OAKLAND (AP) — Derek Carr has been at his best in clutch situations this season for the Oakland Raiders, leading two late comebacks to help fuel the team’s best start since 2002.
The season has gotten off to the opposite kind of start in San Diego, where the Chargers have led all four games at the two-minute warning only to lose three of those in the closing minutes.
So while the Raiders (3-1) come into their first division game of the season full of confidence, they also know how small the difference truly is between them and San Diego (1-3).
“They’re just a few points away from being 4-0,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “I never look at someone’s record and say that’s who they are. Because, when you turn the film on and you see that defense running around, that’s definitely not what it looks like.”
For 58 minutes, the Chargers have been as good as anyone. But they blew a 21-point lead to Kansas City in the opener before allowing a game-tying TD with 1:11 left and losing in OT; allowed a 63-yard TD pass with 1:28 to go in a 26-22 loss to Indianapolis in Week 3; and then fumbled twice late to blow a 13-point lead last week to New Orleans .
“It’s executing on both sides of the ball,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “In the defensive meeting room they’re saying, ‘Just stop them. Just one stop in these games and we win.’ In the offensive room we say, ‘Why do we even send them back out there?’ I don’t think it’s a flawed approach. We’ve just got to get it done.”
The Raiders have gotten it done late in games with Carr leading a TD drive and throwing the game-winning 2-point conversion with 52 seconds left in the opener at New Orleans , then adding a go-ahead TD pass to Michael Crabtree with 2:12 to go last week at Baltimore .
The defense also delivered late stops to seal wins against Tennessee and the Ravens.
“I love those situations,” Carr said. “I get so fired up that I have to just calm myself down. You have to stay calm and it’s not like, ‘Oh no, the game’s on the line.’ It’s like, ‘Yes, the game’s on the line.’ That’s stuff that you dream of as a kid.”
Here are some other things to watch:
HOME NOT SO SWEET HOME: The Raiders have won all three road games while losing to Atlanta in their one home contest. That has been a pattern these past two seasons under coach Jack Del Rio as the team is 7-4 on the road but 3-6 at the Coliseum.
“We need to win at home, there’s no doubt about that,” Carr said. “Our fans are too awesome. They deserve it.”
MORE INJURIES: The Chargers’ list of starters out for the season increased again when cornerback Jason Verrett was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his left knee. Verrett, who was a Pro Bowler last year in his second NFL season, joins WR Keenan Allen, RB Danny Woodhead and LB Manti Te’o to on the sideline.
“It’s devastating to have to go through that, but man, it’s still early in the year,” Verrett said. “We’ve still got a lot of good guys that will be on the field.”
ROOKIE RUNNERS: With starter Latavius Murray nursing a sore toe that could force him to miss the game Sunday, the Raiders may have to rely on a pair of rookie running backs to carry the load against the Chargers. Fortunately, they have been up to the task so far this season. DeAndre Washington has rushed for 147 yards with a 6.4 yard average, while undrafted Jalen Richard has 144 yards and is averaging 8.5 yards per carry.
BOSA WATCH: Chargers rookie DE Joey Bosa thinks he might be making his NFL debut this week. The No. 3 pick overall in the draft missed training camp during a nasty holdout and then hurt a hamstring.
“I haven’t taken one snap in the NFL so I’m just looking to get one and then keep going with that,” he said. “Of course it’s a huge game, division rivals. They’re playing really well right now.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”
SECRET WEAPON: While players such as Carr, Cooper, Crabtree and Khalil Mack get most of the publicity on the Raiders, punter Marquette King is putting together a stellar season. King is averaging 50 yards a punt and has pinned opponents inside the 20 on nearly half his kicks (11 of 23). He’s coming off his best game yet, a 46.5-yard net average on eight punts last week.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
AP Sports Writer Bernie Wilson in San Diego contributed to this report.