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Win Over San Diego Signals Playoff Hope For Raiders

Kamille Turnquest |
October 13, 2010 | 2:49 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

The score is 31-17 Chargers. The date: Sept. 28, 2003. The Raiders are down by 14 with less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

Lorenzo Neal just ran for a 3-yard touchdown for San Diego.

The season hasn’t started the way the Raiders had hoped; Oakland is 1-2, no doubt still coping with their loss to the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl just months ago. To make things worse, here they are, at home in front of 54,078 fans, about to lose to the 0-4 Chargers. 

With the clock at 4:38, the Raiders’ Alvis Whitted catches a 36-yard touchdown pass from Rich Gannon, pulling the silver and black to within seven.

The Raider defense forces a San Diego punt.

First and 10, the ball is at Oakland’s 36. Gannon shoots the ball through the middle of the field, connecting with Jerry Rice for a 22-yard gain. Another 20-yard catch by Rice is followed by a 24-yard touchdown run by Charlie Garner. And the Raiders tie it up.

Ten minutes elapse in overtime before Sebastian Janikowski sets up for a 46-yard field goal. The kick is good. Raiders win.

Sept. 28, 2003.

That was the last time the Raiders beat the Chargers.

But after seven long years and 13 painful games, the Raiders were finally able to do it again on Sunday, ending the second-longest losing streak in the NFL.

Oakland's 35-27 victory over San Diego was not pretty, but Raider victories rarely ever are.

After a field goal and a couple of impressive punt blocks by Oakland's special teams resulted in a safety and a touchdown, the Raiders had an early 12-0 lead over San Diego.

The Raiders defense made coach Tom Cable proud, forcing two Charger fumbles in their red zone (three overall). But San Diego stormed back to take the lead and the Raiders didn’t seal the game until late. Philip Rivers threw for 431 yards, however, the Raider defense’s ability to take advantage of San Diego’s miscues was the difference maker in the game.

So what does this win mean?

Will the Raiders again start to demonstrate this excellence to which the franchise has always claimed to be committed? Or is this just like all the other times the silver and black showed a little promise and Raider Nation automatically put them in the playoffs?

Well call it wishful thinking, but I can’t help believing that this time is different; that the Raiders might actually have a chance of getting to the playoffs this season.

I know, I know. It was only one game.

But after a frightening start by Janikowski, who missed five field-goals in the first three games, including three from less than 50-yards (we’re all trying to forget that 32-yarder he missed two weeks ago against the Cardinals), and by Jason Campbell, who just hasn’t seemed to be fitting into the Raiders' offense, things finally seem to be falling into place. 

Seabass is three for three on field goals in the last two games, and on Sunday, Campbell looked like he had some command over the team’s offense for the first time. In Sunday’s game, Campbell (who did not start) completed 13 of his 18 passes and threw for 159 yards. His completion percentage was 72.2 percent in the Chargers game, compared to the averaged 56.4 percent in his first two starts.

That’s progress.

If you’re still not sold on Campbell, fine. Admittedly, the team is lacking a bit in the quarterback position. But if we can learn anything from the Steelers, it’s that quarterbacks don’t always win games. If Pittsburgh can go 4-0 with Byron Leftwich, Dennis Dixon, and Charlie Batch, then there’s definitely hope for the Raiders.

Penalties too are still a major issue for Oakland. The Raiders have been among the most penalized teams in the NFL for what seems like forever. They were ranked no. 25 in the league last season with 53.1 penalty yards per game, and those numbers have only gotten worse this year.  Oakland has 398 penalty yards already this season, and is no. 32 in penalty yards per game with 79.6. Even “The” Nnamdi Asomugha was called for three penalties Sunday.

Despite the team’s shortcomings, the Raiders are coming along and Raider Nation has reason to be excited.

As I said before, much like the boy who cried wolf, Raider fans have been crying playoffs for years, and it’s getting old. But when the Chargers and Broncos are at the bottom of the division and the Kansas City Chiefs are the team to beat in the AFC West, something is different.

So maybe, just maybe this year’s playoff cries are legitimate. 

To reach writer Kamille Turnquest-Simmons, click here.

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