ALAMEDA, Calif. – From some fans’ perspective, the only thing a “prevent” defense does is prevent a team from winning.
And yet, there it was, on full display late in the Oakland Raiders’ 27-17 win over San Diego Sunday night, defensive players falling far back and allowing Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to pick the Raiders apart underneath.
Except … that was the Raiders’ goal. And it worked, as the Chargers simply ran out of time to complete the comeback.
Oh, and one more thing: Don’t call it a “prevent” defense.
"The key is, in those situations, is that the only way a team can beat you is to get the ball over your head; we let them do it one time in the game … and one time is too many,” said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. “So we don’t use the term ‘prevent defense.’ We’ll never use the term ‘prevent defense.’ But there is 'situational defense.'"
Such was the case when the Raiders led by 10 points and the Chargers had the ball at their own 20-yard line with 4:24 to play and two timeouts remaining, plus the two-minute warning.
Running a no-huddle offense out of the shotgun, San Diego took advantage of the open real estate underneath, converting on receptions of 20, 16 and 24 yards on their first three plays of the series. In fact, four of the seven “explosive” passing plays the Raiders gave up – Allen describes an explosive play as one that gains at least 16 yards through the air, 12 yards on the ground – came after the Raiders went up 27-17.
Indeed, the Chargers got down to the Raiders’ 4-yard line, but there was just 1:53 to play, and the drive was snuffed out in the end zone when rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden picked off Rivers' pass in the back of the end zone.
“I was focused on [Charles] Woodson there,” Rivers said. “I had him where I wanted him and I didn’t see [No.] 25 there.”
Still, had the Chargers scored a touchdown, or even kicked a field goal, they would have been within one score of the Raiders and would have been in line to attempt an onside kick with those two timeouts still in their pocket.
Call it a “prevent” or even a “situational” defense, it did not prevent the Raiders from winning last weekend.
“You have to be smart, you have to understand what an offense is going to try and do to you, and at that point in time, yards don’t cost you anything,” Allen said. “The only thing that costs you is points.
“The key for us was eliminating points, and when we got down in the red zone, defensively, we were able to do a pretty good job of keeping them out of the end zone.”