It may have been all the way back at the onset of October, but the San Diego Chargers should still have no-so-fond memories of their first encounter with the Oakland Raiders this season. That bloodbath of turnovers was a putrid effort where the Chargers of old showed up and basically gift-wrapped a victory for the then Terrelle Pryor-led Raiders team.
Though some of the faces have changed and the two teams have clearly taken different paths this season, the animosity is bound to still be evident in this rivalry game. It’s easy to boil the first meeting between these two down to turnovers with the Bolts giving it away five times to the bagel the Raiders put up in the that category, but that isn’t the only issue the team had back in early October.
A main cause for quarterback Philip Rivers throwing the ball to the other team during his career has been the Chargers becoming one-dimensional. This was certainly the case back in Week 5 when the Raiders held the Bolts to just 36 total rushing yards with Danny Woodhead’s nine carries for 17 yards, Ronnie Brown’s seven totes for 11 yards, and Ryan Mathews’ three runs for a measly eight yards capping an embarrassing night for the ground game.
But that is Oakland’s specialty after all as they rank ninth in the NFL giving up just 103.9 yards per game on the ground. A renewed focus on the ground should prevent the Bolts from falling into that trap once again this week with Mathews carrying the ball 29 times in each of the past two weeks and going over the 100-yard barrier both times. It’s still important for the Chargers to be persistent with their run game and try to wear down an Oakland front seven which has proven to be tough in order to maintain a balanced attack on Sunday.
The Raiders’ defense may be solid against the run, but that hasn’t helped them on the scoreboard in recent weeks as they allowed 37 to the hapless New York Jets in Week 14 and surrendered a whopping 56 to the Kansas City Chiefs just last weekend. San Diego should take a page out of the Chiefs’ playbook from last week and use screen passes as an extension of the run game if the Raiders continually stuff them on the ground. Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles absolutely torched the Raiders for five touchdowns last week with four of them coming on screens. Both Woodhead and Mathews are more than proficient in this category.
Having these facts will only take the Chargers so far, and the team has to stay dedicated to the plan to punish the Oakland defense. Given the fact that the Bolts surrendered a season-low 295 total yards to a Peyton Manning led Denver Broncos team last week, something tells me a Matt Gloin quarterbacked Raiders attack won’t be too much trouble on that side of the ball. Just taking care of business offensively will go a long way toward getting a much-needed win on Sunday.