The Las Vegas Raiders faced a fourth down for a second straight week while trailing late in the fourth quarter.
This time, however, coach Josh McDaniels left his offense on the field and it converted. Moments later reigning NFL rushing king Josh Jacobs scored his first touchdown of the season and the Raiders were within striking distance.
Unfortunately, their comeback fell short when rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell was intercepted by Asante Samuel, Jr. at the 2-yard line, thwarting Las Vegas’ efforts and helping seal the Los Angeles Chargers’ 24-17 win over the Raiders.
“I thought our team fought hard and fought back and all the rest of it, but you know, we’re gonna have to clean up some of the things that we’re doing to put us in those situations so we don’t have to feverishly scramble back at the end and try to win it at the very last second,” McDaniels said.
O’Connell was making his first NFL start, in place of Jimmy Garoppolo, who suffered a concussion in last week’s loss to Pittsburgh. Garoppolo was in concussion protocol to start the week, was cleared for limited activity late in the week, and was ruled out on Saturday.
O’Connell finished 24 of 39 for 238 yards with no touchdowns and the late interception. He also ran for a touchdown.
To his credit, he authored the Raiders’ second-half surge, which saw them erase a 17-point deficit and outscore the Chargers 10-0 in the last two quarters.
“I think guys did a good job around me, kept encouraging me,” said O’Connell, who was 17 of 28 for 161 yards in the second half. “Obviously we got down in the first half (but) I think our defense did a good job of keeping us in the game, especially in the second half.
“And the guys around me are really good playmakers, so I just tried to get them the ball and make plays. Just a lot to correct and we’re going to do that this week.”
Unfortunately for O’Connell, self-inflicted wounds plagued his debut, as he fumbled the ball three times and lost two of them.
It didn’t help that linebacker Khalil Mack was having a historic day for the Chargers. Mack made up for not registering a sack in the first three games by planting O’Connell six times, a franchise single-game record.
“There was a number of snaps where there was multiple people assigned to him and him only,” McDaniels said, of Mack. “And to be able to do some of the things that he did, I mean, give him credit.
“We jammed him, chipped him, hit him in the ribs. I mean, we did everything we could try to do to disrupt him with another player.”
But nothing worked, as the pressure continued to haunt O’Connell.
Though the Raiders were 3 for 3 with their fourth down conversion attempts, they were an abysmal 1 for 11 on third down.
It also didn’t help that star wideout Davante Adams was injured early in the game, left briefly, and returned with a shoulder injury.
Jacobs had his most productive day of the season, finishing with 139 scrimmage yards. He rushed for 58 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown and hauled in eight passes for 81 yards.
“I thought he played really hard,” McDaniels said of Jacobs. “I think you can see he’s ready to contribute in every area that he can.”
Said Jacobs: “We do it to ourselves. We’re still in the games at the end. If we just do stuff right from start to finish who knows where the game would have been? It’s just undisciplined football.”
Though the Raiders did some things well on defense, limiting the Chargers to 305 yards after allowing an average of 347.6 yards in their first three games, they’re now one of nine teams that have allowed more than 100 points this season.
The Raiders’ defense allowed Los Angeles to score a touchdown three of the four times it entered the Red Zone.
“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot a lot,” Adams said. “I don’t even really know what to say. We have to play better. We have to do things earlier in the game and be more urgent early and put ourselves in better positions where we don’t have to scramble at the end of games.”
It was the second straight week the Raiders lost by a one-score margin, as they dropped their third in a row and fell to 1-3 on the year.
With the Broncos winning in Chicago earlier in the day, the Raiders and Denver have identical records at the bottom of the AFC West.
“We’re better than the way that we’ve been playing,” Adams added. “We have a pretty talented roster, so it’s frustrating to be in these games and obviously not be able to finish them, but to just not maximize the whole game and be able to execute at a higher level to make it easier on ourselves.”