The Oakland Raiders travel to San Diego to face the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in the second and final match-up between the two teams this season. San Diego is coming off of a bye week after three straight losses. Despite the skid, the Chargers still enter Week 11 with a 5-4 record.
Although the first win has been elusive for Oakland, they continue to work hard in practice and give full effort on Sundays. Opposing teams recognize that the Raiders are better than their record shows and are respecting that fact as they prepare during the week.
"This is a good football team. You watch their film, there's plenty of good things that they do," said Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy. "As the battle we had with them the last time we were there in Oakland, obviously we know exactly what this team is all about. This is a good team. You've got to go in like you do every week in this league regardless of what the team's record [is], you've got to go out and play your best game. The parity in the league's very good and they've got a lot of talent on the football team. They're well coached and we've got to go out and do our best job and play our best game this week in order to win."
The two teams are familiar with each other. The Raiders hosted the Chargers in Week 6. It was the Silver and Black's best offensive showing of the season, scoring four passing touchdowns and nearly pulling out the victory.
Game action photos from the Raiders 31-28 loss to the Chargers in Week 6 action.
"I think any time you play a team once and you have a little bit of success, it gives you a little bit of confidence," said Interim Head Coach Tony Sparano. "Any time you play a team once, as I just told our team, you formulate a book. You put a book together. We have our players do that. That book is of the players that I'm playing against, my individual matchup and who they might be, the two or three guys. We study them. Is that the way they played me the first time around? How did they approach me? Because you learn a little bit about their play that way, too. Right now, that's kind of where we are. Certainly, when you had success against somebody, it makes you feel like you can go into that environment again and have success again."
The Raiders will have to find that success against Philip Rivers and his offense. Although the Chargers offensive unit struggled against the Miami Dolphins in Week 9, their ability to spread the ball around and score touchdowns makes them a challenge.
"They play well together. Guys have been together for a while," said DL C.J. Wilson, whose brother-in-law Willie Smith (former Raider) plays on the offensive line for the Chargers. "They've been there for a while, so when you've been there for a while you know how each other play. They cover for one another really well, and they do a great job, and don't forget, Philip Rivers does a great job of getting rid of the ball fast too. Those guys keep a lot of pressure off of him."
Rivers commands his offense and has weapons at receiver and tight end. "He's a real decisive quarterback," said safety Larry Asante, who recorded a team-high 10 tackles against the Denver Broncos last week. "He scans the defense before every play and knows where he's going to go. He knows his targets. He's a match-up guy. If we have a guy out there that's playing for the first time he'll ID that and try to pick on that. They try to get mismatches going. He's a real good quarterback, and you give him all the credit. We just have to go out there and play sound football and play our technique, play our assignment and we should be all right."
The Chargers QB is aided by a rushing attack that will likely have RB Ryan Mathews back in the lineup this week. "I'm sure getting him back in this situation gives them a boost within their running game," said Coach Sparano. "He's a really good player; a player I've played against several times. I would imagine him being back there now with the way they've had to bounce the running back situation around a little bit, a lot of guys have gotten some playing time."
As in every game, the Raiders defense will focus on stopping the run, particularly RB Branden Oliver, who rushed for 101 yards in Oakland during the first match-up. "Our number one thing is stopping the run," said Wilson. "[Oliver] had a pretty good game against us last time he came up here, so we're just going to have to stay in our gaps. He's a guy that he can get in, get out. He's small; you don't know where he's at, so you have to fight to stay in your gap and be disciplined."
Over the past several games, the Raiders defense has played well at times, but has breakdowns that lead to big plays. They know that it comes down to executing consistently. "We just have to put it all together," said Asante. "Every game there's that one little mistake or break in the defense that costs us. I believe we're getting better week by week. We just have to get together and play a whole four quarters of defense and I think we'll be pretty good."
Although the Raiders have been unable get a "W," Rivers expects a tough game from the Silver and Black defense just like the one on October 12, 2014. "I go off what you see on tape, and what you see on tape is a good defense," said Rivers. "I have a lot of respect for a lot of the guys on that defense. They've been in a lot of close games. For whatever reason, they haven't been able to get any [wins], but that doesn't change the way we approach them or the respect we have for them, and we know what they can do. We're a team that has lost three in a row. It's a division game. Us and the Raiders is always a heck of a game, so we have to be ready to go."
This game will be the first time Carr will play an opponent for a second time in regular season action. "One thing for me is you know their personnel. You've played against them, you've seen them," said Carr. "For me as a rookie, that's always something that's unknown. You can see something on film, but until you're really out there playing against somebody and you see him for the first time, you don't really know. So you know the personnel and you've got notes on the personnel – things you remember – and that's something that's really helpful."
The offense knows they are capable of being efficient and successful against the Chargers defense. They scored a touchdown within 52 seconds of kickoff in the team's first meeting. "Last time we played them, we did a really good job on them," said WR Brice Butler. "They have a really good, solid group and I know they're going to be hungry to try to get us back for what happened last time, so we just have to go out there and focus on how to beat those guys."
While the previous match-up is a good confidence booster, T Menelik Watson is keeping things in perspective. "I think one of the biggest things for me is I'm not trying to focus on what we did against them. Personally, I don't want to fall into that trap," said Watson. "Truly, it's a brand new game. They're coming off the bye and they have a whole new game plan for us, because we rushed the ball pretty well against them. It's all about us being prepared and understanding what we have to do in our scheme and going out there and executing."
The Raiders want to travel to San Diego and put forth a great effort for their strong following in Southern California. Qualcomm Stadium is always full of Silver and Black. "We're going to Southern California where there's a lot of the Raider Nation," said Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver. "We're excited to see them. Defensively, we're looking forward to this opportunity, because the best thing about football when you're in the middle of the season is you get the next week. You get this week and that's all you get."
Carr is anxious to get his team back out on the field for another opportunity to get the first win. "To be honest, coming off a loss, and that's any time off a loss, you're so excited just to get back out there. You're like, man, you're tired of thinking about the loss," said Carr. "You want to go out there and get another chance at it, get another shot at getting that first win and for us, the feeling like you said, you hit it right, we're excited just to get back out there. That's what it is. We never go out there and just say, 'Oh, we've got to play another one.' It's not like that or anything. We're so excited to finally get out there and finally get another chance to get that first win."
The Raiders will face the Chargers at 1:05 p.m. PT at Qualcomm Stadium. You can watch the game on CBS 5, listen live on 95.7 The GAME, or follow along on Raiders.com, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.