlier 4th down play in Charger territory, a play that failed to get a first down and handed the ball to the Raiders in Chargers territory, the Chargers will take risks to win games, risks that other coaches will simply not take.

"We're going to do what we feel like gives us the best chance to win," Staley said. "The storyline is the way our defense played, the way we played in the first half, offensively, but our defense carried us today. It was a really, really tough performance with a bunch of guys out. We had a lot of premium players out in the game, and the storyline was about the toughness of our team and the way it played in a tough game against a division opponent. Our guys had their best at the end."

The Chargers had 305 yards in total offense in the game, their worst performance of the 2023 season. 33% of the Chargers offense came on those two big plays of 51 yards each. The other 203 yards took 61 offensive plays to produce.

Three days after the win over the Raiders, the Chargers traded cornerback J.C. Jackson back to the New England Patriots. Jackson had been signed as a free agent from the Patriots in 2021. After the 2021 season, Jackson was named to the Pro Bowl and was selected as a second-team All-Pro. Jackson had 25 interceptions in four seasons with the Pats. Jackson had one interception in seven games with the Chargers.

Jackson was ranked as a top 5 cornerback by PFF (Pro Football Focus) in the NFL in 2021. In 2022, Jackson was the lowest rated cornerback by PFF before he was lost with a knee injury. This season he is ranked 97th by PFF among cornerbacks in the NFL. Jackson was never able to adapt to the Chargers defensive scheme.

Jackson played poorly in Week 1 against the Dolphins and only slightly better in Week 2 against the Titans. He had become a liability at cornerback. He did not play in the game against the Vikings in Week 3 or against the Raiders in Week 4. Jackson was paid $82.5 million, with $40 million guaranteed. It is hard to think of a worst free agent signing by General Manager Tom Telesco.

The Chargers will receive a 6th round pick in 2025 from the Patriots, and will send a 7th round pick in 2025 to the Pats. The Chargers will get some salary cap relief this season, which may help if they decide to add a player to the roster. But the dead cap salary cap hit for Jackson in 2024 will be $20.8 million dollars, according to overthecap.com. The salary cap is going to be a huge challenge for the Chargers in 2024.

The Chargers will have a bye in Week 5, and it could not come at a better time. As Staley indicated, linebacker Joey Bosa, safety Derwin James, safety Alohi Gilman, and running back Austin Ekeler all missed Sunday's game with injuries. All premium players. They all hope to return in Week 6 for a Monday Night game on October 16th against the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium.

 

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