Raiders prove vs. Chargers they aren’t a Vegas strip comedy show

It was the kind of comedy that sells out theaters on the Strip.

In mid-November, after his team lost at home to the struggling Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis announced, without a shred of sarcasm, that first-year coach Josh McDaniels was doing a “fantastic” job.

Fantastic? The same Raiders had lost three leads of at least 17 points. Talk about a gag role. They were so annoyingly unreliable that quarterback Derek Carr cried out in frustration at a post-game press conference. They fell to the Colts on the sideline debut of coach Jeff Saturday, who had no college or pro coaching experience and had just stepped out of an ESPN studio.

If the Raiders weren’t the biggest disappointment of the NFL season, they were only clipped at the wire by Russell Wilson. You were a sad trumpet personified.

But they certainly didn’t look like it in their 27-20 win over the Chargers on Sunday, or their two prior road wins in overtime against the Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.

The Raiders do have a pulse, and that’s quite a lot for a team that’s lost seven of their first nine games.

OK, so Las Vegas has only five wins and is buried in third place in the AFC West. It’s a little premature to say it can make a playoff run. On the other hand, the Raiders play Thursday at the Rams — nothing is going well for the defending Super Bowl champion — with a chance to advance to 6-7.

The Raiders had an identical 6-7 record last season before finishing the schedule with four straight wins and sneaking into the playoffs. Crazier things have happened.

Justin Herbert (10) slips before Raiders Maxx Crosby (98) and Duron Harmon (30) can hit the Chargers quarterback.

Justin Herbert (10) slips before Raiders Maxx Crosby (98) and Duron Harmon (30) can hit the Chargers quarterback.

(David Becker/Associated Press)

The NFL season really starts after Thanksgiving. This is the fourth quarter of the regular season, so anyone who can stay relevant until then has a chance.

“Teams that can adjust in November and December, those are the teams that are really going to go the furthest,” said Raiders left tackle Kolton Miller. “This is the crucial time for many teams.”

Despite the loss, the 6-6 Chargers still have a better record than the Raiders. But it was the third loss in four games for Justin Herbert & Co., and their next two opponents – Miami and Tennessee – are likely playoff teams. They’re not as tied as the Rams, but the Chargers are also going in the wrong direction.

And for Herbert, this trip to the Mecca of gambling was a kind of high-stakes game of left, right, center. Because the Chargers had backups at left tackle, right tackle and center, which left them porous protection from their quarterback (five sacks) and almost no running game (72 yards).

Las Vegas doesn’t end easy either, with the Raiders’ last four games against New England in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Kansas City. However, it’s worth noting that the 49ers lost quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the season and that final game could be meaningless for the Chiefs.

Additionally, Raiders tight end Darren Waller and slot receiver Hunter Renfrow may be released from injured reserve this week, so this team should be stronger on offense.

On Sunday, the Raiders got off to a terrible start before finding footing, and their first three possessions ended like this: three and out, fumble, pick-six. But they were a different team after halftime, as Davante Adams had two touchdowns on long receptions in the third quarter and almost got a third goal pass in the first game of the fourth quarter.

Coming from Green Bay this season, Adams made an immediate impression in the AFC West. He has caught passes for at least 100 yards in each of his first five league games.

The Chargers had their rare moments — a 35-yard touchdown reception from Keenan Allen in the fourth quarter to reduce the deficit to seven — but mostly couldn’t generate much of anything.

For some in the visitors’ locker room, the loss to the Raiders had to conjure up memories of last season, when Raiders-Chargers were moved to Sunday night’s coveted final slot, the league’s regular season finale. The Raiders won 35-32 in overtime, snuffing out the Chargers’ playoff hopes like wet fingers pinching a candle wick.

Carr is hopeful.

“The character came out in full force this week,” he said.

Sure beats comedy. Raiders prove vs. Chargers they aren’t a Vegas strip comedy show

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