Here are five top lessons learned from the Chargers' 17-16 win over the Oakland Raiders.
1. Expect to Finish – Every single Chargers game has been decided in the final few minutes. After failing to come through over the first month of the season, the Bolts have turned a corner the past two weeks. They broke through a week ago in New York, and did so once again in Oakland as all three phases came through in the clutch. First, the defense got a timely three-and-out to get the ball back to the offense. Then, Philip Rivers marched the Bolts from their own' eight-yard line 72 yards on 11 plays, setting up the game-winning field goal that Nick Novak boomed down the middle at the buzzer. Having done so in consecutive weeks, the team spoke about how they now expect to finish games down the stretch. In fact, as Philip Rivers explained, the Raiders had no answer for them:
"Both sides of the ball and the special teams hung in there together, especially to close it out. The guys up front battled and it was kind of an old school Chargers-Raiders game, just as far as low scoring and the back and forth. We hung in there and again we had a handful of plays we'd love to have back, but made enough to get the win….It feels good to finish the game the way we did. We pounded it, we ran the same play three, four times in a row at the end. They knew we were running it and we were able to still get it and set up Nick for the game-winner."
2. The Badger – Melvin Gordon went off for the second-straight week, and in doing so, said it felt like a throwback performance to his Wisconsin Badger days. The third-year running back accounted for 34 of the team's 53 touches on offense, He pounded the rock 25 times for 83 yards and one rushing touchdown while hauling in a career-high nine catches for 67 yards and another score. Gordon showed off his complete arsenal, whether that meant unleashing a powerful stiff arm, soaring over the pile at the goal line or hurdling a defender for an extra few yards. While he'll be sore today, it's all part of being a reliable, bell-cow back for the Bolts. And that's exactly how Gordon wants to be known:
"Taking me back to my old Wisconsin days. I got to get used to it. I think I'll be a little sore — actually, really sore this time. After this, when it comes around, I'll be good. My body's able to adjust…Everybody wants to be the go-to guy. If you're not thinking like that, I don't know what you're doing. Everybody wants to be that guy to make a play."
3. Defense Bows Up – It wasn't perfect, but the defense came through when they needed to the most. They started the day by picking off Derek Carr on his first drive, which was the first interception of Trevor Williams' career. Later, with Oakland looking like they'd add to their lead with a lengthy drive to start the second half, Hayes Pullard showed quick hands for the red zone interception. Facing a 4th-and-2 just over midfield to begin the fourth quarter, they held strong as Williams had blanket coverage on Michael Crabtree to give the ball back to the offense. Then, having to get a stop with under five minutes to go, they played the hook-and-ladder perfectly to force a punt. All in all, they allowed just 16 points to a powerful Raiders offense, which impressed Rivers:
"Our defense is doing a really good job of not letting them get a bunch of points on the scoreboard, which is most important…. Our defense, we know this style of defense. It's a heck of a defense. It's a little more make them dink and knock it all the way down the field. If they'll do that, maybe they'll mess it up. They did a few times today. The tipped interception and some things."
4. Hunter's Haul – It was a career day for the second-year tight end, who set a personal best with 90 receiving yards on five catches. More importantly, he was the go-to receiver on the game-winning drive when Rivers needed to make a play. He caught two passes for 57 yards, including a 34-yarder off play-action on the first snap with the Bolts' backed up to jumpstart the drive. The 6-5, 250-pound Henry is a complete tight end with an innate knack for the big play. In fact, he authored three of the team's longest plays of the afternoon. Yet, off all his receptions, it was the 34-yarder that had the team buzzing. Rivers explained why:
"Hunter did a heck of a job with it. Those are the kind of plays that I get excited about from a quarterback to pass catcher relationship because Hunter's still young. He's a player in our time together, that was kind of a back-shoulder corner route, which just doesn't happen very much. I haven't thrown Hunter one of those ever. It happens on the fly and the biggest drive of the game and he sees it and then goes and gets more with it. Those plays are always big and for today, always big plays as you grow as a player."
5. A Taste of Mike Williams – The Chargers expect Mike Williams to have a bright future in the NFL. On Sunday, he gave a taste of what's in store. The first round pick played only a handful of snaps in his debut, and was targeted just once, yet made his mark by coming up with a key reception. Williams ran a perfect in-route, hauling in the 15-yard grab on 3rd-and-6 to move the sticks early in the fourth quarter. It set up Melvin Gordon's second touchdown, and after the game, the running back chimed in with how Williams impressed the Bolts:
"He came through when we needed him. With a big catch, he made one that helped move us into a position to win. That is what it is all about. I think once he gets fully comfortable out there, once he gets in stride, he is just so big out there and can be a great possession receiver."
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