INGLEWOOD, Calif. (News4usonline) – The Los Angeles Chargers defense did something not too many teams have been able to do. They stopped Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs in his tracks during an NFL game that was played at SoFi Stadium on the first day of October during the 2023 NFL regular season. And that’s hard to do.
For the game, Jacobs was limited to 58 yards rushing and one score on 17 carries by the Chargers defense. In the first four weeks of play into the regular season, Jacobs has failed to hit the 100-yard mark rushing the football.
Afterward, Las Vegas head coach Josh McDaniels talked about the frustration of not getting Jacobs going. As a team, the Raiders ran the football for a grand total of 76 yards. Without Jacobs getting loose, the offense for the Raiders struggled.
“I thought he played really hard,” McDaniels said.” You can see that he’s ready to contribute in every area that he can. I thought he did some decent things in the Blitz pickup. I thought he ran the ball hard. I thought he found some lanes there. We didn’t want to try to go away from that; with it being a two-score game, we felt like we could still hand him the ball, which I think is the right thing to do when he got a player like him.
“He made himself available in the passing game. He fought hard for some critical plays on the sideline to get the first downs and scored a touchdown down there to make it a one-score game. He always plays like that; he’s a warrior. He gave everything he had today to help us to try to make a push there late. We just got to do more to help put ourselves in a better situation.”
Compounding the lack of a run game against the Chargers was the fact the Raiders were playing without starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Instead of Garoppolo, a seasoned veteran, the Raiders went with rookie Aidan O’Connell to operate under center.
At times, O’Connell played decently. At other times, he played like a rookie and made some mistakes like one. His goal-line pass that was intercepted by Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. helped seal a 24-17 win by Los Angeles. O’Connell also had two costly fumbles in the game. He was also sacked seven times, with six being delivered courtesy of Chargers edge rusher Khalil Mack.
“I think he’ll be the first one to understand the things that he could do better,” McDaniels said about his young quarterback. “Playing quarterback in our league starts with taking care of the football, and whether that be hanging on to it in the pocket, or making good decisions in the passing game, and also understanding the timing and that element of playing within the pocket in the NFL. It’s not always the same week-to-week; it depends on the rush, who you’re dealing with, and how they play.”
With a novice manning the quarterback position against the Chargers and making his first NFL start, the Raiders run game featuring the mercurial Jacobs was all set to be contained by Los Angeles. O’Connell’s stats read that he played okay. For the game, O’Connell completed 24 of 39 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown. Those are pretty decent numbers but they’re also misleading.
At times, O’Connell looked utterly confused by what the Chargers were doing on defense. This game certainly proved to be a classroom of learning for O’Connell.
“I think it’s, unfortunately, a combination of both things that I have to do better,” O’Connell shared about his takeaways from the game. “ Just like I said, the magnitude of each play is really what I’m learning. What I learned today is how important each play is, how important each drive is and having to just do my job on each play, even if it’s a little bit harder, one play versus the other. I need to focus and can’t look ahead, can’t look behind, just each play one play at a time.”
With O’Connell trying to find his way against the Chargers, that left Jacobs as the No.1 weapon for Los Angeles to target to stop. Jacobs, who was the NFL’s leading rusher in 2022, gaining 1,653 yards, and averaging 4.9 yards a pop, showed flashes and the power of a player ranked No. 12 on the NFL’s Top 100 list. Jacobs also earned All-Pro honors for the way he played last season.
With the Chargers defense geared to stop Jacobs, the Raiders’ productivity on offense was predictable. And it stalled many times during the course of the game against the Chargers.
“It’s fundamentals, its details, its execution,” McDaniels said. “Offensive football is never about one person. It can’t be. We can have a lot of good plays where seven or eight guys do the right thing, and it doesn’t matter; you need 11. Those are hard lessons to learn because it doesn’t feel good when you’re going through it. We have a group that understands when we are doing things well, and we do them as a group, and we do them the right way.”
Lead Image Caption: Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (8) takes the ball from quarterback Aidan O’Connell in an NFL game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 1, 2023. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline
Dennis has covered and written about politics, crime, social justice, sports, and entertainment. Dennis currently covers the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, and Olympic sports. Dennis is the editor of News4usonline.com and serves as the publisher of the Compton Bulletin newspaper. He earned a journalism degree from Howard University.