Game Preview: Raiders at Chargers

Can Tony Sparano’s latest motivational ploy put the Raiders over the top for their first win against a suddenly reeling Chargers team? Maybe, but what will help them the most is if they put together a complete game in all phases, which they still have yet to do. The first matchup against San Diego last month was as close as they’ve come to that objective — and in fact, if the offense could have just generated a couple of first downs on either of their final two possessions, they would have had won that game.

It’s odd that, in that 31-28 loss last month, the Raiders had their worst time of possession (only 22:58) but by far their best running effort (McFadden 14 carries for 80 yards, Jones-Drew 4-30). Philip Rivers had a field day with Oakland’s pass defense, lighting them up for 313 yards and 3 TDs, while Derek Carr had nearly as many yards (282), 4 TDs and an INT. Branden Oliver also ran up 101 yards on 26 carries for the Chargers, which made the difference in the end (along with Janikowski’s missed field goal attempt).

Keys to Victory

Offense:  This could be a chance to find that running game they’ve been missing. Raider1015 over at Silver and Black Pride has a great breakdown of the Raiders running woes in the Seattle game. Much of it seems to revolve around RG Austin Howard getting blown up at the LOS with some frequency. Howard was a right tackle with the Jets (where Sparano was his line coach) , yet the Raiders moved him in to guard, and kept Menelik Watson at the RT slot. At 6’7″, Howard may be too tall to get low, and is getting leveraged underneath by defensive tackles. If Sparano can help him fix that, and they can get McFadden and Jones-Drew back on track, they have a decent chance in this one.

The other element of offense they need to work on is turnovers. Interceptions and fumbles, often at key moments, have made them even more vulnerable to getting blown out and being forced into a one-dimensional second-half offense. This team simply doesn’t have enough talent to get away with giving up the ball. They need to execute properly and maintain ball security.

Defense:  As we saw last week against the Broncos, the Raiders were able to keep the game close early on — and even led briefly — because they were able to create turnovers. If they can get to Rivers the way they got to Manning early on, and get points off those turnovers, they keep the offense in the game. Oliver ran over and through the defense last time, but the Chargers are ranked 30th in rushing. Rivers had a dismal showing in Miami two weeks ago, throwing for just 138 yards and 3 INTs in a 37-0 blowout. San Diego has lost three in a row, so this may be an opportunity for the defense to shine. As always, covering Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd will be critical.

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