Winners And Losers From The Chargers Week 18 Loss Against The Raiders
The Chargers week 18 matchup was the best regular-season game of the year. For the whole league, not just the Chargers. It was an incredible back and forth game, with two teams who have a long history against each other. The Chargers either needed to win the game or tie in order to make the playoffs, but the Raiders were absolutely not about to let the Chargers have anything for free. The Chargers marred by inconsistency all season finished the year with a 9-9 record, perfectly symbolizing the agonizing swings Chargers fans dealt with all season. It’s hard to tell Chargers fans not to be skeptical, but the truth is this feels like the same squads from the last few years that have been really talented but underachieved. The Chargers took a tough loss against the Texans a few weeks ago and have looked deflated since then. This game had a little bit of everything, from missed field goals to turnovers, bad running game defense, and of course Herbert Hijinxes. This doozy of a week 18 match-up had all the greatest hits of the Chargers season, as they saw their year come to a bitter end after leading the division just a few weeks ago. Here are the winners and losers from the Chargers’ week 18 loss to the Raiders.
Herbert, Herbert, Herbert. If there is any solace to take from this season, it’s that you have a top 5 quarterback in the NFL. Which is no small task to accomplish. Let’s start with his one mistake and move on from there. Usually, I am quick to write off his interceptions because they are not his fault because he only threw six on the season. I usually catch Herbert making mistakes under a lot of pressure, or the ball jumping off of his receiver’s hands and getting picked off. But there is still a small number of times when games are close late, and Herbert is under pressure where he tries to make a big play out of nothing. His interception was that, late-game hero ball by a big-time talent. This one was on him though as he really didn’t need to force that ball into that window. Everything else after that was spectacular though.
Herbert threw an insane 64 passes in the game, with three touchdowns, and most importantly converted six fourth downs to keep them alive. Every single time the Chargers needed a big play, even on downs of 20 yards or longer Herbert managed to find a way to get it done for his offense. Without this kid and his clutch genes, the Chargers probably would be a five-win ball club. He won’t be the NFL MVP, but he is definitely the most valuable player to his team in the whole league. Herbert is a superstar, and that’s why he’s starting for the AFC in the Pro Bowl. Well earned and take a bow. This season Herbert has been carrying his team, and he deserves all the credit he gets.
Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler are the big-name pieces that are going to get a lot of attention, and rightfully so because they both contributed to their team in a big way. But I wanted to highlight a guy who doesn’t make a lot of sexy plays and is still a consistent safety valve for his young quarterback. There was a lot of talk after the offseason if anyone could properly replace Hunter Henry and his contributions. I don’t think Cook is nearly as talented as Henry, but I do think he performed admirably all season as a consistent veteran playmaker. He had four catches for 80 yards on the day, and while that may not seem like a lot I feel like he made those plays when his team needed them most. Including the big 42 yard gain at the beginning of the 3rd quarter. Herbert clearly trusts him as he peppered him with seven targets, and while his stat lines were never sexy throughout the year, he clearly established himself as a difference-maker. Herbert trusts Jared Cook, and everyone knows a tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend.
The Chargers let their run defense be the bane of their existence all season. They were essentially league-worst all year and finished giving up the third most running yards in the league on the year. This game was no different. The Raiders had no real reason to be in this game, considering their head coach quit halfway through the season. That pretty much left Las Vegas to just default to their baseline setting. Which is to run the ball and set up for play action. Derek Carr didn’t really do much with the passing game, which left the ball in Josh Jacobs‘ hands a lot.
He did not disappoint as the Chargers probably had their worst day on the ground all season. Jacobs absolutely dominated the Chargers front seven with 132 yards and a rushing touchdown. He averaged a fat 5.1 yards per carry, and basically let them control the game from start to finish. Anytime the Raiders needed a play and wanted to make sure the Chargers couldn’t get the ball back, they kept dialing up Jacobs’ number. Even plays that looked like he was going to get a short gain, he would end up falling forward for another three to five yards. The run defense has been embarrassing all season, and we knew it would be a product of a scheme shift and the wrong personnel in place. Hopefully, Coach Staley and the front office make it a priority one this off-season to get the right guys in there to make some plays. Because this run defense is awful to watch.
I haven’t been easy on Norton this year, and to be fair to him there was a point in the season where he wasn’t a complete liability. But this was bar none, his worst performance of the season. I understand that he’s a mildly competent run blocker. But at this point, can we not just throw a practice squad guy out there and see what happens? It can’t possibly get any worse than it is currently with Norton in the lineup. Albeit I’ll give him a small amount of leeway, as he was lined up on Maxx Crosby all game and 72 times no less. But with that in mind, Crosby also toasted him every single play. Every time Herbert was under pressure and scrambling, it was Norton who was breaking down. He gave up an ungodly 11 pressures up to the Raiders defense. I understand that injuries are a part of the game, but well-organized teams have the proper depth in place so that issues like this don’t keep arising. The offensive line wasn’t great across the board, but Norton has been a big problem for a few seasons now. Depth is going to be crucial to Herbert’s success.
A 9-8 record is pretty indicative of a season with a lot of ups and downs. Some weeks the Chargers’ offense looked like the best in football, and their secondary was lockdown. Other parts of the season consisted of tons of penalties, silly turnovers, missed kicks, and strange play calling. This game had a little bit of all of that all crammed into one exciting overtime game. The Chargers had a lead with one minute left in the half, and a big 23 yard run by Jalen Richard along with a pass interference call meant the Raiders were able to pull ahead by the end of the half. Then came the missed field goal at the beginning of the third quarter, in a game that ended up a three-point difference.
Dustin Hopkins was only brought on to kick two field goals, missing one of them. Compared to Daniel Carlson who went 5-5. The Chargers had a few drives stall where the Raiders took three points and it made a big difference. Then came the 4th and 1 decision to run the ball on their own 18-yard line in a three-point game. Which ended up being a turnover, and another three easy points to the Raiders. Andre Roberts fumbled early on in the game that was totally unforced, and Herbert forced the ball in at the beginning of the fourth that saw the Raiders win the turnover battle quite easily.
To top all of that off, there just seemed to be no sense of urgency for this offense until they hit fourth down. Keenan Allen was a ghost, and they strangely kept committing to the run all game despite being down most of the evening. Coach Staley is going to have to prove that he can learn to taper the aggressiveness to the situation because most of those fourth-down conversions were out of necessity. This year was up and down, to say the least, and a number of Chargers players said it in post-game interviews throughout the season. This team is going to have to find a way to get guys motivated that aren’t named James, Bosa, or Herbert on every play all year.