By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
The Los Angeles Chargers traveled to Las Vegas to play the new Las Vegas Raiders for the first time at Allegiant Stadium. The Thursday Night game, which kicks off Week 15 in the NFL marks the 122nd matchup in the series between the Chargers and Raiders. The Raiders were winners of the last three match up and holds a 62-54-2 record in the series. Though the Bolts are 27-32-1 all-time when they travel to play the Raiders.
Seven of the last ten matchups between these division rivals have come down to one-score games; unfortunately, the Chargers came into this game with a 3-7 record in one-possession games this season. This dubious stat has them tied for most such losses and games this season. On the other side of the field, Derek Carr is on pace to set a career-high in passer rating, while 2nd year running back Josh Jacobs is closing in on double digit touchdowns for the season and is currently ranked third in rushing in the AFC. Additionally, Raiders tight end Darren Waller is 16 receptions shy of posting 100 catches in a season, which would make him the sixth tight end to do so in NFL history.
After the Chargers defense forced the put to punt on their initial drive, the future Rookie of the Year came out of the blocks on fire by completing his first 6 passes on a 12 play drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Henry. Derek Carr responded by leading the Raider to a field goal before leading the game with a groin injury he suffered as he ran out of bounds.
Former Heisman Trophy winner, Oregon Duck, and Justin Herbert hero came in the game to replace Derek Carr and applied the type of pressure you would expect from a dual-threat quarterback. Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn spoke about this in their post-game press conference. “That was hard. Let me tell you because he’s (Mariota) a dual-threat and we knew he could beat us with his legs. He makes you play 11 on 11 and when you haven’t trained or practiced for that all week; on a short week, that was a little bit of a surprise for us,” said Coach Lynn.
Veteran Defensive Chris Harris Jr. also spoke about the challenge of playing a different than they practiced for, “It changes a lot, you’re facing a quarterback that can throw and run. They changed their offense around. You’re already game planning on a short week and then you got a new quarterback right away. It’s a whole new offensive game.” Marcus Mariota promptly threw a 35-yard Touchdown to Tight End Darren Waller, to give the Raiders a 10-7 Lead.
After the Chargers tied the game, with a Michael Badgley 35 yard field goal. They forced a Raiders punt on the following series and with unusually excellent clock management the Chargers found them in position to score just before the half. Still, in a great rhythm, Justin Herbert hit 2nd-year receiver Tyron Johnson on a 26-yard touchdown pass giving them a 17-10 lead to end the half and his 27th touchdown pass of the season.
With Justin Herbert completing 80% of his passes in the first half, the Chargers inexplicably started their first draft of the second half in the wildcat formation. When I asked to ask Coach Lynn about this philosophy he said, “We were doing things to keep them off-balance, we were trying to hit the perimeter, we were using different personnel groupings, you know we do that every week? The Raiders did force the Chargers to punt in that initial coming out of halftime. The Raiders then finished off a long drive with a Josh Jacobs one-yard touchdown run that tied the game up at 17-17.
Though Herbert remained in a god rhythm and would lead the Chargers on a long drive scoring drive of their own, which would culminate in a Kalen Ballage touchdown. This one-yard touchdown would give the Charger a 24-17 lead and close out the scoring in the 3rd quarter. This would be their second 7 point lead of the game.
To open the fourth quarter, Marcus Mariota led the Raiders to 10 plus minute drive, where they converted multiple 4th downs in the process. Mariota capped the drive off with a leaping touchdown run that tied the once again. After the Chargers missed a 47-yard field FG, as the Raiders were driving for the go-ahead score, Chris Harris Jr. picked off a Mariota’s pass and ran the ball down to the Raiders 32-yard line. When asked about what he saw on that play Harris Jr. said, “I was just reading the quarterback’s eyes. Was able to have a good break and kind of take the ball from them.”
Unfortunately, this drive ended in another Michael Badgley missed field goal, which would have given the Chargers a late lead in the game. The Raiders positioned themselves to attempt a, would be, NFL record 65-yard field goal; but the bobbled snap end regulation with a tied ball game. With the 4th quarter mishaps by both teams, it appeared that each team was trying to give the game away?
Though the Raiders got on the board first, in the overtime period, with a 23-yard field goal. On their only possession in overtime, Herbert completed his league-leading 8th completion of 50 yards or more this season, to second-year wide receiver Jalen Guyton for a 53-yard pass. Which put the Chargers in a prime position to tie or end the game. It took two plays, but Justin Herbert was able to score a game-winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak, for his second consecutive game-winning touchdown in as many weeks.
When asked about competing against fellow Oregon Duck Marcus Mariota, Chargers sensational rookie quarterback told us, “It was a pretty crazy experience. I grew up watching Marcus, he was my favorite player, and just being from Eugene, I knew that whole program so well and to be able to play a couple of games each year against him is really cool.” Though he didn’t win a Heisman Trophy while playing at Oregon, safe to say that he will be a much better quarterback at the professional level than Marcus Mariota who is already on his second team in the NFL.
In this game, Herbert set the all-time rookie record with his seventh 300-yard performance of the season, in addition to tying Baker Mayfield (2018) for the most passing scores by a rookie in NFL history, with 27. His season total of 3,781 passing yards makes Herbert the third player in NFL history to top 3,600 passing yards through the first 13 starts of his career.
In other notable achievements for the Chargers from Thursday night’s game vs the Raiders saw Keenan Allen add to his NFL-record receptions of 623 through the first 100 games of a career. He reached 100 catches on the year, becoming the 13th player in history to do so three times. With five receptions for 65 yards (13.0 avg.) and a touchdown, Hunter Henry finished the game with a career-high 60 receptions on the year — which ranks No. 3 among tight ends this season. The receiving score tied Henry with Willie Frazier and Dave Kocourek for the third-most by a Chargers tight end in history.
In consecutive weeks, we’ve seen the resiliency from the Chargers that Coach Lynn has bragged about for months now. They had to overcome multiple special team blunders on the road in a new environment this past week. Should the Chargers finish the 1 and 1 against the Broncos and the Chiefs, would three consecutive wins in December be enough for Anthony Lynn to remains as Head Coach of
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