Quarterback Terrelle Pryor gave the offense a much-needed boost in his return to the lineup, and Charles Woodson and the Oakland Raiders defense played opportunistic most of the night on the way to a 27-17 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday night.
Sebastian Janikowski bounced back from a disappointing start to the season by kicking a pair of field goals off the infield dirt at the Coliseum, while rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden made a game-clinching interception in the end zone to ice the win.
In all, Oakland forced four turnovers and added a blocked field goal on special teams to pull even with the San Diego at 2-3 in the AFC West.
Here’s the full roster report card from the game.
Pryor’s biggest weakness has been the deep ball, yet he fired a 44-yard touchdown strike on Oakland’s first play from scrimmage then later connected with Denarius Moore on a 35-yarder. He also showed great finesse by scrambling away from pressure. Although he had a few hiccups down the stretch, Pryor’s poise was, by far, the key to it all.
He repeatedly got chased out of the pocket, but stayed cool and made several key plays while throwing on the run. His touchdown to Moore, when he stopped just shy of the sidelines and paused just long enough to allow the receiver to get open, might have been Pryor’s finest moment as a pro.
His biggest mistake was not covering up on the sack when he fumbled in the fourth quarter. Other than that he was solid all night.
No Darren McFadden. No Rashad Jennings in the second half. No worry. McFadden was out with a hamstring injury, and Jennings left with his own sore hamstring after carrying 10 times for 41 yards.
Without their top two running backs, the Raiders turned to Marcel Reece down the stretch, and the fullback responded with some big runs down the stretch to keep the clock running and the chains moving. Jamize Olawale, Reece’s backup, did a decent job blocking and also caught a key pass for a first down on Oakland’s final scoring drive.
As terrific as Pryor looked running the offense, a lot of his success throwing on the run came as a result of the receivers getting open when Pryor was under pressure and working their way back to the ball.
Rod Streater’s long touchdown gave the crowd a jolt early and put the Chargers on their heels. Moore is playing his best stretch of the season, so far, and has caught a touchdown pass in two of the past three games. Jacoby Ford also made a pair of catches, though his biggest impact was on special teams.
Rookie Mychal Rivera made his first start of the season, but didn’t have much of an impact in the passing game, as he caught only one pass for five yards. He also got called for what appeared to be a ridiculous offensive pass-interference penalty when he and the defensive back collided, though the call could have gone either way.
Most of the time, Rivera and Jeron Mastrud were blocking to help try to get the running game going. It clearly wasn’t a flashy game for either player, yet, sometimes, those can be the best kind. In this case, that’s exactly how it turned out.
Considering they were missing their starting center and right tackle, both of whom were injured, the Raiders held up fairly well. The pass protection broke down a bit in the second half when San Diego’s defense stiffened, though quarterback Terrelle Pryor was sacked only twice.
Still, Oakland ran for more than 100 yards, as a team, and a lot of that credit goes to the guys up front. Andre Gurode filled in well at center, though he was called for a false start and also stepped on Pryor’s foot which caused the quarterback to fall. Gurode and left tackle Khalif Barnes were both hit with false-start penalties, but other than that, the line played mostly clean.
It’s a pretty safe bet that whatever nightmares San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers has this week will include Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston. Houston was in Rivers face much of the night, and his sack late in the second quarter was key at the time. Nearly three-fourths of the season remains, but it’d be a shame if he doesn’t make the Pro Bowl the way he’s played so far.
The rest of the line also played well, combining to hold the Chargers to a meager 32 yards rushing. A lot of the work by Pat Sims and Vance Walker went unnoticed, but the duo did a superb job of holding up the blockers so Oakland’s linebackers could make plays.
Kevin Burnett was a one-man wrecking crew most of the night, beginning with his stop of Danny Woodhead for no gain on a 4th-and-goal play from the 1-yard line early in the second quarter. Burnett also forced a fumble and had a sack among his 14 tackles.
Nick Roach was also stellar with 12 tackles and a forced fumble that safety Charles Woodson returned for a touchdown. Burnett and Roach combined for more than one-third of all the tackles Oakland had in the game.
First-round pick D.J. Hayden was having a tough time covering fellow rookie Keenan Allen, but made up for it when he made a terrific play in the end zone to intercept a desperation pass by Philip Rivers to secure the win for Oakland. It’s Hayden’s first career interception and should be a confidence boost for the young defensive back.
Veterans Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins, on the other hand, played well in spurts and had their share of problems. Porter whiffed on a tackle attempt early then was later called for unnecessary roughness. He made up for it with a pair of nice breakups in the second quarter.
Jenkins did OK, but was hit with a foolish personal-foul penalty after pushing a receiver well after the pass was ruled incomplete, helping sustain a San Diego scoring drive. On the other hand, the Chargers made their best run of the night when Oakland went into its prevent packages.
Charles Woodson notched another place in the NFL history books with his 25-yard fumble return for a touchdown. It is Woodson’s 13th defensive touchdown, tying him with two other players, including former Raider Rod Woodson, for most in league history. Woodson also had an interception, one of two by Oakland safeties.
Usama Young had the other to end San Diego’s first drive. Woodson didn’t have a totally flawless night, however. He was twice beaten for big gains when he allowed the Chargers receiver to speed past him. Part of Rivers’ huge day passing came at the expense of Oakland’s safeties, though both made up for it with big plays,
For the second straight game, the Raiders blocked a kick. This time, it came against San Diego kicker Nick Novak when Porter came speeding in from the left side of the offensive line. In a quirky twist, the Chargers recovered the block and got a first down out of it. Nevertheless, two blocked kicks in two weeks are encouraging.
Sebastian Janikowski making a pair of field goals off the infield dirt is also very encouraging, which is where he’s had problems in the past. Jacoby Ford’s kickoff returns are a good sign, as was the day had by punter Marquette King. During one drive that stalled out deep in Oakland territory, King unloaded a 64-yard booming kick to push San Diego way back.