A season filled with heartbreak and disappointment continued for the Chargers (5-9) on Sunday as they fell to the Raiders (11-3) 19-16 in another fourth-quarter debacle. The day felt like a loss as soon as the Bolts came onto the field, as Qualcomm Stadium was overtaken by Oakland fans and by most accounts, outnumbered those in the Blue and Gold.
Having been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday, the Chargers put up a valiant effort against one of the best teams in the league, it just wasn’t enough. The Chargers greatly missed Melvin Gordon on Sunday, and Philip Rivers once again was forced to try and carry the offense. It ended with the same result, however, as constant pressure and dropped passes continually stalled the Chargers passing attack, and Rivers’ only interception sealed the Chargers fate.
After receiving the kickoff, the Chargers continued to be extremely effective on their opening drive. Starting from their own 9-yard line, they moved easily into Oakland territory highlighted by a 20-yard catch-and-run by Hunter Henry. Then facing a 3rd-and-8, Philip Rivers took a shot downfield to Travis Benjamin, who was streaking behind the defense, easily making the catch for a 47-yard touchdown to make it 7-0.
The Raiders would connect on a field goal tom make the score 7-3, but after that, the Chargers defense would make a stand. Derek Carr and Co. moved down the field at will on their next drive, but Melvin Ingram stopped the bleeding by stripping Latavius Murray in the red zone to give the ball back to the Bolts.
The Raiders would force a punt, and the offense once again moved the ball down inside the red zone. Backed up against the end zone, newcomer Trovon Reed made his second big play in as many weeks, intercepting Derek Carr on the 3-yard line.
The Chargers would add a field goal of their own to extend their lead, but Oakland would respond. With time running down in the first half, the Raiders needed only 1:07 to go 75 yards, scoring on a 13-yard catch by Michael Crabtree on a fade route to even the score 10-10 going into halftime.
Coming out of halftime, Josh Lambo got the Bolts off to a rocky start by sending the kickoff out of bounds, giving Oakland great field position on their 40-yard line. The Raiders would use this to set up a field goal to give them their first lead of the game 13-10.
On the ensuing drive, the Chargers would find success through the air, with the help of Dontrelle Inman’s 3 catches for 53-yards to move down the field. Once in close, Rivers found his favorite red zone target Hunter Henry for a 7-yard touchdown catch. Unfortunately, they would settle for only 6 points as Josh Lambo missed the PAT to make it !6-13.
After holding Oakland’s offense to consecutive punts, the Chargers would give them some help. Rookie running back Kenneth Farrow powered the Bolts to a first down with three straight carries, but on the fourth, he would be stripped of the ball, with Oakland recovering on the San Diego 14-yard line.
To their credit, the Chargers defense held strong and kept Oakland out of the end zone, allowing only a field goal to tie the game 16-16. San Diego’s chance to regain the lead was cut short when on 3rd-and-2 Tyrell Williams was dragged down on a short crossing route before the first down forcing a punt.
The Chargers defense seemed a little worn down by the offense’s failure to stay on the field, and Oakland took advantage. Spurred by a 27-yard run b Latavius Murray, the Raiders used almost four minutes of the clock and kicked the go-ahead field goal with 2:40 to play.
Now down 3, Philip Rivers had plenty of time to bring his team back, but this would not be the case. Their first three plays of the drive went backward due to immediate pressure and the Chargers were forced to go for it on 4th-and-15, because of burning two timeouts earlier. On this last ditch effort, Rivers was forced into a quick throw, in the face of pressure, and the pass would be intercepted to give Oakland the win.
With the threat of relocation hanging over their heads and the lack of on-field production, the Chargers seem lost. With the playoffs out of the picture, the Chargers will look to find out what to address in free agency and through the draft. This will be a chance for players like Trovon Reed and Kenneth Farrow to earn consideration for next season, wherever that may be.
The Chargers will now travel to Cleveland to play the winless Browns on Christmas Eve, at 10 AM Pacific Time.