OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — This season hasn’t exactly started as planned for the Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders.
Four straight losses to open the season put the Chargers in a big hole in their first season back in Los Angeles that they are only starting to climb out of following their first win a week ago against the Giants.
The Raiders (2-3) are looking to snap a skid of their own when they host Los Angeles (1-4) on Sunday following three straight losses that have turned them from Super Bowl contender to a team looking for answers.
“We’re so uptight,” left tackle Donald Penn said. “We expected to have a different start these first five games.
“I think we need to take a deep breath and relax. We’re so on edge. We don’t want to make a mistake. We just want everything to be perfect and, in this game, it’s not going to be that way.”
It sure hasn’t for the Chargers, who were done in by missed field goals the first two weeks from former kicker Younghoe Koo and lost another nail-biter in Week 4 to Philadelphia before finally breaking through for that first win last week in a 27-22 victory over the Giants that snapped a nine-game skid.
“You almost forgot what it’s felt like, it’s been so long,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “Quickly once the dust settles you look up and you’re still 1-4, and you’ve got a heck of a climb. So I think obviously we’re still very hungry.”
Here are some other things to watch:
START THE CARR: The Raiders should get a big boost this week with the return of star quarterback Derek Carr , who missed last week’s game with a broken bone in his back.
Carr has won his past four starts against the Chargers and has 11 TD passes and four INTs in six games against them.
“It means a lot,” receiver Amari Cooper said. “He’s our leader. The offense flows through him.”
ROOKIE DEBUT: The Chargers hope to finally to get rookie receiver Mike Williams on the field. Williams, the seventh overall pick in the draft, has missed all of training camp and the first five games of the season with a back injury. Williams caught 98 passes for 1,361 yards and 13 touchdowns last season at Clemson.
“He’s shown some things just in the time he’s been able to be back on the field with us, that you can quickly see why he was taken where he was taken, just physically the things he can do,” Rivers said.
BEAST MODE: After being held to 56 yards rushing in losses to Washington and Denver , the Raiders got a spark from their running game last week when they ran for 108 yards against Baltimore.
Marshawn Lynch and crew will be counted on for another big performance against a Chargers defense that ranks last in the league in run defense this season, allowing 161.2 yards per game and 5 yards per carry.
“When you can’t do that it’s going to cause some trouble for us,” defensive end Joey Bosa said of stopping the run.
“They’re going to be able to run play action and other sorts of things when we can’t stop the run game. It’s definitely an emphasis going into this week and every week.”
TAKE IT AWAY: Even when the Raiders struggled defensively a year ago, they did thrive at taking the ball away. Their 30 takeaways ranked second in the NFL a year ago and were a major reason why the team won 12 games.
Oakland has just four through five weeks this season, with two coming on special teams. The Raiders also have joined the Chicago Bears as the only teams to have no interceptions in the first five games since the 2002 Bills.
“We have to take advantage of opportunities,” cornerback David Amerson said. “When the ball comes your way, you have to get to the ball. Rush and coverage go hand in hand. When our rush is getting there, it definitely makes it easier for the secondary to get our hands on balls.”
REUNION WEEK: Raiders defensive assistant John Pagano finally gets to experience the other side of this AFC West rivalry. Pagano spent the past 15 seasons as an assistant with the Chargers, including five as defensive coordinator.
The Raiders added him to their staff to help with the communication in the secondary, but Pagano might also have some tidbits to offer on his former team.
“It will be weird,” Rivers said. “The defense itself, schematically, is not the same that Pags ran here and was a part of here for, shoot, 15 years. You do see a few things that you know his hands are in it.”