Raiders bury Chargers under avalanche of first-half points

LAS VEGAS — What a difference four days makes.

A little more than 96 hours after losing 3-0 in the lowest-scoring indoor game in NFL history, the Las Vegas Raiders blasted the Los Angeles Chargers 63-21 in a game in which they led by as many as 56 points.

Quarterback Aidan O’Connell threw for four touchdown passes and receiver Jakobi Meyers caught and threw for a score for the Raiders (6-8), who led 42-0 at halftime. This result will not help embattled Chargers coach Brandon Staley, as Los Angeles (5-9) committed five turnovers, three of which the Raiders’ offense turned into touchdowns and two of which the Raiders defense returned for scores.

Las Vegas Raiders

Can the Raiders borrow a mere four points from Thursday night’s demolition of the Chargers and apply it to Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Vikings? No, it doesn’t work like that? Fine.

But a feel-good takedown of an ancient rival will do wonders for a team’s psyche, especially with three offensive starters sidelined with injuries in All-Pro running back Josh Jacobs (quad), left tackle Kolton Miller (shoulder) and center Andre James (ankle). And they have a long break to get ready before a Christmas Day game at the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Raiders may have blown their chance at a better draft pick with the win, but they may have also helped interim coach Antonio Pierce’s candidacy pick up steam. And yes, the Raiders are still technically alive for the playoffs.

Describe the game in two words: Big-time blowout: The Raiders’ 42-0 halftime lead saw the most points scored in a first half by a team after being shutout in its previous game, bettering the 34 points the Frankford Yellow Jackets had in 1927 against the Buffalo Bisons and the 34 points the Rock Island Independents scored against the Pittsburgh All-Collegians in 1920, per the Elias Sports Bureau.

Bold prediction for next week: Given the offensive explosion, let’s just say interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree will remain upstairs in the press box, calling plays from up on high. He had been on the sidelines before Thursday night.

QB breakdown: Four days after bottoming out against the Vikings, O’Connell simply balled out. He threw deep, kept his internal clock on rhythm and had success. He finished 20 of 34 for 248 yards and a career-best four touchdowns. He entered the day just 5-of-20 with one touchdown and two interceptions on passes of 20-plus air yards, but went 3-of-4 with three scores on such passes in the first half. He is the first Raiders quarterback to throw three scores of at least 20 air yards in a game since ESPN began tracking air yards in 2006.

Eye-popping Next Gen stat: When Meyers hit Davante Adams for a 3-yard touchdown pass to put the Raiders up 49-0 early in the third quarter, Meyers became the first non-QB this century to throw a pass with his team up by at least 40 points. — Paul Gutierrez

Next game: at Chiefs (1 p.m. ET, Dec. 25)

Los Angeles Chargers

After losing to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12, Chargers coach Brandon Staley dismissed the idea that his messaging wasn’t getting across to his players.

“In one of these games, you’d get blown out of the stadium,” Staley said, “and that hasn’t happened.”

On Thursday, his team was down 42-0 at halftime, their worst deficit in franchise history, to a Raiders team that hadn’t scored a touchdown since Week 12, was missing their Pro Bowl running back and starting a rookie quarterback that the Chargers sacked seven times in Week 4.

This Chargers season already seemed lost after quarterback Justin Herbert suffered a season-ending broken right index finger last week in Sunday’s loss to the Denver Broncos. Thursday night’s defeat was the exclamation point.

Describe the game in two words: Inexcusable beatdown: The Chargers were missing a few of their stars in wide receiver Keenan Allen and Herbert, so a poor offensive performance would make sense. But a 42-point loss to a Raiders team missing almost the same number of weapons and with an interim coach and general manager is unjustifiable.

Silver lining: The Chargers are closer to a top pick: The Chargers were all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs coming into Thursday. (According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Chargers had a 0.6% chance.) A win would’ve given them a less favorable pick in next year’s draft. Instead, this loss will increase the Chargers’ chances of getting a top 5-10 pick. With a roster projected to be $34.8 million over the salary cap next season, according to ESPN’s Roster Management System, a top rookie could fill the void of a veteran that the Chargers will need to move for salary cap purposes. This loss moves them closer.

Bold prediction for next week: The Chargers will fire Staley. Chargers coaches have escaped embarrassing losses before. The Anthony Lynn-led Chargers lost 45-0 to the New England Patriots in Week 13 of his fourth season. The Chargers didn’t fire Lynn until the end of the season. The Chargers have only fired one coach midseason in franchise history, when they severed ties with Kevin Gilbride in 1998. Could an embarrassing loss in prime time change how the Spanos family has approached coaching changes? — Kris Rhim

Next game: vs. Bills (8 p.m. ET, Dec. 23)

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