The main stadium at Dignity Health Sports Park before a Chargers game. Courtesy of the park

The Los Angeles Chargers ended their three-season stay at Dignity Health Sports Park with a 24-17 loss Sunday to the Oakland Raiders, who drew far more fans, like so many other visiting teams.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers called playing in the 27,000 seat stadium — the NFL’s smallest — “unique, to say the least.”

“I think, from a passer standpoint, the sidelines are good and all that,” said Rivers, who completed 27 of 39 passes for 279 yards Sunday. “I may sound crazy, but certain fields you walk into and it looks like the back pylon is 200 yards away.

“Some fields you walk into and you go, ‘Man, I feel like I can drop it right on that from here or anywhere without lines on the field.’ From that standpoint, it was solid.

“We had some energy in this place at different points. For me to recall exactly those, I don’t know. We had some tough days managing the crowd, but as a player, it is really not about that.

“It is about us playing better on the field. We did that some in the three years here in this building, but not very well this year. We haven’t been able to play well this year anywhere in terms of winning football games.”

The Chargers (5-10) were 2-5 at the 27,000-seat Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson in 2019, losing five of their last six games. They are 3-4 on the road entering next Sunday’s season finale at Kansas City, who they lost to 24-17 Nov. 18 in Mexico City.

The Chargers were 12-10 in their three seasons at Dignity Health Sports Park, including losses in each of their first three games, during a span they were 14-10 in regular-season games away from the stadium.

The Chargers will begin play at SoFi Stadium in 2020, which is under construction at the former site of the Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood and will be owned by the Los Angeles Rams, who will also play there.

“I’m definitely looking forward to playing in the new stadium,” Chargers running back Austin Ekeler said. “I think anyone who plays there is probably going to be looking forward to it.”

The Chargers allowed touchdowns on Oakland’s final possession of the first half and opening drive of the second half, punted on each of their first five possessions, picking up two first downs, and were outgained 366 yards to 284.

“They outplayed us,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said after his team’s fifth loss in six games, four by seven points or less, and fifth loss in five games against fellow AFC West teams. “We lost too many one-on-ones and critical situations.”

Rivers said the Chargers’ offense “stunk it up until the last drive before the half” when Melvin Gordon ran 1 yard for a touchdown with 1:54 before halftime, tying the score, 7-7.

The eight-play, 78-yard drive included 17- and 10-yard pass interference penalties against the Raiders and an illegal use of hands penalty that gave the Chargers a third first down.

Following Gordon’s touchdown, the Raiders drove 75 yards on 11 plays in one minute, 46 seconds with quarterback Derek Carr scrambling 3 yards for a touchdown with eight seconds remaining in the half.

“When I came around the corner — obviously I went through my progression — I was like `Oh, shoot. I can run it in,”‘ Carr said after the third rushing touchdown of his six-season NFL career, all in the past two seasons.

“So, I just took off and waited if 33 (Chargers safety Derwin James) came for me, I’d dump it over the top and if not, I ran it in.”

Carr began the third quarter by completing all four of his passes for 35 yards on a 13-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with DeAndre Washington’s 5-yard touchdown run that increased Oakland’s lead to 21-7.

Washington rushed for 33 of his game-high 85 yards on the drive before an overwhelmingly pro-Raider crowd announced at 25,380.

The Chargers responded by driving 83 yards on 10 plays on the ensuing possession, with Gordon running 1 yard for a touchdown, one play after Rivers completed an 18-yard pass to Keenan Allen.

Rivers completed six of seven passes for 69 yards on the drive, including a 17-yard pass to Ekeler on the play before the completion to Allen.

Daniel Carlson kicked a 48-yard field goal on Oakland’s next possession to give it a 24-14 lead with 8:28 to play.

The Chargers again pulled within seven on Michael Badgley’s 27-yard field goal with 1:29 remaining. The Raiders sealed the victory when Darren Waller recovered Badgley’s attempted onside kickoff.

The Chargers trailed 33:24-26:36 in time of possession but led 21-19 in first downs. They rushed for a season-low 19 yards on 16 carries after rushing for 146 yards on 30 carries in a 26-24 loss at Oakland Nov. 7.

“We have to run the football when they know that we are going to run the football, and we did not get that done,” Lynn said.

Carr completed 26 of 30 passes for 291 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow on the Raiders’ first possession, as Oakland (7-8) ended a four-game losing streak and kept its faint playoff hopes alive.

The Raiders would qualify for the second AFC wild-card berth if they defeat the Denver Broncos next Sunday, the Tennessee Titans lose to the Houston Texans, the Pittsburgh Steelers lose to the Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“To say that we’re still playing Week 17 for something … that’s unbelievable. That’s really a good thing because I’ve been on teams in the past where we’ve been in those moments where we lose a couple games in a row and we’re like, `Oh no.’

“This team never did that. To come here and beat these guys twice this year, that’s not easy. They had their full defense out there. They’re completely healthy and our guys are still being able to make plays and do things like that.”

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.