What we learned from the Chargers’ 20-6 victory over Oakland on Sunday:
THE DEFENSE CONTINUES TO IMPRESS
For the third consecutive game, the Chargers had a notable goal-line stand. This one came on the game’s first possession, helping set the tone on a day when the Raiders never reached the end zone. Rookie safety Derwin James stopped Dwayne Harris on a shovel pass for no gain on fourth-and-goal at the Chargers’ 1-yard line. “We have a great group of young players,” defensive end Melvin Ingram said. “Those boys are so special. They came up big. When you have rookies that can step up and make plays like that, it’s big.” In their previous two victories, the Chargers clinched the games by forcing incompletions in the end zone on the final play. They now have held five straight opponents to fewer than 20 points.
THE CHARGERS’ PLAYMAKERS AREN’T JUST ON OFFENSE
With weapons such as Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams among others available, quarterback Phil Rivers has plenty of big-play options. But the Chargers also have some explosiveness on defense. On Sunday, Ingram executed a spin move to get to Oakland’s Derek Carr and force a fumble, which Corey Liuget picked up and returned 24 yards, setting up the Chargers’ first points. “It happened at the right time,” defensive lineman Damion Square said. “Mel focused and took the ball out. A lot of times, guys don’t even see the ball. They see the sack. Mel saw the ball and got the ball out.”
LIUGET HAS SOME WHEELS — SORT OF
Listed at 6-foot-2, 300 pounds, Liuget showed his athletic ability when he scrambled for his 24-yard fumble return. He put the Chargers’ offense at the Oakland 40-yard line. Eleven plays later, Michael Badgley hit a 27-yard field goal to make it 3-3. “I told him he’s got to get the knees up,” wide receiver Keenan Allen joked of Liuget’s form. “He said, ‘They was up!’” Liuget has put together back-to-back productive games after a slow start. He missed the first four games of the season because of a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs.
WITH THIS DEFENSE, THE CHARGERS DON’T ALWAYS NEED RIVERS
The veteran quarterback finished with 223 passing yards on 18 of 26 attempts. But 66 of those yards came on a short pass that Gordon turned into a long touchdown. The Chargers had the ball for only two minutes, 46 seconds in the first quarter and had just four possessions that lasted only than five plays. “Look what the defense did in general, holding them to six points,” Rivers said. “Anytime you do that, you almost count that as a shutout the way I think about it. Keeping a team out of the end zone is hard.”
THE POSSIBILITY OF ENTERING DECEMBER AT 9-2 REMAINS INTACT
After four consecutive games away from StubHub Center and their off week, the Chargers finally play at home the next two weeks. They host 3-6 Denver and then 2-7 Arizona. The Broncos were off Sunday, while the Cardinals lost at Kansas City 26-14. The Chargers figure to be significantly favored in both games, meaning they could be 9-2 entering December. On Dec. 2, they play at Pittsburgh, which improved to 6-2-1 Thursday with a 52-21 thumping of Carolina. “It will be good to back to StubHub,” Square said. “We got a good thing going here. We’re having fun. We’re enjoying each other.”