Chargers-Raiders: a different rivalry

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (News4uonline) – The Los Angeles Chargers ended their season last year playing the Las Vegas Raiders. The Chargers walked away from that game with an overtime defeat at the hands of their longtime AFC West rivals. It was a hard loss for the Chargers to absorb because it cost them a playoff opportunity. 

Fast forward to the 2022 NFL season, and the Chargers get another look at the team that bounced them from a potential postseason run in 2021. The two teams have kept mostly their cast of players from a year ago with a slight twitch. Khalil Mack, who spent the first four years of his career playing for the Raiders, is now a member of the Chargers. 

Los Angeles Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4). Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

The Chargers got Mack in a trade with the Chicago Bears in the spring after the veteran linebacker played four seasons in the Windy City. After starting his career in the AFC, Mack is back playing in a division where everything started for him. 

“There are a lot of good quarterbacks,” Mack said during his introductory press conference in March. “There’s great quarterback play. A lot of great schemes when you’re talking about [Chiefs Head Coach] Andy [Reid] and all of these different coaches. It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead.” 

One of those challenges for Mack and the Chargers is having to face and pin down Raiders quarterback Derek Carr twice a year, a guy who threw for 4,804 yards in 2021. 

“My dog, Derek. It’s going to be fun,” Mack remarked  Every time that I play against that guy, it’s fun. He’s a special, special guy as well. It’s going to be fun to see him twice per year.”

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) on the run against the Oakland (now Las Vegas) defenders in a 2019 NFL game played against the Las Vegas Raiders. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

The first of two games played between the two teams turned out to be a lot of fun for Mack and the Chargers. Mack recorded three of the six sacks that Los Angeles had on Carr in the Chargers’ 24-19 win at SoFi Stadium. For good measure, the Chargers intercepted Carr three times. 

As one of four newly minted captains on the defensive side of the ball for the Chargers, Mack usually leads by example. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said that Mack and Sebastian Joseph-Day have exemplary qualities that have allowed them to be named team captains. 

“The example that they set every day. The example that they set when they come into the building every day. Those two guys don’t need to say a lot,” remarked Staley. “Now, they do, at times, but it’s just the example that they set on a day-to-day basis. It doesn’t take people long to see, and that’s why you’ll see some guys like them be elected captain, being new on a team, is because they’ve commanded everyone’s full attention. They’ve earned it.”

Mack squaring off against former teammates twice a year is just the latest twist in the storied rivalry between the Chargers and the Raiders. The two teams first played one another in 1960, and just about every game they have played has been rife with high-intensity play and drama, much like the season-ending theatrical display the Chargers and Raiders put on last season. 

Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (13) fields a punt in 2019 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Prior to playing the Raiders in their season opener at SoFi Stadium, the Chargers had played Las Vegas 124 times in the regular season (now 125 times). The Raiders still hold the edge in the long-running series. 

During the week leading up to the team’s first game of the season, Staley talked about what makes the rivalry between the Chargers and Raiders special.   

“Any time that you go back as far as this rivalry has, certainly this division, I think that I really like this part of the division, just how far it goes back with these teams,” Staley said. “I think the history of the coaches, the history of the players, certainly with us being on the West Coast, it’s important to a lot of different people here on the West Coast. Then, in terms of the NFL, I think the ingenuity of both organizations, I think that both organizations have had a real impact and footprint on the legacy of the NFL. I think that’s also big. I’m really excited to be a part of it.”

Derwin James, whom the Chargers signed to a multiple-year extension this summer, said the familiarity of the two teams makes for a great rivalry. “I’ll just say being able to play them two times a year,” James said. “The teams know each other very well. Like I said, there is always competition.”