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After getting pushed around two straight weeks, the Oakland Raiders’ defense finally stood up and pushed back.
If it’s not yet a bully, the defensive unit at least acted like one at times Thursday night in Oakland’s 24-17 victory over the Chargers in San Diego.
After consecutive poor efforts against the Chiefs and Broncos in which the team slid from 4-2 to 4-4, the Raiders defense sacked Philip Rivers six times and held fast at the end as San Diego mounted a comeback.
Safety Mike Giordano’s interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter, with Oakland protecting a seven-point lead, ensured the victory that put the Raiders in first place in the AFC West.
In the first half, Oakland held the Chargers to 65 total yards and just three first downs as it built a 17-3 lead. But in the second half, San Diego got back in the game, driving for a TD on its first possession. And, after trading scores, the Chargers were just a touchdown back as San Diego found holes in the defense it didn’t find before halftime.
“We have a problem coming out of the locker room,” defensive tackle Tommy Kelly told the Oakland Tribune’s Monte Poole, referring to the second-half defensive letdown. “I don’t know what it is, but we still better figure it out.”
In the end, thanks to a fierce pass rush, a secondary that stepped up despite some key injuries and an effort to close down running lanes – the Chargers could muster just 75 yards on the ground – Oakland held when it counted.
“I’m just glad it came down to us at the end,” Kelly said. “We know if we do what we’re supposed to, we’re hard to beat.”
One of the things the Raiders are supposed to do is get to the passer with a deep, fast group of linemen and linebackers. And Thursday night, they did just that, led by linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, who had four sacks. Kelly and Desmond Bryant notched the other two against a San Diego offensive line that was missing guard Kris Dielman and Marcus McNeill, who had to leave in the first quarter.
Wimbley, who had nine sacks last season, had just two before Thursday night.
“I think I’ve been getting pressure on the quarterback,” Wimbley told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group after the game. “I’ve been getting some hits on the quarterback, and I’ve always thought that sacks some in bunches, and that’s what happened.”
Said Rivers: “They have a huge defensive front where they can rush four and play coverage, coverage, coverage because they know you’re going to throw a lot.”