OAKLAND – Tony Sparano made significant changes after being promoted to Raiders interim head coach. He altered what he could given the time of Dennis Allen’s firing.
The scheme wasn’t going to change. Neither was the talent level. Despite those constraints, Sparano desperately wanted it to feel different than a dismal 0-4 start.
The man buried a football for goodness sakes.
One burning question remained: Would it produce better play on Sundays?
On this particular Sunday, the answer was a resounding yes.
It still didn’t matter. The Raiders were competitive but were edged out by a resilient Chargers team that emerged with a 31-28 victory over the Silver and Black in front of a raucous O.co Coliseum crowd.
Oakland led 28-21 midway through the fourth quarter but the Chargers cut it to 28-24 on a Nick Novak 30-yard field goal with 5:52 remaining.
After a three-and-out, San Diego took over at the Oakland 39-yard line, and six plays later, Branden Oliver's 1-yard touchdown plunge gave the Chargers a 31-28 lead with 1:56 left.
The Raiders had a chance to force overtime or win the game in regulation, but Derek Carr's throw deep down the left sideline was intercepted by rookie cornerback Jason Verett at the 5-yard line with a little over one minute remaining.
Regardless of the final result, Carr had a breakout game. The rookie signal caller was 18-for-34 passing for 282 yards and 4 touchdowns.
He was on target all game long, starting with a 73-yard strike to Andre Holmes to open the scoring less than a minute into the game.
The Raiders took their first second-half lead since Thanksgiving 2013 with Carr’s third touchdown pass. He threw an intermediate distance pass to Brice Butler, who blew through the Chargers secondary for a 47-yard touchdown reception.
The Chargers answered right back with an 80-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard pass from Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates.
Carr would not be outdone. He marched the Raiders downfield and gave his team a 28-21 lead with a six-yard touchdown pass to Holmes.
A major case of the drops: Carr was on target all game long, but there were too many incompletions because receivers couldn’t hold on to the football.
Holmes had two big drops. Marcel Reece had another. Even sure-handed James Jones had one clank off his hands. Those drops hindered drives time and again, and prevented the Raiders from taking leads near halftime.
Drive-by egging: Raiders fans pelted eggs at the Chargers team bus coming into O.Co Coliseum on Sunday morning.
While the AFC West rivalry isn’t as strong with these groups of players and coaches, it’s certainly strong among the fan bases.
Extra-curricular activity: Chargers offensive tackle D.J. Fluker and Raiders defensive end LaMarr Woddley locked horns in the first quarter and wouldn’t let go, with Fluker eventually tossing Woodley to the ground.
That was Fluker’s second Oakland scuffle in as many seasons. Last year he lifted Sio Moore up and body slammed him to the turf.
Injury update: Defensive end Justin Tuck was attended to by trainers on the field, but left under his own power with a knee injury. He sat out the rest of the half, but returned in the third quarter.
Sitting it out: Receiver Vincent Brown didn’t get a chance to play against the team that cut him near preseason’s end. He was among the inactives after suffering a hamstring strain on Friday. There were few surprises among the inactives, which included quarterback Matt McGloin, cornerback Keith McGill, safety Jonathan Dowling, linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong, tackle Khalif Barnes and guard Tony Bergstrom.
What's next: The Raiders have their second home game in as many weeks with the Arizona Cardinals coming to town. It will be a reunion of sorts, with former Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer and tackle Jared Veldheer coming back to the East Bay.