Chargers secure signature win, previewing wild AFC West battles to follow
The lightning crackled, thunder rumbled, and a light rain fell over Inglewood. The kickoff of Monday night’s AFC West showdown between the Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders was postponed 35 minutes, as SoFi Stadium is still considered an open-air venue even if it’s exposed only on the sides.
Once the game started, a true whether delay.
No one knew whether the Raiders would show up.
More evidence that this is going to be a wild, back-and-forth tussle within the division.
The Los Angeles Chargers signaled their intentions to challenge for the AFC West title by defeating the Las Vegas Raiders 28-14 at SoFi Stadium.
“If anything, this hopefully wakes us up a little bit,” said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, whose team fell behind in the first half, 21-0, and has yet to score a touchdown in the opening quarter. “I think we need to start a lot faster, if I’m honest. We started the season great but we don’t start games nearly good enough yet.”
Could these really be the same Raiders who were 3-0 for the first time since their Super Bowl season of 2002? The same ones who in their two home games scored 33 and 31 points and rolled up 988 yards of offense?
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
In the first half, the Raiders mustered just one first down and saw their 51 yards of offense wiped out by 53 yards in penalties. They generated zero yards of offense in the first quarter — zero! — and averaged 2.1 yards per play in the first half, compared to six yards per play by the Chargers.
“It was a ridiculous way to start a football game,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said.
The Raiders once revered the Vertical Stretch. Monday night, the Vertical Stench.
They finished with 213 yards of offense, 162 of which came after halftime.
A key sack by Christian Covington and strong performances by Justin Herbert and Austin Ekeler helped the Chargers send Las Vegas to its first loss.
“Offensively, we didn’t like how we set the defense up,” receiver Hunter Renfrow said. “Made it hard for them. Three and out, three and out, three and out is tough on a defense.”
Despite all the hype about the smothering Raiders defense coming into the game, it was the home team dominating that side of the ball. Fresh off a Week 3 victory at Kansas City, the Chargers are growing increasingly comfortable with the schemes of defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill and first-year coach Brandon Staley, architect of last year’s outstanding Rams defense.
For much of the game, being a Raiders offensive lineman frequently meant being an oversized maître d’: “Your running back, sir.” Sometimes, Chargers defenders nearly met the backs at the mesh point, when they had just taken a handoff.
Turns out, the Arizona Cardinals, who beat the Rams on this field a day earlier, are the NFL’s lone undefeated team after four weeks of the season. According to ESPN Stats & Info, entering the season at Caesars Sportsbook, the Cardinals were 50-1 to be the last undefeated team, and the Raiders were 100-1.
The bandwidth in the AFC West is suddenly tighter than a Justin Herbert spiral. The Chargers, Raiders and Denver Broncos are all 3-1, and the Chiefs are 2-2.
The Chargers didn’t just knock off a bitter rival but collected a signature victory on their home field. Even though the crowd was about 70% Raiders fans, the spectators clad in powder blue made a respectable amount of noise. Neither quarterback had it easy.
“It’s always great to have the support of the Raider fans,” Gruden said. “We’re sorry we let them down. But we cannot come out and take that many punches in the first round.”
Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Chargers’ 28-14 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium on Monday.
Gruden stood at the podium with a familiar grimace and his black cap pulled low over his eyes.
“I wish I could answer all your questions,” he said. “But I’ve never had an indoor stadium with a lightning delay.
“This was a bizarre night for all of us.”
The Chargers, who wear that bolt as their logo, will happily take it.
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.