ALAMEDA — San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers offered his frank and honest assessment after his team’s first matchup with the Raiders this season.
“We didn’t think they could run with us on the back end,” Rivers said after a game in which he completed three passes of 50-plus yards.
“Well, evidently he was right,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said this week. “I mean, they got a couple behind us, so we’ll see if we can run a little faster this week.”
Rivers threw for 359 yards and four touchdowns in that game, averaging a whopping 17.1 yards per completion — the 10th-highest single-game average of his 13-year career.
Rivers’ longest connection was a 59-yard pass to tight end Hunter Henry and he also had a 54-yarder to Travis Benjamin. Both of those were of the shorter variety as the Raiders’ secondary struggled to make tackles.
But Rivers also hit Tyrell Williams deep twice. There was a 29-yard touchdown in which he blew past the coverage of cornerback David Amerson and safety Reggie Nelson.
Later, Williams got deep again on Amerson and Nelson was late to react and provide the help and the Chargers connected on their third 50-yarder of the game.
Don’t think Rivers won’t remember the success he had attacking down the field.
“We’ve got our work cut out,” Nelson said. “As a secondary, period, we can’t give up deep balls. That’s my job as a safety so it’ll be a challenge and we’re looking forward to it.”
Raiders cornerback Sean Smith said it didn’t bother him “not one bit” how openly Rivers spoke about attacking Oakland deep.
“If they’re plan is to come in and sling it around, then by all means, go for it,” Smith said. “I can’t worry about what their plan of attack is. I can only go out and do my job.”
Amerson, who obviously struggled in that outing, also dismissed what Rivers had to say — particularly because the Raiders won 34-31.
“It’s talk. You’ve still got to win the game,” Amerson said. “You’ve still got to go out there and play, so let him do it again.”
Smith was tested deep early in that game, but he read and was able to pick off an underthrown pass to Benjamin for a first-quarter interception. Rookie safety Karl Joseph, who is unlikely to play this week with a toe injury, also picked off a deep Rivers pass just before halftime.
That’s part of the Rivers’ conundrum. He’s fourth in the league in both passing yards and touchdowns, but has thrown an NFL-high 17 interceptions. The Chargers as a team lead the league with 30 giveaways. That’s the Rivers the Raiders are looking forward to seeing.
“We know if he’s going to go out there and just throw the ball crazy, just throw it up, we’re going to make him pay,” Amerson said.
The Raiders also have a pass rush that’s in better shape. They remain near the bottom of the league with just 22 sacks — only the Cleveland Browns have fewer — but Khalil Mack has a sack in eight straight games and a strip sack in three straight. He thinks they’ll be ready to slow down the Chargers deep game.
“We pride ourselves on that, not letting guys throw the ball over the top,” Mack said. “We’ve given up a few here and there but it’s all about getting better, learning from the mistakes, learning from the week before, the game before and so knowing that, I know guys are going to be ready and fired up.”
— Raiders defensive tackle Darius Latham said he will make his return when his team faces the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
The undrafted rookie has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, but has returned to practice this week and said “everything’s feeling better.”
As for playing in Sunday’s game, Latham said, “yeah, that’s the plan.”
Latham had played in the first 12 games as a rotational lineman and has 12 tackles on the season. While the stats are modest, Latham is a big-bodied presence who has been able to provide decent push up front when he’s out there. He’s happy to be back for the stretch run.
“I’m not used to missing games,” Latham said. “It’s hard to miss any game for any reason, even if it’s preseason.”
— The Raiders injury report was unchanged from Wednesday.
Latham, wide receivers Amari Cooper (right shoulder) and Michael Crabtree (left ring finger), left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) and linebackers Malcolm Smith (hamstring and Perry Riley Jr. (hamstring) were all limited.
Safety Karl Joseph (toe), defensive tackle Stacy McGee (ankle) and linebacker Shilique Calhoun (knee) all did not practice. Derek Carr (right pinkie) was a full participant.