This was one of the wildest games I have ever seen the Raiders or anyone else play. The Chargers first four drives ended in turnovers. The first two were blocked punts. One for a safety the next for a touchdown. The following two drives ended on forced fumbles as the Raiders went into the 2nd quarter up 12-0 without a single offensive or defensive touchdown.
Then Chargers came back to take the lead 14-12 after two consecutive drives for touchdowns. Then field goals by each teams on their next couple drives sent the Raiders into the lockerroom down 17-15. But if one didn't notice the turnovers on the first four drives, one would have thought the Chargers were blowing the Raiders out. Philip Rivers had an eye popping 290 yards passing in the first half alone. Those big numbers and the Raiders inability to capitalize on their turnovers, were keeping the Chargers in the game.
The wildness continued in the 2nd half too as the two teams traded scores. But in the end, it was another turnover that did in the Chargers. A forced fumble, recovered and returned for a touchdown extended the Raiders lead with under a minute remaining giving the Raiders the win. It was an historic win to be sure. Not only didmost the Raiders' 35 points come from defense and special teams, but it was the most points the Raiders have scored since 2005. And most importantly, the long 13 game win streak the Chargers held over the Raiders is now finally over.
There were a few guys who played consistently well in this one. But in many cases, this was a game of heroes. Guys who were in the right place, at the right time to make just the right play to pull out a gritty win.
What can I saw about this guy that hasn't already been said? He is so good that he makes it all too obvious just how bad the Raiders defensive lineman have been for so many years. He is just so dominant that it can really frustrate you when you think about it. The frustration comes when you ask he question "Why haven't the Raiders had anyone like this for so long?" But let's try and keep on the positive. He's here now and that is a really good thing.
Seymour really got things started on the Chargers third drive. On one play, Ryan Mathews was supposed to go through his gap, but as usual, Seymour was immovable. With the gap closed, Mathews bounced outside where he was greeted by several of Seymour's teammates who tackled Mathews for a loss. A few plays later, with the Chargers in 2nd and goal at the 9 yard line, Seymour was inexplicably replaced by Desmond Bryant. The Chargers saw this and called a run right through the middle, to the 1 yard line. Luckily the scoring attempt was thwarted by a Chargers fumble.
And speaking of Charger fumbles, the very next drive they had also ended in a fumble. This time it was Seymour who made the recovery for the Raiders to hold the Chargers without a score again.
A couple possessions later, he had a critical run stuff. Then just before half time, he put pressure on Rivers to force a quick errant throw. The Chargers would have to settle for a field goal.
After the half, he had his most impressive series of the game. The Chargers first play of the 2nd half, he shot into the backfield to sack Rivers for an 8 yard loss. Three plays later he had a run stuff tackle for no gain. Then he bookended the possession by knocking down a pass at the line to force the Chargers to punt. They stayed away from him after that.
Every time you saw him or heard his number called, he was making a big play. On the second play of the game, he had a tackle for loss on a run play that was strung out wide to the left. On the next Charger possession he had two more run stuffing tackles for a loss. Then he ended the Chargers fourth series when he took the edge on the left tackle to sack Rivers and force a fumble that was recovered by the Raiders. On the Chargers first possession of the 2nd half he got in the backfield again to stuff a run for a 2 yard loss. The drive ended on the next play. The funny part is that he was only starting because Quentin Groves was hurt and the usual starter at defensive end, Trevor Scott was moved to weakside linebacker. I thought that Shaughnessy played superbly in the preseason this year and during the season last year. Well enough to earn and keep the starting job. Hopefully this performance shows that to indeed be the case.
As is often the case, he didn't do anything really spectacular. He just went out there and ground out a great game. Just consistent chunks of yardage to wear down the defense and control the clock. With the Raiders scoring on turnovers, he didn't get the ball a lot to begin the game. He really started to get going near the end of the first half. On the Raider final series of the first half, he had a tremendous pass block on 3rd and 14 that gave Jason Campbell time to find Zach Miller for 17 yards. A few plays later the Raiders decided to go for it on 4th and 1 and he took it for 8 yards. The next play was his most impressive of the day. He laid a nice block on an oncoming pass rusher then flared out and turned around to catch the Campbell pass and run it for 16 yards. This set up a field goal to give the Raiders the lead back 15-14.
The Raiders had their most impressive drive of the day in the third quarter, and Bush was a big part of it. The drive started on the Raiders' 3 yard line after a muffed kick return. The first play was crucial to give the Raiders some breathing room. So they handed it to Bush and he took it right up the gut for 7 yards. The biggest play on the drive was a 58 yard completion from Campbell to Louis Murphy but all but the final one yard on the drive was Michael Bush. His had plays of 7, 6, 4, 4, 11, 3 and 3. And the Raiders scored on a one yard touchdown pass after that. Not only was the 97 yard drive the best of the day, it was the longest touchdown drive the Raiders have had since 1997. Perhaps I undersold it initially.
Bush wasn't done though. To start the third quarter, the Raider were on the move again. And again it was thanks to a steady dose of Bush (ok that just sounds wrong). On the drive he had runs of 8 and 6 yards to set up the final 3 yard plunge for a touchdown to give the Raiders their first lead (28-27)since midway through the 2nd quarter (15-14). It was also the final Raider offensive play of this game unless you count the kneel down to end it.
He has a rare combination of physical talent and an even more rare level of intelligence and heart to match it. He is more valuable to the Raiders than any other tight end in the league is to their respective team. And that includes Antonio Gates who is immensely valuable to the Chargers offensive game plan. Yet again Zach led the Raiders in catches and yards. He had three more catches than Michael Bush who was 2nd on the team in catches in the game. He also had the Raiders first offensive touchdown late in the third quarter when he broke open along the back of the endzone and leaped up to catch a high pass and barely keep his feet inbounds to bring the Raiders to within 2 points of the Chargers (24-22). He finished the day with 62 yards on 6 catches and a touchdown.
There is no Jamaal Williams lining up for the Chargers anymore. Now the Chargers starting nose tackle is 5th round rookie Cam Thomas. Thomas is big but he is no Jamaal Williams. And did I mention he is a rookie? With this lack of a dominant nose tackle for Satele to deal with, he was able to show how good he can be in the zone blocking scheme. His knock has always been his size compared to the 300 plus pounders he lined up against. And that is where he struggles. He was one of the main factors that sprung Michael Bush so he could rack up over 100 yards rushing in this game. He also didn't allow anyone to get past him and put pressure on he quarterback. He was the primary blocker on several good Bush runs including his 3 yard touchdown run. Satele also had some key pass blocks to give Campbell time to find receivers. Satele's past and possible future mistakes are inconsequential. This was one of his best games as a Raider.
Campbell showed flashes of the player that the Raiders traded for during the draft last April. He may not have taken as many shots downfield as he should have and may have misses an open man deep while he was looking for the check-down. But he did go down field a couple times (one was ruled incomplete because Marcel Reece couldn't keep his feet inbounds). And looked like Gradkowski looked when Gradkowski initially took over for him in the 2nd game against the Rams-- and vice versa.
He helped orchestrate the longest drive the Raiders have had in 13 years (97 yards) which featured a 58 yard pass to Louis Murphy and culminated in a touchdown pass to Zach Miller. The very next drive after the 97 yard drive, he connected with Zach several times to get in scoring position. Then he executed a perfect play fake on 4th down to hit reserve tight end Brandon Myers in open space for the first down and more. Two Bush runs later, the Raiders had the touchdown and the lead. He had great numbers by most standards as he went 13 for 18 for 159 yards and a touchdown in just one half of play. It was nice to see him come out and play with confidence. And it eases the coaches minds about giving Campbell the nod if Gradkowski isn't fully healthy next week or the weeks after.
As hard as I have been on Fassel (and I have been brutal, deservedly so), I have to give credit where it is due. Rock Cartwright and Brandon Myers each shot into the Chargers backfield on consecutive punts for blocks. The first resulted in a safety and the second was for a touchdown. They were quick to give Fassel the credit for the schemes he had drawn up to put pressure on the punter and so must I. So there it is.
This guy was a special teams beast on Sunday andhe deserves recognition. He doesn't see the field much but he makes plays when he does. He shot in on the Chargers first punt to block it and give the Raiders 2 points on a safety. Then as a residual effect, the ensuing Charger kick went out of bounds to give the Raiders field position at the 50 yard line. The very next time he got on the field, he made the gunner tackle on the Chargers punt return. Then to end the game, he made the gunner tackle again to stop the return at the 15 yard line. Picking up 85 yards in :58 seconds proved to be too much for the Chargers.
Ricky Brown definitely falls into the hero category for this game. He had two plays in this game and they were both huge. The first came on the Chargers third possession of the game. After they had gone three and out their first two series and having both punts blocked, the Chargers had righted the ship and drove right down the field looking for score. They were at 3rd and goal at the 1 yard line. They handed the ball off to Mike Tolbert to make a plunge up the middle. But Ricky Brown was waiting for him and not only did he hold his ground but he punched the ball out of Tolberts hands. The ball was recovered by the Raiders and the Chargers were held without a score.
In the 2nd quarter, it was the Raiders turn to mess up on special teams. The Chargers were kicking off for the first time in the game and Jacoby Ford took the kick with plans for a pick six. It was a very real possibility with the Chargers having given up four return touchdowns already this season. The problem with this particular return was about 30 yards into it, Ford forgot the ball. It was stripped from him and went shooting across the field where Ricky Brown alertly grabbed it and fell on it. So chalk up Ricky for saving at least 10 points and possibly 14.
Michael Huff, Chris Johnson, Tyvon Branch
This one is for the final score of the game. Each one of these guys played a role in the turnover that sealed the victory. Michael Huff came shooting into the backfield where he was met by a blocker. But he pushed the blocker aside and reached out to get Rivers' arm just as he reached back to throw. The ball came out moving forward (empty hand) and a Charger tight end attempted to pick it up and/or fall on it. But Chris Johnson came flying in to separate him from the ball. The ball still loose, was picked up by Tyvon Branch who ran it back 65 yards to pay dirt. Game over. If any of these three had had a great game otherwise, they would have been Ballers. But they all deserve honorable mention for that play alone. Huff led the team in tackles and didn't have any major missed tackles but he was a liability in coverage. Johnson and Branch had their issues as well.
On a side note; was this final play not oddly familiar looking? The Raiders leading by a small margin as the opposing team is driving down the field looking to take the lead. Their Pro Bowl quarterback goes back to pass and #24 blitzes from the right side to knock the ball out of the his hands and the Raiders recover. Just seemed like a bit of de ja vu is all.
He is another guy who had a couple nice plays. The first was his blocked punt that was recovered for a Raider touchdown. Then in the 4th quarter with the Raiders in dire need of a score, he caught a critical 4th down pass and took it for a first down. Two plays later the Raiders would score the touchdown they needed to take the lead and keep it.
He touched the ball for the first time in his career. Yes, it is hard to beleive that he has never touched the ball in a regular season game but it is true. He was finally activated and put back as the punt returner instead of the hapless Jonnie Lee Higgins. And what did Nick do? He took the punt, ducked out of the tackle attempt by the gunner (a tackle JLH would surely have been taken down on) and returned it 46 yards to the Chargers 46 yard line. It is about freakin time.
I found it extremely odd just how difficult it was to find a lot of Busters in this game for the Raiders. So how does a team who gives up 430 yards passing and 27 points in the game end up not having a lot of different players to blame it on? Well, part of that could be a somewhat evenly distributed failure. Another reason is the fact that many who made mistakes made up for them with single play heroics (ie Huff, Johnson, Branch). But mainly it is simply because such a large portion of the blame can be laid on Routt.
Consider this; he gave up 152 yards passing in this game with 89 yards coming in the first half. That 152 yards is around 100 yards more than ANY other member of the Raider secondary. He got burnt so many times in this game it was just sickening. Headlining those catches were a 45 yard catch, a 41 yard touchdown catch, a 22 yard catch on the Chargers final drive, and an 18 yard touchdown catch. Yes, the Rivers had two touchdown passes and he victimized Routt on both of them.
Dexter McCluster he clearly is not. Ford runs fast which is why he can managed to pick up decent yardage on kick returns in this game. But how about some moves to try and get around the coverage team? I am not expert on returning kicks but I am pretty sure running in a straight line as fast as you can is not really how it's done. That is how you get hit really hard and fumble. And that is just what happened on Sunday. He was stopped and the ball kept going.
Later in the game, he forgotten another important part of kick returning-- catching the ball. He muffed the kick off and couldn't seem to gather it back in and make any kind of return attempt. He ended up having to fall on it at the Raiders 3 yard line, pinning the Raiders against their own goal line. Come on Ford, you are making the coaches regret letting Yamon Figurs go. Don't make us think the only reason you are on the team is because you were a draft pick. Well, that and you are an Al Davis pick.