The Los Angeles Chargers defeated the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday of Week 4 by a score of 24-17. In doing so, they won their second straight and rose to 2-2 – and also won a second straight battle of coaches trying to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory (though slightly less egregiously than last week against the Vikings). While there are plenty of negative things to say about the Chargers defense lately, the main positive so far has been the defensive line – and they were a big part of the win on Sunday, even if much of that came from one player in particular.
Defensive Line Remains Biggest Strength of Chargers Defense After Week 4 Win
Khalil Mack Eats
Today the main star of the bunch was Khalil Mack. Raiders rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell got his first start of his career due to Jimmy Garoppolo being concussed – and he got quite the “welcome” as he got sacked seven times. Six of those came from Mack, who was one short of tying the record for the most sacks by one player in one game (and only five have ever gotten six in one game). On two of those sacks, he forced a fumble as well. He also had a pass deflection and finished with 10 total tackles.
Quite simply, Mack was out for a revenge game against his former team – and he got it, posting one of the best games of his career. This is not the first time either – he has shown out in particular against the Raiders whenever he plays them. Clearly, he still has some bad blood with his former team; the Chargers certainly were happy to be the beneficiary of it in this game.
Other Notable Players
Most efforts from other players on the line likely got overshadowed by Mack’s monster game, but it was a good effort all around from them, particularly on the pass-rushing side of things. Second-round rookie Tuli Tuipulotu has been the breakout of the bunch so far this season, having racked up two sacks so far. He did not have any this Sunday, but he did have four tackles with one for a loss. He’s been getting used in triple-edge-rush packages with Mack and Joey Bosa lately, and the Chargers have thrived when deploying that formation.
More rotational backup Chris Rumph was in on the action today as well, as he got a strip sack and recovered the fumble as well. Rumph hasn’t really panned out to be anything more than a backup, but he did capitalize on the opportunity he had this time. Austin Johnson also had a fumble recovery off one of the sacks.
In addition to putting heavy pressure on the quarterback, the defensive line put in a decent performance against the run as well. Josh Jacobs (who has been having a rough start in general) only had 58 yards on 17 carries, and the team only allowed 3.3 yards per carry. It wasn’t a shutdown or anything, but they weren’t giving up big plays via the run either.
No Bosa, No Problem
On this particular Sunday, the Chargers defensive line thrived without the services of Joey Bosa, who is normally the primary star of the edge rushers. His play has been a little more undisciplined at times lately, but he has three sacks through three games, so his ability to get to the quarterback has not diminished. While it’s fair to say that the main reason Mack had this good a game was that it was a revenge game, it’s still good to see that the Chargers defensive line can do well without him – and even if Mack doesn’t do as much from here on out, Tulipulotu can pick up the slack if Bosa misses any more time. He has been impressive for a rookie so far.
The Chargers defense didn’t get as shredded by the passing game as much as usual this week – likely both due in part to playing against a rookie quarterback on his first stat, and the fact that he was constantly under pressure. Nevertheless, if the Chargers can continue to put this kind of pressure on quarterbacks – no matter which player it comes from – it may help take some of the pressure off the secondary, which would certainly be welcome and needed until/if they start getting more stable.
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