News & Analysis

NFL Week 15 PFF ReFocused: Los Angeles Chargers 30, Las Vegas Raiders 27

Dec 17, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws against the Las Vegas Raiders during the second half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Chargers once again played in an abnormal game. With missed field goals, penalties and overtime comebacks, the Chargers' bout with divisional rival Las Vegas Raiders had a little bit of everything. In the end, Los Angeles came out on top, 30-27, picking up their first AFC West division win since the 2018 season. 

Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.

STORY OF THE GAME

Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr exited the game on the Raiders’ second drive due to a groin injury. In his stead, we got to witness two former Oregon Ducks QBs go head-to-head, with Raiders backup Marcus Mariota dueling with this year's No. 6 overall pick, Justin Herbert. Mariota flashed his dual-threat ability all game while also showcasing poor accuracy on a few occasions. 

The 2014 Heisman winner added a new dimension to coach John Gruden’s offense, allowing QB run plays to be called, and the Chargers defense seemed unprepared. Mariota carried the ball nine times, gaining 88 yards and added an acrobatic dive into the end zone. He was not terrible through the air, either, connecting on 17 of 28 passes for 226 yards, one touchdown and ill-advised interception. 

The running game did Mariota no favors, as Josh Jacobs churned out just 76 yards and one score on 26 carries, one of which went for 20 yards on its own. Darren Waller and Nelson Agholor were the only receivers to see over three targets, but only Waller made the most of the opportunity. He erupted against the Charges' porous pass defense, catching nine passes for 150 yards, one touchdown and a stellar seven first downs.  Agholor, on the other hand, hauled in four of his eight targets for 49 scoreless yards and recorded one drop. 

Dec 17, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller (83) celebrates with quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) after scoring a touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half at Allegiant Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers pulled off the win but were largely unimpressive outside of their rookie QB. The offensive line allowed a horrendous pressure rate of over 45%, while the Raiders sat at 23%. Luckily, Herbert was able to bail them out by taking just a single sack on 16 pressures that came his way. 

Like with Las Vegas, the running game was inefficient. Austin Ekeler averaged 4.6 yards on 13 carries and caught four passes for 19 yards. Kalen Ballage handled eight attempts for a paltry 11 yards but did have a plunge past the pylon. 

The real star of the Chargers' offense was their rookie signal-caller. Outside of the game-winning dive into the end zone, Herbert showcased his immense potential as a passer. He finished the game with zero turnover-worthy plays while also completing three of six passes 20-plus yards downfield for 104 yards and a score. The first-rounder was also effective when pressured — an area in which he has thrived this season — connecting on 10 of 15 attempts for 168 yards and a TD. 

Two things were obvious tonight: 1) The future is bright with Herbert under center in Los Angles, and 2) Mariota may not be a backup just yet.  

ROOKIE WATCH

Outside of Herbert, only one other player saw significant playing time for either roster. First-round linebacker Kenneth Murray saw the field for 76 snaps for the Chargers. He only saw one target in coverage and allowed it to be caught for six yards. Murray also netted two defensive stops and a tackle for loss or no gain on four total tackles against the run. 

ELITE subscribers can view player grades, advanced statistics, positional snap counts and more in Premium Stats 2.0.

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