Despite a pretty sloppy outing, the Chargers best the Oakland Raiders at home by the final count of 26-13. San Diego had to overcome three turnovers (a muffed punt, a Philip Rivers interception, and a botched snap being the trifecta) in order to win at home and keep their playoff hopes alive. Going into Week 16, the Bolts had a pretty slim chance at making the tournament, however things really broke their way on Sunday; Miami got shut out by Buffalo and Baltimore was crushed by the Patriots. Next week the Chargers have a legitimate shot at sneaking their way into the playoffs, but more on that in a second. First, let’s look at what happened in this game.
San Diego’s offense was effective, as usual, save three turnovers. They were only forced to punt one time all afternoon and the offense held the ball for 34:42. This is partially because they were able to go 6/11 on third downs and pick up 24 first downs. Keeping drives alive was key in the home team’s success. Rivers was protected pretty well in this game, and really has been all season long. What helped out a lot was the fact that they were able to get the ground game going. Ryan Mathews ran for 99 yards and a touchdown (with a long dash of 34). Danny Woodhead chipped in with 52 yards on eight carries. San Diego, as a team, ran the ball 37 times for 148 yards. Rivers completed 19 of his 29 passes for 201 yards with a touchdown on the afternoon. With only ten imcompletions on the day, the Bolts were able to keep the clock spinning, and it allowed them to control the flow of the game.
Oakland was hampered by a lot of foolish penalties. Mike Jenkins was flagged for taunting (after slapping the ball out of Ryan Mathews’ hands after a play was over on the Raider sideline). They also were called for a lot of pre-snap penalties and those really threw them out of rhythm. When the dust settled, the black and silver were flagged 12 times for 73 yards. By comparison, the Chargers were only penalized three times for 24 yards. That was, more than anything else, the biggest difference in this game.
Matt McGloin didn’t look terrible for the Raiders. He was not afforded great protection, but was able to roll out of the pocket and make throws down the field. Speaking of which, it is safe to say that McGloin is not gun-shy. He tossed the ball up for grabs on a few different occasions and was not afraid to make tight throws towards the perimeter. I thought he showed great accuracy towards the boundaries in this game, something that could serve him well if he retains his job next season. The thing that impressed me the most was what he did on the final offensive play of the game for Oakland. With :59 left in the game, down by 13 and a fourth and six situation staring him and his team in the face, the Raiders had to make a play. When the ball was snapped, Eric Weddle came charging towards McGloin, untouched, right up the middle. McGloin was able to get the ball away before being crunched. He lobbed the ball towards the corner of the end zone towards Marcel Reece. The ball was floated and then dropped by Reece. Even though the pass was incomplete, it showed how smart McGloin could be. Many young quarterbacks would have taken a sack in that situation, or thrown a poor pass. However, Matt put the ball in a place where his receiver could make a play on it (at a key spot in the game). That, to me, was pretty impressive.
What was not impressive was the running game for Oakland. They are a team that needs to get things going on the ground for their offense to have a chance. On the game, they ran it just 17 times for 59 yards. The offensive line did not make much of a push up front and as a result, the interior linemen of San Diego were able to push them backwards and blow many plays up. Turning the Raiders into a one-trick pony was the biggest reason why the Chargers won this game. Being forced to do nothing but throw the ball really limited Oakland’s chances in this one and the team ended up losing by 13 because of it (despite winning the turnover battle 3-2).
This was not a clean game by any means for San Diego, but it is still a satisfying win. Next week they will host a good Kansas City team, and they will have to cut down on their turnovers if they hope to go over in that game. That said, the Bolts are actually in a good position to make the playoffs as the #6 seed in the AFC. Obviously they will need to win at home over the Chiefs (however, they are not going to be playing for much in that game). Outside of a victory, the Chargers need the Bengals to beat the Ravens in Cincinnati (a place where they have not lost all year), and the Jets to down the Dolphins in Mimai. If all three dominoes fall, we will be seeing this San Diego team in the playoffs. This is a dangerous team if they can make it into the tournament because they have the ability to control a game and dictate the pace. Teams with those abilities can often find success come January.
The Raiders will wrap up their season at home against the Broncos. Matt McGloin has one final chance to prove to the Oakland coaching staff that he deserves a shot next season. With that being said, he may be doing it behind a new head coach in 2014. After the conclusion of the 2013 season, it is expected that Dennis Allen is going to be fired. We will cross that bridge when we come to it, but for right now the Raiders will hope to go 5-11 on the season and move forward from there.