It’s typical coach-speak, and it hardly-ever ever happens. But it did in the waning moments in the O.com -Coliseum in Oakland. The rookies saved the day, the Chargers beat the Raiders in a back and forth game, and the next man up, sealed the victory.
I’ve been worried about the injury attrition on the Chargers. I have been concerned about their shortcomings in both offensive and defensive lines. The (5-1) start has been triggered by the fact they have played against four bad teams and four kid quarterbacks over the last month.
It almost did them in as the sun set in the East Bay, but the first year players made the difference in the end, in that (31-28) win over the winless Raiders.
Aside from big play quarterback Philip Rivers, I don’t think the Chargers are elite. His ability to make plays down the field is the reason they are in lst place.
But yesterday, running back Branden Oliver came up with critical runs in the 4th quarter, personally hand-carrying the ball to the one yard line, then punching it in for the go ahead score with under 2-minutes to go. The rookie capped a 101-yard rushing day with the critical yards on the final series that got them the win.
Easy field position on that drive was set up by another of the youngsters, punt returner Keenan Allen, who had a huge return to help start a drive in at the 39-yard line.
And then with red-hot handed Raiders quarterback Derek Carr driving his team, lst round pick Jason Verrett made a leaping interception in at the 4-yard line with (:34) left to seal the win.
The glare of the spotlight was on the young players because of the injury siege at running back, and the Sunday injuries, to Brandon Flowers, Eddie Royal and more. Oliver has been a stunning surprise, small, tough as nails, with a burst, and shiftiness. He is a long way from the University of Buffalo, and this isn’t the Mid-American Conference. Verrett did yesterday what he did at TCU-display great athleticism, leaping ability, sure hands, in making multiple plays during the day and the critical play at the end.
It was a typical Rivers afternoon. San Diego added 8-more plays of 20-yards or more during the day to an impressive array of stats they have compiled this season, going down the field. But it also brings into the spotlight, glaring problems San Diego has, defending the run, holding up against quality passers, and still run blocking and pass protecting. Luckily it was the Raiders; against someone else it might have been a loss not a victory.
The Raiders could have won, but didn’t by virtue of their own mistakes, 11-penalties, a missed field goal, poor use of the clock at the end of the first half, maybe even the deep throw at the end of the game, when all they needed was a field goal to play on into overtime..
But in an NFL where there is such a fine line between winning and losing, there is also a fine line between being a good team or being substandard.
The Chargers because of Rivers are still viewed as elite. And on this sun-splashed day in the East Bay, Oliver and Verrett saved them from a horrible loss to what really is a bad Oakland team.
Injuries have hurt this franchise extensively. For 1-day at least, Mike McCoy’s favorite Monday press conference verbiage, ‘next man up’, brought the team a victory. It was ugly, it was painful, but it was a win. The kids made the plays count.