OAKLAND — Less than 30 minutes after the Oakland Raiders had pulled even with the Denver Broncos atop the standings in the AFC West, head coach Jack Del Rio found himself standing at the podium, fielding questions about yet another big gamble that had paid major dividends.
“Usually you don’t have to answer a lot about why when you get it,” Del Rio joked, after dialing up a key fourth-down play in the third quarter of the Oakland Raiders 34-31 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday afternoon. “Especially a touchdown. I mean, come on.”
With just over a minute to go in the third quarter and the Raiders staring at fourth-and-two from the Chargers’ 20-yard line, Sebastian Janikowski started to run onto the field for what would have been his sixth field goal attempt.
Instead, Del Rio kept his offense on the field and Carr connected with Michael Crabtree on a 20-yard fade to give a 25-24 lead that would grow to 27-24 thanks to a successful two-point conversion.
“I’m starting to kind of think like him,” Carr said. “So, I kind was like, ‘He’s probably going to go for this.'”
The scoring drive had been set up by Perry Riley — the newest Raider. Riley stripped Chargers running back Melvin Gordon on the visitor’s 35-yard line for one of his two forced fumbles of the day. As a group, the defense produced for turnovers.
Afterward, as he stood in front of his locker, Riley admitted that he didn’t even find out he would be starting until right before the kickoff.
“I didn’t know exactly until we got here and they told me I was going out for intros,” Riley said. “But I was ready for it. I prepared for it.”
While his defense dominated the turnover battle 4-1, Del Rio would still like to see the group, which allowed 423 yards of total offense, tighten up — especially when it comes to big plays.
“[We’ve got to] stop playing Santa Claus — stop giving out presents,” Del Rio said. “We gave up a couple today — a couple of 50-yard passes — gift-wrapped and we placed them under the tree.”
For the offense, the big play of the afternoon came early in the third quarter when Carr hit Amari Cooper for a 64-yard touchdown — his first of the season. Cooper went for 138 yards on six receptions, and could have gone for even more if not for a couple of near misses in the end zone in the first half and yet another one in the third quarter.
“We left way too much out there. We scored 34 points and we’re disappointed,” Carr said. “That’s a good feeling.”
Those 34 points might not have been enough had the Chargers succeeded on their 36-yard field goal attempt with just over two minutes in the game. Josh Lambo never got the chance to kick the potential game-tying effort because the holder Drew Kaser botched the snap.
“Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something like that happens,” Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said. Too many turnovers throughout the game and critical mistakes at critical times once again.”