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What we learned from Raiders' victory over Chargers

*The wild AFC West played host to a nailbiter on Thursday night, when the Oakland Raiders (5-4) snuck by the Los Angeles Chargers (4-6), 26-24, to kick off Week 10. Here's what we learned: *

  1. In the 60th year of this rivalry, and in likely the last game played between the two franchises in Oakland, the Chargers and Raiders partook in a down-to-the-wire finish that was emblematic of both sides' strengths and weaknesses so far this season. Following a slow third quarter where only field goals and punts could be found, L.A. pulled ahead on a 12-play fourth-quarter drive that ate up eight minutes and sapped Oakland's pass rush of its energy. Leaning on Keenan Allen (86 total yards) and Raiders penalties, Los Angeles took the lead on a goal-line pass to the ever-reliable Austin Ekeler (48 total yards).

Oakland's turn: As they did in last week's win over Detroit, the Raiders turned to pass-catching back Jalen Richard and Hunter Renfrow on the ensuing hurry-up march, each player picking up two first downs as the Raiders neared the goal line, down four points. Needing a touchdown to take the lead, Oakland called a timeout with just over a minute to go to sub Richard out for Rookie of the Year candidate Josh Jacobs (19 touches, 101 yards) and fullback Alec Ingold. On third-and-1 from L.A.'s 18-yard line, Jacobs took a handoff left, took a stumble through tacklers bulldozed by Oakland's offensive line and sped toward the end zone. Jacobs was not the focal point of Oakland's attack Thursday night, but when the Raiders needed a big pickup, the rookie was there. Philip Rivers' third interception of the night followed on L.A.'s last-gasp drive, and the Black Hole erupted in victory.

  1. Oakland's defense entered Thursday night with just 15 sacks on the season, good for 25th in the league. Against Los Angeles, the Raiders racked up one-third of their season total, half of them courtesy of their fourth-overall rookie. Led by Clelin Ferrell's 2.5 sacks, his first tallied since Week 1, Oakland bum-rushed Los Angeles' backup tackles to apply pressure on Rivers. Right tackle Sam Tevi, inactive with a knee injury, was replaced by Trent Scott, while left tackle Russell Okung exited early with a groin issue and never returned, ceding Rivers' blind side to Trey Pipkins and, in turn, Ferrell. Maxx Crosby (0.5) and Benson Mayowa (1.5) took turns turning around Trent Scott, too. According to Next Gen Stats, the rookies Crosby and Ferrell set career-highs in pressures -- 10 and five, respectively -- with the former's pressure forcing two of Rivers' three picks. Drawing the Chargers' offensive line remedies most teams' pass rushing woes. When L.A. is down both tackles, that maxim is even truer.
  1. The Shane Steichen era is working wonders for Melvin Gordon. In Steichen's second game as offensive coordinator and play-caller, Gordon was leaned on heavily as Rivers struggled under pressure. The back rushed for a season-high 108 yards, adding 25 through the air and a score. Gordon benefited some from being on the field at the same time as Ekeler, who had outplayed Gordon before and since his return from a holdout, but the fifth-year back is most responsible for his best game this season. Gordon appeared more agile, more comfortable absorbing blows and bouncing off tackles and more devastating in space. If L.A.'s pass protection continues to suffer, Gordon's improvement on the ground will be paramount to the Chargers staying in the chase. Thursday night, on a short week, was a welcome sign.
  1. Defensive Player of the Year candidate Joey Bosa was nowhere to be seen on Thursday night, and Raiders fans (and Derek Carr) have Trent Brown and Gabe Jackson to thank for that. Bosa, the reigning Defensive Player of the Week, entered having racked up 5.5 sacks in his last three games. Against a gimpy Brown, who was questionable with a knee injury, Bosa was expected to wreak havoc. Instead, Nick's older brother logged just one tackle for loss and two QB hits, held mostly in check by the massive right tackle. His partner, Melvin Ingram, enjoyed a better evening on the other side of the line, notching two sacks lined up against Jackson and Kolton Miller. But Ingram was slowed by a shoulder injury and Bosa by Oakland's big bodied linemen. L.A.'s power couple couldn't make it work on Thursday night.
  1. What a night for Erik Harris. Oakland's fourth-year safety was targeted by Rivers on Thursday more frequently than Mike Williams, it seemed. With a nose for the ball, Harris was on the receiving end of three interceptions in the first half -- one of which was called back by penalty, but still. The Chargers' first two drives ended in Harris picks, the second of which went 56 yards for six. It was Harris' third interception, and his second pick-six, this season. For a pass defense ranked 32nd in the league in yards allowed, Harris' big play ability inspired Oakland to an early lead, which proved necessary.
  1. Oakland is a half-game out of the AFC wild card and right in the thick of the race. The Raiders' victory over Los Angeles gives them their second division victory of the season and pulls them just one game behind Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the West. Believe it. As for the Bolts, dreams of a midseason turnaround aren't dashed, and Thursday's narrow defeat on a short week doesn't discount their dominant victory over NFC contender Green Bay last weekend. But it puts a damper on what looked, for two weeks at least, to be an electrifying run back to relevance in the playoff picture.
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