Chargers vs. Raiders: Defense Carries San Diego to 22-14 Victory

Christopher HansenNFL AnalystSeptember 11, 2012

September 10, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips (95, left), linebacker Takeo Spikes (51), and linebacker Shaun Phillips (95) celebrate after a play during the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum. The Chargers defeated the Raiders 22-14. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

Sound the alarm! The San Diego Chargers are off to a fast start in the Norv Turner era. The Chargers went on the road got a victory to start the season against the sloppy Oakland Raiders.

A combination of a stifling defense and miscues by Oakland allowed the Chargers to get the relatively easy win on the back of five Nate Kaeding field goals and one Philip Rivers touchdown pass. In many ways it has been the defense that has been an issue for Turner over the past few seasons and a solid performance is a welcome sign for fans in San Diego.

It wasn’t a completely dominate performance, but it was close. The defense took away the big play and got stops in key situations, and the offense did enough to put points on the board. Perhaps the offense’s failure to convert on third down or score in the red zone would have been a bigger issue if the Raiders hadn’t been giving the Chargers free field goals via botched long snaps.


The Good

The defense limited Darren McFadden to just 4.2 yards per touch, which is well below his normal output. Altogether, the Chargers' front seven held the Raiders to just 45 yards on 20 carries.

When the defense needed a stop, they were able to get one. The defense got off the field on third down 10 out of 15 times. The Raiders couldn’t sustain drives and had fewer opportunities to make big plays.

The defense allowed Carson Palmer to complete a lot of passes, but they were for short gains because the Chargers took away the deep half of the field and put the heat on. Palmer was sacked three times and the defense added a forced fumble to round out a solid performance.

Mike Harris, the much-talked about undrafted left tackle who started in place of the injured Jared Gaither, stonewalled a quality Oakland defensive line. The Raiders gave Harris different looks using Richard Seymour, Dave Tollefson and Matt Shaughnessy on the outside without much success. Harris’ performance is particularly encouraging as the Chargers go forward without the services of Gaither.

Nate Kaeding looks healthy as he hit five field goals and six touchbacks in the opener. Kaeding’s leg looks strong and accurate and the Chargers now know they can rely on him when the offense isn’t getting it into the end zone.


The Bad

The running game couldn’t get going without Ryan Mathews. San Diego tried using their running backs in the short passing game instead, but that wasn’t successful either. The Chargers badly need to get Mathews back and will be crossing their fingers he is cleared for contact at some point before Sunday’s game against Tennessee.

Part of the issue with the running game wasn’t the running backs, but the blocking. The Chargers did a great job keeping Rivers off his back, but couldn’t open up running lanes. In most games, the Chargers will probably take a clean pocket for Rivers over an opening running lane, but they would prefer to have both.

The Chargers had trouble in the red zone and scored just one touchdown in five trips. The Raiders gave the Chargers so many opportunities that the field goals were enough to give them a solid lead, but the opposition doesn’t lose their long snapper regularity. The Bolts need to show more killer instinct in the red zone and convert the field goals into touchdowns to beat teams that don’t beat themselves.

There were far too many penalties: nine for 78 yards that included a late hit by rookie Melvin Ingram that extended an Oakland drive late in the game and made the score look closer than the 22-6 shellacking it had been to that point.

Turner's poor coaching decisions also popped up on the final play of the game. The Chargers unwisely punted with four seconds left in the game to give the ball back to the Raiders when they could have run the clock out themselves and avoided the risk.