The gap between the Raiders and the San Diego Chargers isn’t nearly as large as the records would indicate.
The teams, who will meet Sunday in Oakland, have played similar football this year. Both have displayed potent offenses and up-and-down defenses and been involved almost exclusively in close games.
But the records are opposite entering their Coliseum matchup, the Raiders’ first AFC West game of the season. The difference comes in the final minutes.
The Raiders have trailed with 2 1/2 minutes to go in three out of four games yet are 3-1. The Chargers have led at the two-minute warning each game only to sit at 1-3.
Those records are ultimately the only thing that matters, but the Raiders understand the type of team they are facing.
“When you look at the tape, they’re doing a lot of good things offensively, defensively and special teams,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said of the Chargers. “It’s a fine line in our league.
A week ago, the Raiders had a crucial fourth-quarter turnover when DeAndre Washington fumbled and Baltimore scored a go-ahead touchdown. But Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree led a go-ahead touchdown drive, and the defense held in the 28-27 win.
The Raiders also delivered a late defensive stand to beat Tennessee in Week 3 and rallied from 14 points down in their season-opening win over New Orleans.
“I think it comes down to preparation,” wide receiver Amari Cooper said of the late-game success. “Last year we were in some of the same situations, but we weren’t really able to close them. I think working on the two-minute drill, everybody being locked in, little things like that (help).”
The Chargers, meanwhile, had a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter over the Saints last week until fumbles on consecutive plays led to touchdowns as they melted down in the 35-34 defeat.
That comes after blowing a 27-10 fourth-quarter lead to the Kansas City Chiefs in the opener and watching a 22-20 lead slip away late to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3. The winning scores by their opponents all came with less than two minutes to play.
“It’s frustrating to know that you’re better than what your record shows,” said Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, who had one of those key fumbles against the Saints.
Still, the Raiders should be confident against the Chargers, not just because of their solid start but be- cause of last year’s season sweep – their first against San Diego since 2010.
But Philip Rivers has been too good against the Raiders in his career – a 14-6 record with a 91.8 passer rating – to relax.
For a team that’s new to this type of success, Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack said the key is to “just lock in.
“Don’t focus on any of the success or the positive things that have happened and just focus in on getting better. ... Day by day, we’re realizing that more and more, and the more we realize that, the better we’ll be.”