From the opening kickoff to the final whistle, the Oakland Raiders controlled the clock against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. The Silver and Black were able to get in a rhythm early, executing their offense in an efficient manner, constantly picking up first downs and pounding the rock down the Bolts' throat.
In rookie wide receiver Hunter Renfrow's return from a rib injury that kept him out three weeks, "Third and Renfrow" was in full effect, as quarterback Derek Carr targeted him frequently in the first half. The former Clemson Tiger had nearly 100 yards receiving at the half, due to a 50-plus yard receiving touchdown where Carr found him over the middle on a slant route, which he took all the way to the house, streaking by defenders.
The Raiders' first touchdown of the game allowed them not to work from behind all game, and it was a major reason why they were able to operate comfortably within the offense. Carr was at his best on Sunday, completing 26 of 30 pass attempts for 291 yards, and one touchdown, while adding his second rushing touchdown of the season. Carr controlled the offense beautifully against a fully healthy Chargers unit, and the team's ability to close out the first half with a touchdown helped them carry plenty of momentum into the second half.
"We always talk about doubling up. Whenever you defer, the goal is to always get that last possession of the first half, get the ball, and score again [in the second half]; however you get points," Carr told the media. "We were able to do that and help our defense have a cushion, and that changes, as we've talked about a lot when the score is what it is, it changes some calls that they can make, and some things they can try, and things they can do. It just helps the team.
"So, it was huge, huge, huge that we could get points on both of those drives, and we've talked about coming out in the second half better. I think both times we came out in the second half, the first two drives were points, and we were in the four-minute [drill] after that."
What was most impressive about the Raiders' opening drive of the second half was that they knocked off eight minutes and 49 seconds to start the third quarter. Between the time Philip Rivers had thrown his last pass in the first half to the time he touched the ball in the second half it had been nearly 30 minutes.
As Carr mentioned, because of the Raiders' lead, the Chargers were forced to shy away from the running game — which to be fair wasn't working for them anyway, considering they finished with a putrid 19 total yards on the ground.
The Raiders' performance on Sunday was a thing of beauty in all three phases, and the synergy is the reason why they were able to pull off the win and keep their playoff hopes alive. It's been a topsy turvy season, but everything the Raiders needed to happen went according to plan in Week 16. While they'll still be relying on the stars aligning again next week, Derek Carr is thrilled to be playing a meaningful game Week 17.
"To say that we're still playing Week 17 for something, that's unbelievable," Carr said. "That's really a good thing. I've been on teams in the past where we were in those moments where we lose a couple of games in a row and they're like "oh no," but this team never did that. To come here, and beat [the Chargers] twice this year, that's not easy."
The Oakland Raiders might not be fully in control of their playoff chances, but they were fully in control in all three phases against the Chargers Sunday. Hopefully, they can do it again next week in Denver against the Broncos.