Winners And Losers From The Chargers Week Four Victory Over The Raiders
The Los Angeles Chargers really seemed to have come into their own in a solid week 4 victory against the Raiders. They controlled both sides of the ball against one of the few undefeated teams left in the league. I know some hardcore Chargers fans that didn’t seem to believe in a three-touchdown lead at halftime. Most NFL fans would have been confident they had a huge lead and probably changed the channel. However, the dirty stench of games the Chargers have blown over the years still lingers in the memory of many. This game was not that.
The Chargers even let the Raiders come back a little bit to make the game slightly fun to watch in the second half, but let’s not fool ourselves: the Chargers were in complete control all game. The offense was sterling, with Herbert having another fantastic game, despite the receivers not really making much of an impact.
This was the big bust-out game Austin Ekeler needed to prove how valuable and dangerous he can be. The tight ends made a contribution across the board after a few weeks of looking like they were going to break out. The real winner though in week 4 was the defense.
The Chargers are currently ranked 29th in the league against the run, and the Raiders under Gruden are known to be a running team. Not only that, but the Raiders were undefeated and Derek Carr came into the game the hottest quarterback in the AFC. Joey Bosa and the defensive line made both the run game and Carr pretty much inept.
While there isn’t a lot to pick on in a nice easy win, I’m sure we can find some areas of improvement. The Chargers are 3-1 sitting atop a tough AFC West that currently has Kansas City in last place. Let’s take a look at the winners and losers from week 4.
The first couple of weeks of the season, I said Austin Ekeler had to be better. Suggesting that he is the most important weapon the Chargers have and that their success on offense was squarely on his shoulders. He impacts so much of the game, that without him, the Chargers pretty much have just the two receivers for playmakers.
Ekeler had improved last week, but week 4 was no doubt his coming out party. The Chargers had a total of 380 yards on offense, and surprisingly only 212 net yards came from Herbert and the passing game. That’s because the running game had a whopping 168 yards on the ground, with Ekeler leading the way with 117 yards on 15 carries. 15 carries. That means Ekeler was averaging 7.8 yards a carry, nearly a first down every time he was handed the ball. Not only that, but he made an early contribution to the passing game by catching a touchdown.
While we know he can do more in the passing game, he eventually sealed the ball game late with an 11-yard scamper that was some tough running. The third highest-rated Charger on offense with a grade of 85.7 and the game ball from Coach Staley. Well earned.
I slightly mentioned how the receivers did not have a big game in this one. But that’s leaving it a little short. The receivers barely had a heartbeat against the Raiders. The same Raiders that were down two corners this week. Against a hobbled secondary, Mike Williams and Allen respectively managed grades of 52 and 54. By far their worst showing of the season. That didn’t stop the Chargers passing game and Justin Herbert though.
Whatever limited amount of success the Chargers did have throwing the ball pretty much exclusively came from the tight end position. Jared Cook and Donald Parham both played the same amount of snaps on the day, with Parham reeling in one of Herbert’s touchdowns. Jared Cook who had been feigning having a big day the last three weeks, finally delivered huge. Herbert’s go-to target on the week had 6 catches, for 70 yards and a touchdown. He was consistently who Herbert kept finding whether it was check-downs when pressured, or big plays down the sidelines. We were waiting on the tight ends to get more involved this season, and this performance should put the league on notice. The Chargers have a lot of dimensions on offense.
The Chargers had been struggling against the run, a lot. Some folks in the media were saying that it was too early in the season to write the Chargers run defense off. I was not one of those people; the Chargers looked absolutely lost against the run the first three weeks. So it would be only fitting that the Raiders try to establish the run. The defensive line had other ideas in store. Keeping the Raiders to an awful 48 yards on the ground.
More importantly, they made the life of Derek Carr absolutely miserable. Sacking him 4 times and creating 15 rushes for the quarterback. The leader of the newly invigorated defensive linemen? None other than superstar Joey Bosa. Bosa led the entire team with a grade of 90.8. He had a sack, 7 tackles, and accounted for one-third of all the rushes the team created. Joey Bosa did what superstars do, he showed up and dominated. As Bosa said, Carr was indeed “shook”.
Again, it’s pretty tough to pick on a team that won a game so easily. The area that killed the Chargers the most though, and is a carryover problem from the first three weeks, is their penalties. Week 4 was the worst performance the Chargers have had this year, amassing 105 yards in penalties. Highly unacceptable. Two false starts, three unsportsmanlike conducts, a holding, and a neutral zone infraction. These can be symbols of sloppy coaching and an undisciplined team (although I don’t think this is necessarily the case). It hasn’t hurt yet, but it will in a big way at some point. I would like to think that this is maybe because the Chargers have a younger team, but six of the seven penalties came from team veterans. This has to be sorted out now before it starts costing them games.
He saved his evening with a pick to basically seal the game. I’m sure that salvaged the evening for him because on the day, Derwin was the biggest disappointment for the Chargers. A lot of that comes with the “star” expectations that are put on him. The Raiders only threw for a net 165 yards, and Derwin accounted for 81 of those yards given up. That’s half of the Raiders total passing offense. Ouch. At a certain point, it almost felt like they were targeting him over and over. Routinely chasing guys down after they had made solid plays, instead of being there in coverage.
He was targeted seven times and allowed four receptions. Asante Samuel Jr., who had the exact same volume on the other hand, only allowed 24 yards. Derwin finished the game with a 48 rating, one of the worst on the day for the Chargers. It doesn’t happen often, and it may not happen again, but in week 4 Derwin James struggled, at least in terms of his standards.