The Chargers lost 27-20 to Las Vegas on Sunday to fall to 6-6.
They are in ninth place in the AFC, sharing the same overall record as New England, and trail the New York Jets by one game for the conference’s final playoff spot.
Some observations from a day on which the Chargers lost for the third time in four games:
This one was decided largely early in the third quarter when the Raiders scored two touchdowns in the span of barely 3½ minutes.
But the outcome was greatly influenced in the first half by the Chargers’ failure to turn two superb opportunities into points.
They extended their opening possession by executing a fake punt that gave them a first down at their 44-yard line.
Reserve linebacker Nick Niemann received the snap and handed off to running back Joshua Kelley, who rushed for five yards to convert fourth and three.
From there, however, the Chargers gained only five more yards before punting. Justin Herbert threw a pair of incompletions, the second coming after he was pressured by former teammate Jerry Tillery.
With the Chargers' defense starting strong, the offense got another chance two minutes later when Kenneth Murray Jr. forced Josh Jacobs to fumble and Kyle Van Noy recovered at the Las Vegas 25-yard line.
A run by Austin Ekeler, a scramble by Herbert and an incompletion left the Chargers with fourth and two. Coach Brandon Staley decided to go for it, but the Raiders defended the play well and Herbert had to scramble again, coming up a yard short.
Staley explained later that Keenan Allen paired against cornerback Nate Hobbs was where the Chargers were looking to go.
“We liked that down and distance,” Staley said. “We liked the matchup. Keenan versus [No.] 39. They just made a play, and we didn’t.”
Those lost points would prove vital later.
“We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities in the first half,” Staley said. “I thought that was kind of the story of the first half. We weren’t able to capitalize on big opportunities."
Talkin’ trash talk
When he scored the Chargers’ only offensive touchdown — on a 35-yard, fourth-down pass midway through the fourth quarter — Allen celebrated with a hand gesture that suggested Las Vegas’ defensive backs had been chirping at him.
Afterward, Allen confirmed it.
“They heard I was talking about them or something,” he said.
Last week, Allen was asked about the Raiders’ secondary playing more man-to-man coverage than most teams do and said: “Barbecued chicken. No doubt.”
Asked to translate, Allen continued: “That means they’re dead. You’re gonna get to see ‘Slayer.’ ”
Allen finished with six receptions for 88 yards. He was targeted a game-high 14 times.
It was an eventful day for the five-time Pro Bowl selection. On a third-and-nine play from the Las Vegas 42-yard line with just less than three minutes to go, Allen appeared to be held by cornerback Amik Robertson as a pass sailed over his head.
“I got tackled, not held,” Allen said afterward.
On the next play, Herbert threw incomplete to DeAndre Carter and the Chargers turned the ball over on downs.
Run defense ails continue
The Chargers’ defense started fast, limiting the Raiders to two punts and forcing two turnovers on their first four possessions. But Las Vegas scored on five of its next six series, the other ending with a missed field-goal try.
“In the second half, it was a little bit up and down, especially in the run game,” Staley said.
“Guys just gotta tackle better, make sure we’re wrapping up and make sure we’re getting more than one guy at the point of attack.”
As the game wore on, Jacobs became more effective en route to gaining 144 yards in 26 carries.
“We missed some tackles in the second half, which led to most of his yards,” Staley said. “I thought that we were in good run structures but missed some tackles, which he does. He forces people to miss.
“No one’s out there trying to miss. I know that. He’s a good back. You know that that’s going to happen.”
In his eighth year, Bryce Callahan scored his first career defensive touchdown when he returned a Derek Carr interception 26 yards for the game’s first points.
Fellow cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. ignited the play by deflecting the first-quarter pass high into the air.
“That was all ‘Zont,’ ” Callahan said. “I want to thank him for that because it was the first one of my career. I wouldn’t have gotten it without him. I’m giving all credit to him.”
Callahan did return a punt for a touchdown when he was playing for Chicago in 2017.
Defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day departed in the second half because of a knee injury that Staley said Monday was a sprained medial collateral ligament.
The team should know more about Joseph-Day’s prognosis later this week, but he did avoid a major injury.
Staley said tight end Donald Parham Jr., who is on the injured reserve list because of a hamstring issue, will return to practice this week in advance of the Chargers’ game Sunday night against Miami.
The team will have 21 days to activate Parham once he does resume practicing. Injuries have limited him to two games this season.
Center Corey Linsley remains in the concussion protocol, leaving his status for the game against the Dolphins undecided. He was injured during the Chargers’ Week 12 victory at Arizona.
Uncertainty also remains for wide receiver Mike Williams (ankle), right tackle Trey Pipkins III (knee) and Callahan (core muscle).
Right guard Zion Johnson (shoulder) was able to finish the game Sunday but was in obvious discomfort throughout the afternoon.
In his own words
“I need to do my job and make more plays for this team. I’ve grown into that role, and that is my role. I need to make sure I’m fulfilling my role. So I’m disappointed in myself.” — Ekeler on his performance.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.