Chargers trying for 13th straight win over Raiders
SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Chargers might want to send a thank-you note to the NFL schedule makers.
After bruising losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos, the Chargers were handed the perfect get-well remedy: the two worst teams in the AFC West.
Last Sunday the Chargers routed the last-place Kansas City Chiefs by 30 points. This Sunday they get a home date with archrival Oakland, and with it the chance to beat the lowly Raiders for the 13th straight time.
These are the same Raiders (2-5) who physically beat up the Chargers (3-3) in the season opener, although the Chargers rallied behind Philip Rivers to win 24-20.
They’re also the same Raiders who are coming off their worst home loss ever, 38-0 to the New York Jets, and whose quarterback, JaMarcus Russell, is struggling so badly he was pulled because coach Tom Cable said he was “out of sorts” in a three-turnover performance. Russell will be back as the starter Sunday.
Many Chargers, including Rivers, have never lost to the Raiders. Rivers was still at North Carolina State the last time San Diego lost to the Raiders, in the first of two meetings in 2003. Marty Schottenheimer was coaching the Chargers, Drew Brees was their quarterback and LaDainian Tomlinson was in his third season.
“It’s special, each time you beat them, knowing that you haven’t lost to them,” Rivers said. “It does mean something. Each game stands by itself, but each year you can get through a division opponent and win both games, that’s big. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish on Sunday.”
Still, the Chargers know not to get cocky. The Raiders pushed them around the majority of the season opener and knocked several Chargers out of the game. One, defensive tackle Jamal Williams, was lost for the season with an arm injury. Tomlinson sprained an ankle and missed the following two games, and center Nick Hardwick is still out after sustaining an ankle injury that required surgery.
“It’s always a tough game when we play these guys,” Rivers said. “Obviously they had a disappointing loss last week against the Jets, but you look two weeks prior what they did against Philly. They played a heck of a game. Obviously we know what they brought to the table in the opener, then going to Kansas City and winning.”
The Raiders won 13-10 at Kansas City six days after losing to the Chargers. Their only other win was 13-9 against the Eagles at home two weeks ago.
“We know what we’re up against. It’s a big, fast, physical team,” Rivers said.
“Obviously we’re disappointed in the first game,” said defensive end Richard Seymour, acquired by the Raiders eight days before the opener who helped them dominate the Chargers for much of that game. “We felt we should have won that game but we didn’t, and we need to go out and play better this week.”
The Raiders dominated play in the first half, outgaining the Chargers 217-74, but were still tied at 10 because of two turnovers and a replay review that went against Oakland.
“Our main thing is to finish,” tackle Mario Henderson said. “Don’t give them an opportunity to come back how they did. We want to go out there and finish the job and our confidence is a little higher that we can beat them.”
Tight end Zach Miller agreed.
“We know we let one slip away the first game and we don’t want that to happen again,” Miller said. “I think we were so physical up front, we were able to get the push on the offensive line and open up holes and then that opened up the play-action game. Once we were hitting the play-action they were complementing each other really well. I think that was a key part.”
The Raiders would like to play like that again.
“We haven’t been running the ball like we did that Week 1,” Miller said. “We’ve been trying to get back to that every week here. So we have to get back to being physical up front, offensive line, tight ends, in the blocking game. We’ve been working on that. We’ve just got to keep pushing and pushing. Once we get that going the play-action opens up and that’s the team we want to be.”
Although the Chargers hit their stride offensively in routing Kansas City 37-7, they remain three games behind the Denver Broncos in the AFC West.
“We’ve got to build on last week,” Rivers said. “Just because the scoreboard showed us on the upper hand with a large margin, we’ve got a lot of room to improve.”
Both Rivers and coach Norv Turner said it was the Chargers’ most complete game of the season.
“Again, it’s one game,” Rivers said. “It’s nothing for us to relax about by any means. We’ve got to stay hungry, as I know we will, and keep this thing rolling.”