OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 06: Danny Woodhead #39 of the San Diego Chargers gets stopped for no gain at the one yard line by the Oakland Raiders defense during the second quarter at O.co Coliseum on October 6, 2013 in Oakland, California. The play was a fourth and one on the goal line and the Raiders offense took over on downs. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
A week ago, in their 30-21 win against the Cowboys at home, the Chargers played the game exactly the way they wanted to. They "executed the game plan" as coaches like to say.
Sunday night in Oakland, not so much.
"We picked a bad night to have a bad night," said head coach Mike McCoy on Monday. He'd had 17 hours to go back through the Chargers' 27-17 loss to the Raiders, and saw an abundance of mistakes and missed opportunities.
The most egregious, of course, being committing five turnovers while forcing none. The night started on a bad note, with Philip Rivers throwing his third interception of the season on the third play of the game when he and Eddie Royal were not on the same page.
"Philip hasn't made that decision all year long," said McCoy. "In the five games we've played he has not thrown a ball up like that."
Things did not get much better from there. McCoy tried to explain the subsequent turnovers thusly:
Eddie Royal's muffed punt: "Eddie's trying to make a play and shuffles at the last second there, and didn't execute it."
Danny Woodhead's fumble, which was returned for a touchdown by Charles Woodson: "Hey, Danny's one of the most reliable guys you've got out there on the field, and he had a turnover." (Woodhead has averaged one fumble a season in his 5-year career).
Rivers' interception in the end zone when he was looking for Keenan Allen: "The Red Area interception, looking at that, the technique of the route a little bit, he threw a little behind him."
The final pick was a desperation heave towards Royal, so we'll let that one be. But, even when the Chargers were not turning the ball over, they were missing opportunities to make plays that would have turned the game in their favor.
For example, when the Bolts got down to the Oakland 1-yard-line, and Rivers threw a ball wide to Antonio Gates, who had the ball bounce off his hands. You expect two Pro Bowl-caliber players to make plays like that.
"I think Philip is going to say he could have thrown a better ball and Antonio is going to say he should have caught it," said McCoy, and he's right on both counts. "It's not always going to be perfect, but it's a play we probably should have scored on."
That incompletion set up 4th and 1, when Rivers handed off to Woodhead, and Danny was swallowed up trying to run up the middle of the field.
"We had an option to either throw it or run it and the decision Philip made was to hand it off," said McCoy. "You look back at it and say, if we had thrown it, it would have been better. That's all part of it. He's (Rivers) going to make a lot more good decisions than bad."
Right a third time.
Through the first four games, Rivers had been stellar at changing plays at the line of scrimmage based on what the opposing defense was doing. McCoy has praised his quarterback on multiple occasions for putting the offense in to the right play at the right time. Sometimes, things just don't work out.
"You're going to have games like that from time to time," said McCoy.
Now, the Chargers have to go about making those times few and far between, and certainly not have them against division rivals.
"We've shown the good and we've shown the bad," said McCoy. "We have to eliminate the bad and get back to where we were at the Dallas game."
Their next chance to do that will be at home on Monday Night Football, against the 4-1 Colts. With the Broncos and Chiefs still undefeated and not showing signs of slowing down, the Chargers had better not wait too long to get back to the way they played against the Cowboys.