The Chargers stopped Oakland so convincingly Sunday that the only real critique was how poorly the defense played offense.
Late in the third quarter, Melvin Ingram highlighted a sparkling individual afternoon by intercepting Derek Carr in the end zone but attempted to run with the ball and was tackled inside the five-yard line.
“Melvin,” teammate Isaac Rochell joked after the Chargers’ 26-10 victory, “just take a knee.”
The defenders could easily laugh with one another after limiting Oakland to one late touchdown and 289 total yards, and producing the game’s only two turnovers.
The Raiders entered as the NFL’s second-best offense in total yards and were coming off a game in which they gained 565 and scored 45 points.
“That’s a good team win,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “When we don’t give teams anything, we make teams go through us, I think we’re a tough team to beat.”
Ingram’s interception was a career first in the regular season and marked the third consecutive game the defense has forced a turnover in the red zone.
Last week, cornerback Trevor Williams intercepted San Francisco’s C.J. Beathard at the Chargers’ two-yard line. Before that, it was safety Derwin James picking off the Rams’ Jared Goff in the end zone.
Similar to Ingram on Sunday, James tried to return his interception. He stepped out of bounds at the one-yard line, a misplay that helped lead to a Chargers’ punt being blocked.
“When we get in the red zone, our team’s pretty stingy,” Lynn said. “We just gotta learn to keep our [fanny] in the end zone.”
The victory pushed the Chargers (3-2) above .500 for the first time this season and was the seventh win in their past eight games at StubHub Center.
Even when playing in what can be a strangely hostile home — there were plenty of loud Raiders fans present — the Chargers are displaying an obvious comfort.
“We’re kind of in that spot now, where, what are we gonna do?” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “Can we string some wins together before the bye [week] and get to 5-2?”
The Chargers play at Cleveland in Week 6 and then travel to London to play Tennessee.
A year ago at this time, they had just won for the first time after an 0-4 start and were left scrambling to remain relevant.
Now, they’re in the middle of any discussion about the league’s potential playoff contenders, their most recent 3-2 start coming in 2014.
“It all adds up toward the end,” running back Melvin Gordon said. “Let’s just keep racking them up and see where we go from there.”
Ingram also finished with one of the Chargers’ three sacks as the defensive front manufactured a pass rush, something that was lacking through the first four games.
The Raiders started a pair of rookie tackles — Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker — and the Chargers took advantage, their push repeatedly forcing Carr to seek safer ground.
“I think Carr was uncomfortable,” said Rochell, who also had a sack. “We got pressure. That changes the game. It changes the energy in the stadium and on the sidelines. That’s something that we haven’t had.”
The Chargers stopped Oakland each of the first four times it faced third down. They didn’t permit a third-down conversion until the final minute of the first half. By then, their lead was 17-3.
They also kept Marshawn Lynch in a zone that was far from his preferred “Beast Mode.” Lynch finished with 31 yards on nine carries. In the second half, he gained two yards.
“When they get those stops like that,” Gordon said of the defense, “it’s on us to end it, to put our foot on their neck.”
Perhaps that was Ingram’s intent when he tried to run with his interception, although that’s an unlikely starting spot for a pick-six.
Whatever his motivation, the play was something the Chargers could have fun with in victory.
“As a D-lineman, you might get one interception a career,” Rochell said. “I don’t blame him. If I get an interception at the negative-eight-yard line in the end zone, I’m taking off too.”