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What we learned from the Chargers’ 26-10 victory over the Raiders

What we learned from the Chargers’ 26-10 victory over the Raiders
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers smiles after leading the Chargers on a first-half scoring drive against the Oakland Raiders at StubHub Center on Oct. 7. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

What we learned from the Chargers’ 26-10 victory Sunday over Oakland:

THE RUN DEFENSE CAN BE DEFENSIVE

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Marshawn Lynch entered Sunday coming off a 130-yard game and having gained 300 yards on the ground for the season. The Chargers limited one of the NFL’s hardest-running ballcarriers to 31 yards on a season-low nine attempts. In the second half, Lynch had two yards on three carries. “That guy is a hell of a player,” defensive tackle Corey Liuget said. “For us to do what we did today to him, it means a lot. It shows we’re very serious about stopping the run.” Oakland finished with 41 rushing yards and an average of 3.2 yards per attempt. Just three of the Raiders’ 14 first downs came on the ground.

THE CHARGERS ARE PROVING STINGY IN THE RED ZONE

For the third consecutive week, the defense forced a red-zone turnover, the Chargers avoiding a potential 21 points against. Defensive end Melvin Ingram picked off Derek Carr in the end zone on a play when Carr was forced to retreat from the pocket and throw while backing up. The ball floated over the middle and into Ingram’s eager arms. The fact the play came on first-and-goal at the 1-yard line made it all the more difficult for the Raiders. “We expected that we’d have a wide-open receiver on the play and obviously that will be second-guessed, rightfully so,” Oakland coach Jon Gruden said.

THE KICKING ISSUE IS STILL ALIVE AND KICKING

After the game, coach Anthony Lynn offered his support for struggling placekicker Caleb Sturgis, saying he was “not concerned about it.” But the reality is the Chargers have missed four extra points, Sturgis hitting just 67% of his tries. So far, he actually has been more accurate on field goals. Veteran punter Donnie Jones was signed last week to replace Drew Kaser as holder, the Chargers convinced that Kaser lacked consistency in placing the ball down. But Sturgis missed a fourth-quarter extra point that he clearly did not hit well, the ball darting wide of the left goal post. And so a saga that dates to the beginning of last year continues for another week, Sturgis being the Chargers’ fifth kicker since the start of the 2017 season.

AUSTIN EKELER IS SLIPPERY

The second-year running back turned potential calamity into a 44-yard touchdown in the second quarter, just the latest example of how dangerous he can be. Standing in shotgun formation, quarterback Philip Rivers mishandled the snap from Mike Pouncey before securing the ball. Sensing that the play was about to fall apart, Rivers desperately tossed a short pass to Ekeler, who made one move to get around two Raiders and then dashed down the sideline for an unlikely touchdown. Wide receiver Keenan Allen threw a block near the goal line to take Oakland safety Marcus Gilchrist out of the play and escort Ekeler into the end zone. “I just dropped the snap, and then it was a little bit of panic mode to get it,” Rivers said. “Once I got it corralled, I knew where Austin was as kind of an outlet, and just thought, ‘Minimize the negative play.’ Then, I look up and it’s a 40-yard touchdown.”

PHILIP RIVERS ISN’T SLOWING DOWN MUCH

At 36 and making his 197th consecutive start, Rivers passed for 339 yards and two touchdowns on a day when he barely stood out. The 300-yard passing game was the 59th of his career and second of the season. He now has 13 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. Rivers also has been sacked just six times through five games. He repeatedly moved in and around the pocket Sunday to extend plays, including a 16-yard completion to tight end Antonio Gates to convert a third down. Rivers completed passes to seven different receivers and had only five incompletions in 27 attempts.

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