Here are five keys to the game heading into the Week 6 match between the Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders:
1. Stick the Beast – The Bolts' struggles in the run game have been well-documented over the first five games of the season. Now, they face one of the all-time greats when it comes to breaking tackles in Marshawn Lynch. After all, there's a reason he popularized the "Beast Mode" phrase. Lynch got off to a strong start over the first two weeks, but has managed just 73 yards on 27 carries (2.7 ypc) the past three games. Getting the veteran running back going will be a priority for the Raiders, as Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley pointed out, Lynch still runs with an angry determination:
"He is physical. He runs with a certain demeanor. He runs angry. So it's getting a number of guys [to the ball]. The first guy having a plan, and then you just get numbers to him. I thought Denver did a good job with that. I thought they had a lot of numbers at the point of attack, and then if he got out of a tackle, there were even more (defenders) that came."
2. Stall Carr – Derek Carr will be back under center after missing the Raiders' last game with a back injury. The fourth-year quarterback is firmly entrenched as one of the top young passers in the game, completing 74-of-109 attempts (67.9%) for 753 yards, seven touchdowns and only two picks for a 101.2 passer rating. He boasts one of the game's top WR duos in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, so the Bolts will need to get pressure in Carr's face to disrupt the passing game. The Raiders QB is well aware of that fact, noting it's important the team mitigate the Chargers' own dynamic duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa:
"They know I respect the heck out of their game. I love playing against those guys. Obviously, (I've) played against Melvin a little bit longer than I have with Joey, but they both know how much I respect them. I think the world of them. I think they're two great players. I say it all the time; I think the AFC West has top to bottom the best pass rushers in any division in football. I don't think it's close. So, it's just one of those things each and every week, you've got to be ready to play against two really good ones. The Chargers definitely have two of them."
3. Gordon's Encore – The Bolts will look to ride the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week, hoping Melvin Gordon can lead the team to back-to-back victories. A force on the ground, the third-year running back has emerged as one of the league's most dangerous threats out of the backfield. In fact, his three receiving TDs are tied for the NFL lead among all running backs. The Chargers love the way Gordon wore down the Giants a week ago, and Oakland has struggled defending the run just like the Bolts have, ranking 25th in the league (125.6 ypc). Head Coach Anthony Lynn believes Gordon can find the same rhythm once again, but he needs to prove it:
"I expect him to keep running the way he ran last week. That's what we need. We need a guy that's fighting for every single yard, and trying to create efficient runs so that we can continue to run the football."
4. Money Down Dominance – After some early season struggles, the Chargers won last week largely due to success on third down. The defense held the Giants to just 5-of-15 efficiency, while the offense converted 5-of-8 chances in the second half, including the game-winning score on 3rd-and-9. The team needs to continue winning on the money down. Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt explained a simplification on offense helped out a week ago, so it's plausible the Bolts continue to operate in that fashion:
"We kind of always do that every week. We have our core group of things that we do pretty well. We did cut some things out just from the standpoint of — because we can have a quarterback that can do a lot of things, and there are things that may not necessarily be in the plan that we would call up, because we've gotten so many reps out of him. But we did cut some things down, even just from the standpoint of players seeing it, and there not being as much. Did it help? I hope so. We got a win, so that's really all that matters."
5. Battle the Black Hole – The Black Hole that is the Oakland-Alameda County Stadium is notoriously a tough environment for the opposition. That's especially the case when the Raiders play host to their AFC West rivals. One week after going on the road to get their first win of the season, Lynn believes his team is ready to weather adverse conditions once again. In fact, he welcomes the challenge:
"It's fun. It's hostile. I like going up there to play to be honest with you. It's a great atmosphere to play football."