Not even a short trip to Southern California was enough to shake the Oakland Raiders out of their losing ways. Amid a dizzying string of penalties and missed opportunities, Dennis Allen’s team dropped its fifth straight with a 26-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers in Week 16.
The Raiders had a recipe for beating the Chargers, having pulled it off earlier this season. They even got off to an early lead in the rematch before the roof caved in.
Most of the damage was self-inflicted, as Oakland failed to capitalize when given the chance while San Diego pounced on enough of the mistakes to drop the Raiders to 4-11.
Here are some of the top takeaways from Oakland’s loss to San Diego.
One of the most troubling aspects of the Raiders’ free-fall in the second half of the season has been the rise in foolish penalties that either kill momentum or sustain drives for the opposition. Against San Diego, Oakland was guilty of both types of self-inflicted damage.
From defensive end Jason Hunter’s illegal hands to the face penalty that negated his own 12-yard sack to the ridiculous unsportsmanlike call against cornerback Mike Jenkins for slapping the ball out of the hands of Chargers running back Ryan Mathews—after Jenkins had made a great play to force Mathews out of bounds for no gain—the Raiders were once again often their own worst enemy.
There were other painful penalties for Dennis Allen’s team.
Rookie tight end Mychal Rivera’s illegal formation penalty wiped out a long completion that would have put the Raiders in a 1st-and-goal situation in the fourth quarter. Left tackle Jared Allen was called for a false start and holding on an Oakland drive that ended in an interception. On the same drive he was tagged with the unsportsmanlike penalty, Jenkins drew a flag for defensive holding that took the Chargers out of a 3rd-and-15 hole.
In total, the Raiders had 12 penalties for 73 yards.
For the first time in three games Oakland’s undrafted rookie quarterback didn’t have to worry about coming out of the game. Terrelle Pryor stayed on the sidelines the entire game and didn’t even so much as have to warm up.
That had to be comforting for Matt McGloin, though it’s tough to say how much of an effect it had on the young quarterback. He completed 20 of 36 throws for a pedestrian 206 yards. McGloin was kept out of the end zone for just the second time in six starts but did throw an interception that helped set up San Diego’s first touchdown.
It was a typical performance from McGloin. He looked sharp at times, as he did throwing a 37-yard completion to tight end Mychal Rivera while on the run. McGloin also was much crisper with his play-fakes, something the rookie quarterback had struggled with previously, and showed good mobility in the pocket.
He did miss some open receivers and made a particularly bad throw on the interception. In short, it wasn’t enough to get the Raiders a win nor was it enough to settle Oakland’s quarterback issues.
Oakland’s powerful but erratic kicker hasn’t had many good days at the office this season, and his afternoon in San Diego didn’t exactly get off to the best of starts. Sebastian Janikowski slipped and fell during pregame warm-ups and appeared to have injured himself in the process as he grimaced and signaled an end to his workout.
It didn’t seem to bother Janikowski in the game, however. He kicked a 20-yard field goal late in the second quarter, and then he tacked on a 42-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Janikowski has now made six of his past seven attempts after missing seven of his first 22 tries. He’ll need at least one more field goal or three extra points to avoid being held to fewer than 100 points for the first time since 2009.
With the exception of one big, big play by San Diego’s Mathews in the third quarter, the Raiders had one of their better days against the run, which helped keep the game close early.
Mathews was repeatedly bottled up in the backfield or near the line of scrimmage by a crew of defenders led by Oakland defensive tackle Pat Sims. The Raiders’ massive man in the middle, Sims got off to a strong start and repeatedly stuffed the Chargers running backs en route to a season-high 10 tackles. Sims also had the team’s only sack.
The only breakdown came in the second half when Mathews broke loose for a 35-yard gain on a delayed run that was pivotal in a drive that culminated in a field goal and pushed San Diego’s lead to 20-10. Prior to that, the Raiders had helped the Chargers running back to two yards or fewer on nine of his carries.
The Raiders went into the game having committed the fourth-most turnovers in the league, and they added to that total with two more against San Diego. Each time, the Chargers cashed the miscues in for points.
Quarterback Matt McGloin made the game’s most pivotal play when his pass was intercepted by San Diego free safety Eric Weddle at Oakland’s own 20-yard line. The turnover came three plays after Raiders cornerback Mike Jenkins intercepted a pass by Philip Rivers.
McGloin also fumbled in the game when he was hit while attempting to throw, but he was able to pounce on the ball before the Chargers could.
Rookie returner Greg Jenkins wasn’t as fortunate.
After making a foolish decision to field a kickoff halfway into the end zone late in the third quarter, Jenkins was hit while trying to bring the ball out and coughed it up at the Raiders’ 13-yard line. He appeared to make the initial recovery but was unable to hang onto it.
San Diego scored a touchdown following McGloin’s interception and tacked on a field goal after Jenkins’ turnover. Ten points in a game decided by 13 is a pretty significant swing.
San Diego’s secondary seemed content to let Andre Holmes get open for big gains. The Chargers’ main focus was on containing Oakland wide receiver Rod Streater, which they were very effective at doing.
While Holmes was putting up another productive day (five catches for 71 yards), Streater was held in check most of the afternoon and was limited to just one catch for two yards.
The second-year player seemed to score on a 39-yard catch in the fourth quarter, but referees ruled the pass incomplete. Television replays appeared to show Streater’s knee touching down in the end zone before the ball came out, and Oakland coach Dennis Allen threw the challenge play. The review was apparently inconclusive and the ball was brought back.
Streater will have to have the game of his life against the Denver Broncos if he is to become Oakland’s first wide receiver with 1,000 receiving yards since Randy Moss did it in 2005. To do it, Streater will have to get 152 yards or more in the Week 17 finale.
There are a number of factors that Oakland’s coaching staff will point to for the loss to San Diego, and rightfully so. Yet as bad as the Raiders played, they were still in position to make it close late in the fourth quarter when fullback Marcel Reece dropped a sure touchdown pass from McGloin.
Normally one of Oakland’s more sure-handed players, Reece ducked past a San Diego defender on a 4th-and-6 play from the Chargers’ 7-yard line and had nothing but a few inches of air between him and the end zone when a lofted throw from McGloin slipped through Reece’s hands and fell incomplete.
There were only 54 seconds remaining at the time, but a touchdown and extra point would have pulled the Raiders within six points and made it a one-score game. Instead, the Chargers were able to kneel down and milk the final moments off the clock to secure the win.
Marquette King has taken a lot of heat for the issues he’s had as a holder for kicker Sebastian Janikowski. No one can say anything negative about his punting, however.
King, who went into the day leading the NFL in gross average, was kept busy on a day Oakland’s offense repeatedly bogged down. He punted five times for a 54.2-yard average that is King’s highest of the season.
That also raised King’s season average to 49.1, a mark former Oakland punter Shane Lechler reached only three times in 13 seasons with the Raiders.