Preseason expectations appear to be in the rearview mirror for the Oakland Raiders, as they surprised division rival San Diego Chargers late last night for the 27-17 win. The Raiders were thought to be devoid of talent coming into the season, but quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s development is one of the league’s top stories as he continues to cement his status as the future in Oakland. It’s still unlikely that they’ll be knocking on the playoff door this season, but their expected contention in the race for the first overall pick appears to be in jeopardy.
On the other side, the Chargers appear to be settling into the ebb and flow of their recent up-and-down seasons. They fall to 2-3 and if their win-one, lose-one trend continues, next week should be happier times in San Diego. Despite a few missteps on Sunday, QB Philip Rivers is playing the best football we’ve seen from him in a while, but the Chargers have holes to shore up on the defensive side in order to make an impact in the suddenly competitive AFC West.
Let’s take a look at the key performances from this division battle.
San Diego – Three Performances of Note
Picking on the Corners
It’s been a rough start for San Diego’s pass defense, and their woes continued on Sunday. Starting cornerbacks Derek Cox and Richard Marshall graded at -1.5 and -3.0 respectively while combining to surrender 160 yards into their coverage. To be fair to Cox, two of his surrendered first downs came on Pryor scrambles which are always a difficult cover, though he was also the culprit on the Raiders’ 44-yard touchdown early in the first quarter. As for Marshall, he allowed five catches on eight targets for 60 yards including a touchdown. He fell down on the touchdown pass to wide receiver Denarius Moore at the 1:35 mark of the first and was later burned by Moore on a go route as Marshall’s pass interference couldn’t even prevent the catch. Throw in two missed tackles and it was not a good day in the San Diego secondary.
Wide Receivers Emerge
Among the positives for the Chargers were the strong efforts from wide receivers Vincent Brown (+2.8) and Keenan Allen (+0.8). Brown’s 117 yards on eight catches don’t even include a negated 30-yard touchdown that came on a nifty hitch-and-go route. He snuck past FS Charles Woodson for a 51-yarder with 0:59 to go in the third quarter and six of his eight catches went for first downs. Allen played a career-high 75 snaps as he didn’t come off the field, and he caught six passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. He took a slant route and broke a tackle from CB Mike Jenkins on his way in for his score, while narrowly missing out on another touchdown that was overturned on replay. This marks the second strong game for Allen as QB Philip Rivers continues to grow with his new targets.
Defensive Line Controlled
Among the other early-season issues for San Diego has been the sub-par play of their front three. Defensive end Corey Liuget had been disappointing through four games, but he was the lone bright spot on Sunday grading at +3.8 overall including a +2.0 run grade and four stops. Beyond him, however, DE Kendall Reyes (-2.3) and NT Cam Thomas (-2.5) failed to make an impact. Reyes was moved throughout the game by the right side of Oakland’s line, while Thomas had his problems with both guards. Neither player recorded a stop while Reyes recorded all four pressures between the two, though they were largely of the clean-up variety rather than from dominant play. The defensive line looked like it was filled with youth and potential coming into the season, but continued underachieving will be a major hindrance for the Chargers as the year progresses.
Oakland – Three Performances of Note
Raiders Have a QB
As mentioned, Pryor’s development is the story of Oakland’s season, and he put together his second straight strong effort. He graded at +2.0 overall and he set the tone early with the 44-yard touchdown strike to WR Rod Streater. As impressive as Pryor’s development within the offense has been, he made two beautiful throws when forced to improvise, first with 1:16 to go in the second quarter as he rolled out to hit Moore along the sideline and then at the 7:03 mark of the fourth quarter when he broke out of a sack and made a similar throw down the sideline to WR Brice Butler. Pryor completed 18 of his 22 aimed passes while grading at +2.5 on those throws. However, there were some negatives to Pryor’s game, perhaps our weekly reminder that he’s still in his first full season as a starter. He held onto the ball too long at times, taking two unnecessary sacks and trying to pass the ball while in a defender’s grasp, which predictably resulted in a fumble. Overall, the positives have won out in the his past two games, and as the rookie mistakes start to get sorted, Pryor has a lot of potential with which to work.
Right Side Protection
The Raiders got strong play from the right side of the offensive line as right guard Mike Brisiel and right tackle Matt McCants graded at +3.2 and +2.2, respectively. Brisiel surrendered two pressures on his 32 pass blocking snaps while grading at +2.1 as a run blocker. As mentioned, he had success sealing Reyes and Thomas inside for most of the game. As for McCants, he showed well in his first career start, also surrendering only two pressures on 32 attempts while grading at +1.1 in the run game. He filled in nicely for starter Tony Pashos, who’s also been a pleasant surprise for Oakland this season as the right tackle play has been much better than expected through five games.
Adventurous Day for Burnett
Linebacker Kevin Burnett graded at -1.6 for the game, though it was a night-and-day effort as he notched a +2.3 against the run compared to -3.9 in coverage. He was all over the place in the running game, including making the first contact with RB Danny Woodhead on the Raiders’ goal-line stop early in the second quarter. The issues came in coverage where Burnett was targeted 13 times surrendering 12 receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown. Three of his four missed tackles also came in coverage. As with many linebackers, Burnett struggled when asked to cover TE Antonio Gates who beat him for five catches for 58 yards, while Woodhead got the better of him for the touchdown, a well-designed shovel pass that caught Burnett just a step out of position. It was an eventful day for Burnett who was back to a full-time role this week playing 74 of the Raiders 75 snaps.
- Chargers rookie OT D.J. Fluker had a perfect day in pass protection on his way to +3.2 overall grade, while fellow rookie Manti Te’o played a career-high 44 snaps grading at +0.6.
- Pryor completed all three of his deep pass attempts (20+ yards in the air) for 99 yards and a TD.
- Rivers was pressured on only nine of his 50 drop-backs, completing 4 of 7 for 30 yards an INT and a QB Rating of 28.0
PFF Game Ball
Though it wasn’t perfect, Terrelle Pryor was the difference in the game as he made big-time throws to give the Raiders the victory and hope for the future.
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