Oakland Raiders: Keys To Victory Over San Diego Chargers

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Oct 11, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders safety Charles Woodson (24) intercepts a pass in the end zone in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos for his 63rd career interception at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Keep the Arrows Trending Upward

Against Denver in week five, the Raiders were able to reverse a couple of terrible and disturbing trends.

First, the Raiders were far better on third downs than they have been all season long. Their low point came in their week four matchup with Chicago in which they allowed the Bears to convert 10 of 17 third down chances – throw in a successful fourth down attempt – many of those conversions coming on what was ultimately the game winning drive.

It was a terrible effort in which the defense couldn’t get off the field and looked gassed by the time Robbie Gould booted the game winner.

Against Denver though, the Raiders really seemed go buckle down on third down opportunities. For the game, the Raiders limited the Broncos to two third down conversions in 13 attempts. It was night and day. The defense looked fresher at the end of the game and they really took it to the Broncos all afternoon. If not for a couple of mistakes and squandered opportunities, the Raiders would have ended their losing streak to Denver.

The other trend they were able to put a halt to was opposing tight ends running rampant, having career days, and making fantasy football owners very happy. Through the first four weeks of the season, the Raiders’ defense was gashed by a murderer’s row of tight ends that included Tyler Eifert, Crockett Gillmore, Gary Barndige, and Martellus Bennett.

Nobody will blame you if your first reaction to that list was – who?

Against the Broncos, HC Jack Del Rio and DC Ken Norton tried some different combinations on defense that gave Oakland more flexibility as well as some linebackers who could make plays in coverage. Malcolm Smith played a lot of middle linebacker and rookie Neiron Ball played quite a bit, often dropping back to cover the tight ends on short routes.

The result of that tinkering on defense was dramatic. The Denver tight ends, led by veteran Owen Daniels, accounted for exactly zero receptions for zero yards. Daniels was targeted five times by Manning and came up with squat, thanks in large part to defensive pressure by Ball.

Both things were a solid, solid effort that strengthened what had been a couple of Oakland’s most glaring weak spots, defensively speaking. And more importantly, they stopped the very bad habits and disturbing trends the Raiders’ defense had fallen into. Those are arrows the Raiders will most definitely need to keep pointed in the right direction against San Diego.

Next: Gotta Be On Point