With the “Black Hole” anxiously waiting in silence, all you could think about was the unfortunate scenarios the Raiders have been involved in this season. From missed field goals to untimely turnovers, you just knew the fumble recovery and touchdown scored by Raiders’ safety Tyvon Branch would be over-turned and San Diego Chargers’ quarterback Phillip Rivers would get another chance to beat the Raiders yet again. But the unthinkable happens, the play stands, the “Black Hole” erupts and the Raiders put an end to that 13-game losing streak to the Chargers as they would go on to win the ballgame 35-27.
The play of the game was by free safety Michael Huff, who on a safety blitz knocked the ball out of Rivers’ hand before it went forward in a throwing motion (only if these refs were working the 2002 Playoffs when the Raiders played the Patriots….SMH), allowing Branch to scoop up the fumble and return it for a touchdown, putting the nail in the coffin. On a day in which the secondary (3rd ranked pass defense in the NFL) was lit up by Rivers for 431 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, they found a way to fluster him in the end. 218 of those yards and one touchdown were thrown to wide receiver Malcom Floyd, but he was held in check for most of the 4th quarter.
Two variables that also played a big role in Sunday’s outcome for the Raiders was the play of special teams and quarterback Jason Campbell. The Raiders’ special teams scored 12 points in the 1st quarter to start the game. They blocked two punts, one for a safety and returned the other for a touchdown. Raiders’ kicker Sebastian Janikowski added a field goal late in the quarter.
The Chargers then scored 14 unanswered points to begin the 2nd quarter, and thats when Campbell began to step up his play. Taking over for Bruce Gradkowski who injured his shoulder in the 1st quarter, Campbell drove them down the field for a field goal. He stepped up his play in the second half, throwing a touchdown late in the 3rd quarter and leading the Raiders on a long 14 play, 73-yard drive that would give the Raiders the lead for good. For the game, Campbell was 13 of 18 for 159 yards and threw for one touchdown. His decision making was key in this much needed win. Running back Michael Bush, who stepped in for the injured Darren McFadden, made an impact on the game and had a solid rushing day racking up 104 yards and scoring a touchdown.
The Raiders pass and run defense must have made a mental switch before the game, because the Raiders’ run defense only allowed 59 rushing yards by Chargers’ running back Ryan Mathews Jr. and 91 yards total. But to the defense of the pass defense (no pun intended), the Raiders played a lot of zone coverages for most of Sunday, and it almost cost them.
Head Coach Tom Cable, definitely knows how to get the maximum effort when it comes to his team, as they fought hard for a good win against the reigning AFC West champs. Will Cable and the Raiders build on this? With a favorable stretch of the schedule coming up, Raider Nation might have a reason to be optimistic. For now, lets hope the team that got it done on Sunday shows up to next Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.
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Written by Arthur Kai