The Los Angeles Chargers opened the 2022 season by getting payback against the Las Vegas Raiders for the heartbreaking finish to last year in a 24-19 victory. Justin Herbert looked terrific as usual, though the offense did take the foot off the gas pedal a bit much down the stretch. However, the new-look defense held its own, even without J.C. Jackson there to guard Davante Adams (more on that later). The biggest part of that defense in this game was Khalil Mack, who had a revenge game of his own against his former team (again). Firmly shaking off concerns that his best days might be behind him, he reminded everybody why he is a frequent Pro Bowl/All-Pro candidate.
Khalil Mack Comes Up Big Against Former Team in Los Angeles Chargers Win
Khalil Mack and the Rest of the Defensive Line’s Role
With J.C. Jackson out and thus unable to shadow Davante Adams, it fell to the defensive line to pressure Derek Carr and keep him from being able to find Adams in the first place. The matchup was ideal, given that the Raiders line turned out to be rather porous this year. Kolton Miller was the only decent starter at left tackle, and the remaining starters were all guys you’ve probably never heard of (John Simpson, Andre Games, Lester Cotton, Jermaine Eluemunor). Last year’s first-round pick Alex Leatherwood did so poorly both last year and this off-season/preseason that he got released. As such, this seemed like an excellent opportunity for Mack and Joey Bosa to go off.
Carr was still able to find Adams for 10 receptions, 141 yards, and a touchdown. However, the defensive line and pass-rushers did do their job nevertheless. The Chargers got six sacks and forced two fumbles on Carr, who was under pressure most of the day and was forced into some mistakes.
Mack’s Big Day
Mack finished with six tackles – including three for a loss – along with three sacks, four quarterback hits, and a forced fumble. He took advantage of the right side of the line heavily and got to Carr the most of anybody. This is not the first time he’s done well against his former team – just last year with the Chicago Bears, he had seven tackles and a sack in a win over the Raiders. And in 2018 he had three tackles and a fumble recovery against them, though the Bears lost that game. But this is arguably the best game Mack has had against the team that drafted him.
His most critical play – the game-winning defensive play – came on the final Raiders play on fourth down with under two minutes to go. On that play, Derwin James was in coverage against Adams, and it worked – he wasn’t open at that point. While Carr was figuring out what to do next, Mack got to him, took him down, and forced the fumble. One of Carr’s teammates recovered the fumble, but it was irrelevant – he was down, and the game was thus essentially over as the Raiders never got the ball back.
A Fine Defensive Effort Overall
While Mack was ultimately the defensive MVP on the day, it was a fine effort by the team as a whole. Despite Adams having a big day, they did probably as well as they could without J.C. Jackson. Asante Samuel Jr held his own against Adams, and while he did get burned a couple of times by excellent routes, he also pulled in an interception; his effort was admirable, all things considered.
Elsewhere, the run defense rebuild seems to have paid off initially. The Raiders were held to 64 yards rushing, and while falling behind did force them to rely on the pass more, they weren’t able to get much traction going early – which likely discouraged them, as otherwise they would have probably utilized it more as teams often did last year against the Chargers. Elsewhere in the pass defense, Bryce Callahan locked down Hunter Renfrow to just three catches for 21 yards and got an interception of his own – as did Drue Tranquill of all people, getting the first interception of his career.
It was a good defensive effort overall, but it was ultimately Khalil Mack who won the day. If fans had any concerns about his age and coming off injuries last year, those should be put to rest now. Mack is still clearly on his game, and he and Bosa should continue to be nightmares for opposing quarterbacks for the rest of the season.
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