In a game that resembled a 15-round Heavyweight slugfest from a bygone era, the Oakland Raiders defeated the San Diego Chargers 35-27 in front of clear skies and a raucous crowd on Sunday afternoon. Both teams are now 2-3 in a Division that- like many in the NFL- is wide-open for the taking.
The Raiders lost the services of starting Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski when he left the game with a shoulder injury in the 2nd quarter, but ‘war’ had already been declared in the Northern California province of Raiderland.
Campbell filled in admirably, tossing a 1-yard touchdown pass that actually traveled about 20 yards in the air to TE Zach Miller while scrambling to his right, and ending the day 13-18 with 159 yards. It is uncertain how long Gradkowski will be shelved.
The game got off to a surprising start thanks to a few Chargers miscues, and Oakland led at the end of the 1st quarter, 12-0. But Phillip Rivers and the perennially contending Chargers were not going to go down quietly. The Bolts soon found a working outlet and plugged in their offensive machine, churning out a few American-made touchdowns and leading at the half, 17-15.
Having lost 13 straight games to their SoCal rival, many Raider fans were probably getting themselves numb in preparation for Rivers to once again remove their hearts in the 2nd half. But Oakland stood tall and strong, playing the 3rd and 4th frames with an upbeat, confident swagger that the defending AFC Champs were unable to overcome.
The teams traded 3rd quarter touchdowns before Nate Kaeding- the same guy who missed three crucial field goals against the New York Jets in the Chargers postseason loss last winter- banged one through the yellow sticks to put the Chargers ahead by five points, 27-22. It would turn out to be the last points San Diego would score as the Raider D played superbly down the stretch- a phase of the game that San Diego is accustomed to controlling.
A Michael Bush 3-yard Touchdown run put the Silver & Black ahead 28-17 with just under four minutes left in regulation. The two-point conversion that would have put the Raiders up by a field goal failed, thus placing the ball in the hands of Rivers and the Chargers with a nice chunk of time left and in a situation where a mere field goal would likely have extended the Chargers winning streak over Oakland to 14 games. Again, thousands upon thousands of Raider fans who have grown to hate, fear, and perhaps secretly respect the football abilities of Phillip Rivers became uneasy.
On a 2nd-and-20 from their own 33-yard-line, Rivers was hit by a blitzing Michael Huff, who caused a sack/fumble combination, which was scooped up by Tyvon Branch and taken 64 yardsfor a Raider touchdown. Those obsessed with logic will tell you that the best move for Branch would have been to fall to the ground, securing the ball and both a Raider victory, but try telling that to a guy teeming with excitement and adrenaline in a league where a defensive touchdown can equate to another few hundred thousand dollars on their next contract. In the end, Oaklandnot only salvaged the season and likely their playoff hopes, but also sent a message to their cross-state rivals that the 2010 version of the Oakland Raiders fears no-one, and is ready to play all 60 minutes.