The Oakland Raiders escaped Sunday with 34-31 victory against the San Diego Chargers. Combined with the Denver Broncos first loss of the season, head coach Jack Del Rio finds himself tied for the lead in the AFC West.
It seems as though the team has adopted a winning culture this season, showing examples of production that separate them from teams of the past. Quarterback Derek Carr is steadily emerging into a promising franchise quarterback, while the defense has been providing clutch heroics to seal games off.
Coach Del Rio has provided a steady anchor for this team, with a philosophy that involves making timely risks. The fourth down decision to Michael Crabtree opened up another scoring opportunity, while the blocked field goal at the end capped off the victory.
The Raiders have found themselves in constant close contests this season, with the fans on the edge of their seats in nail-biting finishes. Three of their four wins this season have comes at three points or fewer.
Coach Del Rio commented on the Raiders outlook in these close contests, stating their constant preparation has led to promising results, via Raiders.com:
“We’re gaining confidence the more you do it. The more you work at it,” Del Rio stated. “The more you perfect the things you’re looking at, I think you gain confidence with that. I think everybody in that locker room understands we have a long way to go and a lot to improve.”
While the defense continues to allow a league-worst when it comes to yards per game, they continue to make big plays that keep them treading above water.
Under Del Rio, this different mentality has the team succeeding. In contests the team would customarily lose over the past decade, both the offense and defense have led the team to victories.
Del Rio commented on the philosophy this season, stating that ability to win in one-score games is a pillar to continued success:
“I think this year, we wanted to take a step forward in terms of understanding how you flourish in those situations and make the winning plays,” Del Rio said. “We work hard at it and we’ve been successful to start the year. That means that we have a lot in front of us that we have to continue to do and do well as a football team to find ways to close the games. The NFL is about close games. Most of our games are one score games and you have to play well in those critical moments in order to win.”
Game-winning drives by Carr and the offense demonstrate the ability to excel in clutch moments, while the defense continues to anchor the offense and collect timely turnovers. Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers threw two interceptions in the first quarter, in a battle that started off ugly.
Overall, the Chargers finished the game with five fumbles (two lost) for a total of four turnovers.
The Raiders victory was the first at the Coliseum this season, with another home game awaiting them next week. With no travel required, the black and silver have a week to prepare for their matchup on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.