After the Raiders had been demolished in the previous two games against the Steelers and Dolphins, they came into this game as a tremendous underdog to the Chargers. The Chargers are statistically the best defense in the NFL and their offense had been the best in the NFL over the month of November.
But despite all the odds favoring a route by the Chargers, the Raiders turned the tables on them. The result was a resounding 28-13 win. And they did it at the line of scrimmage.
For the Raiders, you couldn’t have asked for a better first half. Every bit of hidden talent this team has was on full display. The defense was blitzing unpredictibly a week after blitzing nearly every third down to poor results. The offense was clicking due to a mixing up of play calls and the suddenly steady hand of Jason Campbell.
The offense sustained drives and the defense stopped them. Every time the Chargers would get a catch, the defense would make a big play. They had the Chargers completely confused and showed that this was the kind of gameplan of which they were capable anytime they want to turn it on.
We can question why the Raiders were unable to hit that switch in the previous two games later though. For now, we focus on the power surge that occurred in this game.
They stopped the Chargers in their tracks for just 21 yards rushing. Ryan Mathews did not play despite early reports that he would be back from injury this week. Mike Tolbert was rendered ineffective by a group effort at the line of scrimmage and Darren Sproles was knocked out of the game on a vicious, albeit completely legal, hit by Rolando McClain near the end of the first half.
The Raiders running game was the antithesis of the Chargers’ and moreso it was the antithesis of what it had been in the previous two debacles against Pittsburgh and Miami. The Raiders rushed for 251 yards in the game which tied for the 11th most yards allowed on the ground by the Chargers all-time. McFadden and Bush shared the rushing duties almost evenly with McFadden finishing with 97 yards and Bush with 95 yards. Jason Campbell chipped in with 37 rushing yards as well.
“Everything is predicated off of our run game” said Jason Campbell. ”When you’re able to run the ball successfully the way we were today, it helps the play-action pass. It helps guys get open and the run game kind of wears the defense down. You have to respect the run game and the pass game. We just really got back to basics of what we do and I think the guys did a good job coming off the ball today. I thought our offensive line, they took the challenge coming in today, to get an opportunity to go straight down field and our running backs ran hard. We were able to make some plays down field… The guys didn’t complain, our guys wanted to win and that’s what it’s all about.”
An interested thing to note as well about those rushing yards is, aside from an end around, the Raiders didn’t call a single running play outside the tackles until the 1:24 mark just before halftime. That means the Raiders gained 59 yards and were up 21-3 with all of their run plays coming between the tackles. They continued to pound it up the middle after that and by the time the game was over, those numbers were even better.
Philip Rivers got decent yards passing (280) but without the running game working, the Chargers stalled on drive after drive. They finished with a total of 18 first downs without a single first down on the ground. Five of those first downs were on Raider penalties.
Jason Campbell played well in this game and Cable said he managed the game well. But Jason was quick to deflect the credit for the win, saying his game ball would go to the offensive line and the run defense. Not only is that the right thing to say on his part, but it was certainly the truth.
In beating the Chargers, the Raiders hit several milestones. They are 4-0 in the AFC West, back to .500 at 6-6, and have six wins for the first time in eight years. They have just four games remaining and with the Chiefs winning Sunday to improve to 8-4, the Raiders had to win this game to keep any chance of making a playoff run.