As 2012 begins, the Raiders’ 2011 season is over. A win would have given them the AFC West division title, but they lost to the Chargers 38-26 to send them home for the playoffs with an 8-8 record. The defense couldn’t stop the Chargers and the offense couldn’t keep up.
By the time the game started, the Raiders already knew they would not be able to get in the playoffs as a wildcard. The only way they would get in would be a win over the Chargers combined with a Broncos loss. The Broncos did indeed lose, but by the time that game went final the Raiders’ chances of winning were already slipping away.
The game started out well for the Raiders when safety Matt Giordano intercepted Philip Rivers and the Raiders responded with an opening drive touchdown. The drive looked like good things were to come for the Raiders. Michael Bush was picking up yards in good chunks and the Raiders got a big play from Louis Murphy on a 27 yard end around. The final play was a beautiful over-the-shoulder pass from Carson Palmer to Darrius Heyward-Bey in the corner of the end zone. But that was as good as it would get for the Raiders.
The Chargers would respond with a touchdown of their own, and before the Raiders knew it, the Chargers took the lead 14-7. The Raiders responded with a field goal but that wasn’t going to be good enough as the Chargers took the kick return back 105 yards for a touchdown and a 21-10 lead.
Hue called that play the turning point of the game.
“When they got the ball and they scored on the kickoff return, to me that was a huge difference in the game, huge,” said Jackson. “The momentum, it shifted. We went ahead. We were up. Then all of a sudden here comes the ball coming back at you again. Or it was 7-7 and now it’s 14-7. It’s not good. I just know that I felt that was a huge difference.”
At the end of the half, the Raiders fittingly squandered an opportunity for one more field goal attempt and went to the locker room down 24-13.
The Raiders would get another field goal after the half to pull to within one score at 24-16, but yet again the Chargers would answer that with a touchdown. The Raider defense couldn’t keep the Chargers out of the end zone and the Raider offense couldn’t sustain drives.
The back breaker for the Raiders was when they had finally gotten in the end zone again and thought they had a safety on a bobbled kick return. But the ruling was that the return man was out of the end zone and the Chargers drove 99 yards for a touchdown. That swing essentially ended the game.
“That was the momentum changer,” said Carson Palmer. “It’s too bad [the return man] got out of there obviously, because then they punt to us and we got a short field, we get the two points and the game is reachable, we might have been able to tie it up if we score or make it a game there. The guy made a play, did a good job of getting out of the end zone.”
From there it was just a Palmer interception to seal it. Game over, season over.
The elephant in the room after the game was the fate of Raiders’ defensive coordinator, Chuck Bresnahan. He is expected to be fired following a season that saw the Raider defense squander several leads and give up long drives late in nearly every game this season. Jackson wouldn’t comment on whether Bresnahan would be fired but his words suggested that might be the case.
When asked about the scheme, Jackson said: “There’s going to be a lot of adjustments that we have to make. What we just did ain’t good enough. It’s not good enough in the NFL to be a very good defensive football team. It’s not good enough.”
When asked about how much falls on Bresnahan, Hue said: “We’ll see. We’ll see. I think Chuck knows how I feel. I’m disappointed over there. I have been. It’s not like we haven’t had conversations. Chuck knows what I feel and it’s not good enough.”
There were five milestones the Raiders were looking at coming into the game. The easiest were the records for penalties (4 away) and penalty yards (11 yards away). They got the penalty yardage record on the Chargers’ first drive when Matt Giordano was flagged 15 yards for hitting a defenseless receiver. They got the penalties record when Rock Cartwright was called for holding on the opening kickoff of the second half.
The remaining milestones were good ones. Two of them were personal marks. Coming into the game Michael Bush was 89 yards from rushing for 1000 yards and Darrius Heyward-Bey was 155 yards from 1000 yards receiving. Neither player would get the yards necessary although unexpectedly Heyward-Bey would finish nearly as close to the mark as Bush. DHB finished with 9 catches for 130 yards (25 yards short) and Bush would finish with 66 yards rushing (23 yards short).
But in the end, the only milestone they really wanted was the end of a ten year playoff drought. And it eluded them. They finish the season 8-8 just as they did last year when they just missed the playoffs.
|San Diego Chargers (7-8-0)||Oakland Raiders (8-7-0)|