Injuries made it difficult for Chargers to keep their offense in line against Raiders
There were times Thursday night when it seemed Trey Pipkins and Trent Scott, the young tackles who anchored the Chargers offensive line, might be swallowed up by the Black Hole, the section in the south end of the Oakland Coliseum that contains some of the NFL’s most rabid and intimidating fans.
The Oakland Raiders defensive linemen didn’t merely outplay the Chargers in the trenches for large swaths of their 26-24 victory before a crowd of 51,954.
They manhandled them, sacking quarterback Philip Rivers five times for a loss of 38 yards and hitting the veteran pass-thrower five other times, pressure that contributed to a shoddy night in which Rivers was intercepted three times.
Scott, who signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent out of Grambling State in 2018, started at right tackle in place of the injured Sam Tevi and was beat on two of the sacks, including Benson Mayowa’s strip-sack of Rivers on an eight-yard loss on a third-and-10 play in the third quarter.
Pipkins, a rookie who was a third-round pick out of Division II Sioux Falls last April, was thrown into the fire when veteran left tackle Russell Okung suffered a groin injury on the Chargers’ first possession and didn’t return.
The Chargers nearly escaped from Oakland with a win, but Philip Rivers kept getting picked off by Raiders. It was a rough night all around and ended with a 26-24 loss to Oakland.
Pipkins, who played nine offensive snaps in the first nine games — mostly in short-yardage situations — was also beat on two sacks, including Clelin Ferrell’s seven-yard drop of Rivers on a second-and-five play early in the third quarter. A third-down pass fell incomplete, and the Chargers had to punt.
“That’s not easy at all,” right guard Michael Schofield said of Pipkins’ daunting challenge. “I don’t think he got a single rep with the [first team] all week, because it’s a short week, and you have to get the starters the reps, right?
“He’s playing left tackle, one of the hardest positions in football, in a conference game that you have to win in a loud, hostile environment, and it’s the first meaningful snaps of your career. I thought he did pretty well under the circumstances.”
The first 12 minutes of the game were particularly tough for the line, as Rivers was sacked twice and hit five other times on the Chargers’ first three possessions. The Raiders parlayed two Erik Harris interceptions — one that the Oakland safety returned 56 yards for a touchdown — into an early 10-0 lead.
On the pick-six, Rivers was hit low by Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby as he threw to tight end Hunter Henry. Henry slipped and fell and the ball went right into the arms of Harris, who raced down the right sideline for the score with 6 minutes 2 seconds left in the first quarter.
“We came out flat,” left guard Dan Feeney said. “We weren’t playing our best ball. We weren’t on key, which was frustrating, but I think we bounced back.”
The Chargers did not yield a sack or a quarterback hit for the rest of the first half, and the Chargers scored a pair of second-quarter touchdowns — one capping a 16-play, 77-yard drive—to take a 14-10 lead.
The line blocked well enough for the Chargers to rack up 105 yards rushing in the first half and for Melvin Gordon to rush for 108 yards on 22 carries in the game.
Rivers was sacked twice in the third quarter but got enough protection in the fourth to lead the Chargers on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended a his six-yard scoring pass to Austin Ekeler, which gave the Chargers a 24-20 lead with 4:02 left.
“I was messing up some small technique things, and we had some breakdowns in protections in the first quarter,” Scott said. “But we kind of got into a rhythm, we hit some good runs, and when you get Phil enough time, he can pick apart a defense. We just have to do a consistent job of that.
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“If you give No. 17 time, he can do some crazy things with the ball, so we have to do a better job of doing that from the start, not waiting until later in the game to do things better, to be more consistent. We can’t just have a good drive here and there.”
Edge rusher Melvin Ingram left just before halftime because of injury but returned for the second half and recorded his second sack of the game when he dropped Derek Carr for a five-yard loss late in the third quarter. That gave Ingram 46 ½ sacks in his career, moving him into the top five in franchise history in that category. …
Nose tackle Brandon Mebane returned to action Thursday after missing three games because of a knee injury, but fellow defensive lineman Justin Jones missed his fourth straight game because of a shoulder injury. Tevi (knee) was inactive Thursday, as were running back Justin Jackson (calf), safety Roderic Teamer (groin), defensive lineman Cortez Broughton (mono), receiver Geremy Davis (hamstring).
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