INGLEWOOD (News4usonline) – The Las Vegas Raiders may have brought the Black Hole with them to their Monday Night Football matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers with all of the rain and lightning strikes that forced a delay in the game being played.
But it was the Chargers who brought the electricity. That’s what it looked like in the first half of action.
Justin Herbert threw for three touchdowns in the first half to stake the Chargers to a 21-0 lead going into intermission. Last year’s NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year didn’t turn the ball over and was nearly pinpoint accurate with his passing in the first half.
The Chargers used that advantage to hold off the Raiders for an eventual 28-14 win. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley talked about the importance of his team getting out of the gate quickly against the visiting Raiders.
“It was important,” Staley said. “The way the game started with the delay, I felt like our guys showed really good composure. When we came out at the beginning of the game, what you’re seeing is, ‘Hey, what’s our level of execution after a circumstance like that?’ I liked the way that we executed.”
Staley continued, “Our first drive on offense was a premium drive. That’s always a great way to start the game; when you get the ball, have a 12-play drive that ends in a touchdown. That was a big confidence builder. And then we followed up with a three and out. Now, you’ve got your cleats in the grass as a team, and you’re playing ball. That start was definitely a winning edge tonight.”
Herbert, who finished the game with 222 yards and those three touchdowns, echoed his coach’s comments about the significance of jumping out in front with the lead, particularly when the Chargers scored on the team’s opening series.
“Yeah, I think that as well as the defense played early on, we need to take advantage of that,” Herbert said. “When we get good field position, we need to be able to score. We need to be able to push the ball down the field. I thought that we did a great job getting going. In the second half, you know, we need to do a better job, but the defense stepped up big time today.”
Despite their field half offensive dominance, the defensive unit of the Chargers played just as well, if not better than their counterparts. That’s because they held Derek Carr, the No. 1 passer coming into the ballgame and the Raiders high-flying offense scoreless through the first two quarters, a feat not lost on Staley.
“We played team defense tonight,” Staley said. “It started in the run game; we didn’t get off to a good start with our run-front tonight. We were committed to that part of the game, and I felt like our first level was outstanding tonight. Our second level was outstanding tonight. We tackled extremely well against a really good back. I have a lot of respect for all three of their backs, but [Raiders RB] Josh [Jacobs] coming back tonight — he’s a really good runner. Outside of the Riders [WR Henry] Ruggs [III] pass, we did a nice job in the passing game.”
The Chargers’ defense did more than a nice job; they practically shut down Carr, who had passed for a league-best 1,203 yards and had put the Raiders on top of the AFC West Division. The Raiders will now share that lead with the Chargers and Denver Broncos for now.
For the game, the Chargers limited Carr to 196 yards passing. Adding a cherry on top of their performance, safety Derwin James picked off Carr late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
“I’d say that we’re a complete team,” James said after the game. “Like, when the offense feel that they need a lift the defense lifts them. When the defense feels they need a lift, the offense gives us a touchdown.”
The Chargers had everything clicking in this game. Defense, special teams, and offense working in sync. For Carr, it was a bad day at the office. That’s because the Chargers dumped him a couple of times for sacks (4) on their way to recording a stellar performance.
Carr said it’s the same every week when it comes to the pressure he faced against the Chargers’ defensive front.
“Same as every game,” Carr said. “It’s the NFL. Pass rushers are different in college. I think they had a few sacks. They had some good plays, just like some other teams have had. Some good plays, a few sacks. But I think once we settled down a little bit and just communicated, I thought we were able to move the ball, and that stuff has a way of working itself out.”
The flow of the first half was just what the Chargers wanted. Then the third quarter happened. The Raiders and head coach John Gruden had a different attitude coming out of intermission. Gruden scrapped trying to run the ball against the NFL’s worst team in run defense and let quarterback Carr be himself.
When it came to what he told his ballclub at halftime to spark some energy, Gruden was evasive.
“It was one of the greatest speeches of all time, let’s just leave it at that,” Gruden said. “You don’t want to know what I said before the game because everything didn’t work, either.”
Featured Image Caption/Credit: Los Angeles Chargers