<img src="http://us.i1.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/sp/getty/02/fullj.getty-75557909dm004_oakland_raide.jpg" alt="SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 14: Runningback LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the San Diego Chargers dives over the line of scrimmage to score a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during the first have of their NFL game on October 14, 2007 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)" height="188" width="277" />
By Curtis Egan
<em>BoltTalk Staff Writer</em>
For the first time in four years the match up between the Chargers and the Raiders will mean something other than to give the fans of one of the teams smack talk rights. Though since 2003 the Chargers fans have had the rights, Raiders Head Coach Lane Kiffin appears to have his team heading in the right direction, or at least a better direction they have enjoyed in the last four seasons.
This is a big game in terms of the division, as the Raiders sit atop the AFC West at 2-2. While the Chargers are just half a game behind the Raiders, with the rest of the division, at 2-3 the Winner of this game could find themselves in sole position of first place for the time being.
The Chargers have the advantage in many areas including Tight End and Line Backers. The Raiders will have try to keep it close and control the clock by moving the ball on the ground with their running game which currently ranks 1st in the league.
Raiders Running Back, LaMont Jordan returns to the lineup after a week off to recover form a back injury. If he is not fully able to go however, backup Justin Fargas who is coming off of a 179 yard game will carry the load, even though the Raiders get Dominic Rhodes back off of suspension for substance abuse violations.
Rhodes has been splitting practice carries with Fargas in Jordan's absence, but head coach Kiffin doesn't appear to want to rush Rhodes back into action too quickly, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, they seem to be catching the Chargers at the wrong time. The Chargers are still stout against the run, and provide the biggest challenge to the Raiders number one rushing attack so far this season. Their ground game is beginning to produce as many expected, and Quarterback Philip Rivers seemed to have gotten back on track against the Broncos, having a very good game where he delivered accurate passes and made very good decisions with the ball. The Oakland defensive line will need to play to a higher level this week because the they cannot afford to allow the Chargers to get a big lead early. San Diego's offensive talent will be difficult for the Raiders to control however, as Running Back, LaDainian Tomlinson has had great success against the Raiders in the past, and Tight End Antonio Gates is having a career year.
The Raiders offensive line is doing a good job of playing with confidence, and opening running lanes to allow them to control the clock with a strong ground. However, that running game is translating to just 28:07 of possession time per game, their opponents have held the ball for an four-minute longer per game. They will have to do better at clock control to keep San Diego's high powered offense on the sidelines. I
San Diego defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell has been employing a very vanilla, bend don't break style of defense that has stifled Line backers Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman. Last season under Wade Phillips this was one of the most successful pass rushing duos to blitz the quarterback. So far this season, both are producing below expectations as Phillips has just 3.5 sacks and Merriman has three, a major drop-off for a considering that they combined for 28.5 sacks last season.
The Chargers were a top-10 defense last year largely because of the pressure the line backers were able to put on opposing offenses. However, Cottrell scheme is a big reason San Diego is giving up nearly 40 more yards per game than last season and has given up more than 30 points three times.
Phillips and Merriman are two of the league's best blitzers and they are being held back in a vanilla scheme. Phillips and Merriman excel when they are going forward and pressuring the pocket or chasing down running plays from behind, using their combination of speed, size and strength to overpower opponents and shock and awe them. The Raiders have improved in pass protection from last season but using the speed of Philips and Merriman makes a lot of sense against Oakland's Daunte Culpepper, who is not the a good scrambling Quarterback.
The Chargers are in their â€˜new' throwbacks for the fist time this year. The Collegiate blue jerseys, the helmets are still lacking the throwback numbers however.
The Chargers open with an incomplete pass the Full Back, LorenzoNeal, then run with Running Back, LaDanian Tomlinson for 3 yards, then they hit Wide Receiver Malcom Floyd down the middle of the field for big gain. Tomlinson then takes the ball on a running play for another fist down.
The Chargers keep the ball going, the pass protection is doing a good job, as Center Corry Withrow is forced to come in for Nick Hardwich. Quarterback, Philip Rivers hits Receiver Craig â€˜Buster' Davis who takes the ball down to the four yard line. The Chargers Run LT for a one yard gain, throw incomplete to the Corner, then Tomlinson goes up in the air, soaring over the Raiders defenders to score the touchdown. The extra point is good.
<strong>Chargers</strong> 7, Raiders 0
The Raiders take the ball on their 30 yard line, Quarterback, Daunte Culpepper passes the ball but Defensive End Igor Olshansky knocks the ball out of the air. The Raiders then try a pass out in the flat which is stopped right away by Cornerback Drayton Florence. The 12th man makes their presence felt as Culpepper is force to call an early time out. On 3rd down Culpepper throws his first interception on the year to Florence who has opened up the game playing very well.
The Chargers take over in good field position, and Tomlinson gets the ball fro no gain. Rivers then hits Davis for a first down. Tomlinson then takes the hand off, changes direction at the line of scrimmage and runs 27 yards for the touch down. The field goal is good.
<strong>Chargers</strong> 14, Raiders 0
The Chargers pass protection so far is giving Rivers plenty of time and the offensive line is opening good holes for the running game.
The Chargers ensuing kickoff sails out of bounds giving the Raiders good field position at their 40 yard line. So far the Chargers secondary has been playing well, The Raiders will have to try and get something going, as they can't afford to get further behind in the game than they find themselves now.
Culpepper opens with a first down pass to Receiver Ronald Curry. They then go to the ground and running back LaMont Jordan which would have been for five yards, except for the holding call on the Raiders offensive line.
The raiders face a 1st and 20, they throw out to Tight End Zach Miller who is unable to pull the ball down. Culpepper returns to Curry, and the pass is completed for 4 yards. The Raiders face a 3rd and 14, Culpepper from the shotgun hands off to Jordan who had the first, but Left Guard Robert Gallery gets called for a 15 yard personal foul for clipping. The Raiders have a3rd and 27.
The Twelfth man again makes themselves heard as the Raiders get hit with a delay of game penalty. Defensive End Luis Castillo then runs through the attempted block to drop Culpepper for a big loss bringing up the 4th and 42 punt.
On the ensuing punt Running Back, Darren Sproles bobbles the ball a bit and ends up only getting five yards on the return.
The Chargers continue hitting the ground game by Running Tomlinson again, who already has 71 yards rushing. Rivers then hits Tight End Antonio Gates for a gain of 20 yards. Gates is leading the team in receiving yards and leads all Tight Ends in the league in receiving yards.
The Chargers then run Davis out for a loss of a yard, mixing things up. On second and 11 Tomlinson again runs into a wall. Rivers passes to Tomlinson in the flat, and the Chargers are forced to punt.
Punter, Mike Scifres punts the ball nose down, and the ball bounces to the Raiders 11 yard line where it is downed by the Chargers.
The Raiders take over and run the ball with Jordan who gains a yard as the Chargers shut him down. Jordan runs again fro a gain of two. The first quarter ends, and Tomlinson gained 72 yards on the ground in the first quarter alone. Florence is the defensive stand out of the first quarter having two solo tackles and an interception.
The Raiders open the 2nd period with a 3rd down and 7, Culpepper passes and the pass in incomplete as Line Backer Stephen Cooper makes a good play to break it up. The ensuing punt puts the ball on the Chargers 47 yard line.
The Chargers begin the drive with another running play, in which Tomlinson gains another yard. The next play is a pass to Floyd who gains about 6 yards after the catch, bringing up a 3rd and 1 situation. On the play Running Back, Michael Turner comes in, and the Chargers get hit with a false start call on Tight End, Brandon Manumaleuna. The following pass the Receiver Vincent Jackson, is just short of the first down. The punting team is sent out, and the boos are herd from the crowd.
Scifres next punt is fair caught at the 18 yard line.
The Raiders have Line Backer, Shawne Merriman nearly blow up their play in the back field as Jordan gets the hand off and is dropped for no gain. Culpepper who has good time to pass on the next play hits Receiver, Jerry Porter for a short gain. 3rd and 7 and Culpepper is in the shotgun, he scrambles out and fumbles the ball which is recovered by the Raiders.
A flag is down on the play, but Merriman is called for off-sides, giving the Raiders a 3rd and 2 situation. Culpepper hits Receiver, Mike Williams down the middle of the field for a first down. The Raiders run Jordan to the left side and he gains 4 yards until he run into Nose Tackle Jamal Williams. On the next play the secondary continues its good play by stopping the pass to Curry at the line of scrimmage for now gain. The Next play sees a coverage sack from Merriman, who gets up and does the lights out Dance to further fire the crowd up.
The Raiders try a fake punt, and Line backer Marques Harris comes in and stops the play two yards shy of the line of scrimmage. The Chargers take over on downs. Harris comes off the field and does his celebratory back flip as the Chargers continue rolling.
Chargers open up with a two yard run to Tomlinson, that was well defended by the Raiders Line Backers. Rivers throws a pass to Jackson, which is broken up by Cornerback, Faibian Washington of the Raiders. The next play Rivers is hurried and he throws a pass right to the Raiders Linebacker Thomas Howard who returns it for the touchdown. A pass Rivers should not have thrown, leads to the Raiders fist score of the game. The Extra point is good.
<strong>Chargers</strong> 14, Raiders 7
The Chargers open up on the next play by running Tomlinson who gets a first down. Turner takes over and carries again for a gain of tow. Rivers then hits Tomlinson in the flat for a short gain to bring up a 3rd and 7. Rivers barely gets the ball away as an incomplete pass as the pass protection breaks down, and Rivers takes a late hit. The Chargers appear to be losing momentum, as the punt is fair caught at the 14 yard line.
On the Raiders drive Jordan takes the first down hand off and gains 6 yards on the carry. The Raiders return to Jordan who gains five more yards and the first down. Another 4 yards by Jordan brings up a second down, and the Raiders run to Justin Fargus who gains the first on the corner. The Raiders continue to run the ball, taking 2-4 yards a play. The two minute warning is reached as the Raiders are slowly making their way down the field.
The Raiders throw and incomplete pass that looked like a backwards pass, but the Raiders get the benefit of a Chargers penalty for defensive contact, which gives the Raiders a first down.
On the next play Culpepper is forces out of the pocket again and hits Williams on the sideline for a first down. Jordan takes the ball again on the run and is stopped by Olshansky for no gain. Culpepper again throws a short pass for a completion, he was again under pressure and had to get the ball out quickly. The Chargers are then called for a neutral zone infraction, giving the Raiders the ball with 1 yard to go for the first. Culpepper then hits Curry down the middle who takes it to the one yard line. Cornerback, Quentin Jammer knocks Curry out to save the Touch down, but the Raiders have 20 seconds to get it in the end zone.
The next play Culpepper scrambles and is sacked for a loss of 6 yards. Culpepper is then hit from behind and the Chargers recover the ball to kill the drive. Line Backer Shaun Phillips knocked the ball out, and Nose Tackle Jamal Williams dives of it. The Chargers dodge a bullet as Rivers takes a knee to end the half.
<strong>Chargers</strong> 14, Raiders 7
<em><strong>Rivers: </strong></em> 9 of 14, 88 yards and an interception.
<em><strong>Tomlinson: </strong></em> 13 carries for 89 yards and 2 touch downs.
<em><strong>Davis: </strong></em> 2 receptions for 30 yards.
This is the first game of the season where Gates did not lead the team in receiving yardage at the half.
The Chargers kick off the ball to open the half and the Raiders return it to the 25 yard line. The Raiders continue to feel the pressure and has to scramble. The Raiders run Jordan, who gains a yard, bringing up a 3rd and 6 situation. The throw goes to the receiver in front of Cornerback Antonio Cromarty, who breaks up the pass. The Raiders are forced to punt to Sproles. He catches the ball at the 29 and carries if to the 31.
The Chargers open up with a pass to Gates in extremely tight coverage gaining 28 yards. Rivers then throws for a 12 yard gain to Tomlinson, as the Chargers begin to recapture the momentum they lost in the first half. The Chargers return to the ground, which was stopped for a minimal gain. On 2nd and 9 the Chargers go with a delay run to Tomlinson for two. Rivers throws the first pass of the season to Tight End Brandon Manumaleuna who takes it our and picks up the 1st down. The next play sees Tomlinson take a pitch and run it to the corner of the end zone. The Run was sprung by a good block by Wide Receiver Jackson. The extra point is good.
<strong>Chargers</strong> 21, Raiders 7
The Raiders open with a pass to Curry for a 9 yards gain. They then return to Jordan who gains five yards and a first down. The next play is a delayed run to Jordan, as the Referees flag Gallery for holding Olshansky. On 1st and 20, Culpepper is forced to scramble again, as he has been feeling pressure all day, he gains 5 bringing on 2nd and 15. Jordan runs again for a gain of a yard as Merriman makes the initial contact and stops him. Culpepper then throws it up for Cormatrtie's first interception.
The Chargers continue to run the ball as Tomlinson gains two more. Tomlinson again takes the ball and busts through the defense to gain 10 yards. The next play sees Turner taking the ball for a two yard gain. The Chargers are hitting the Raiders defense to set up for some big plays in the late part of the game. Rivers hits Manumaleuna again for a gain of 6, bringing up a 3rd and 2 play.
Turner takes the hand off and gets one of the two yards needed for the first. The Chargers decide to punt the ball away rather than go for it. On the punt the Raider receiver waves late for a fair catch and gets flattened by Cormartie. The Referees lay a undeserved 15 yard penalty on Cormartie.
The Raiders take over on their 31 yard line, and run Jordan for no gain. The Next Play Linebacker, Matt Wilhelm gets into the back field right away and one arm tackles Jordan for a loss of a yard. The Chargers have been far more aggressive on attacking the Quarterback than any game before. The next play is an incomplete pass forcing the punt to Sproles. Sproles returns the ball all the way to the Chargers 45 yard line with a 21 yard return.
Rivers takes over and hand off to Tomlinson, who gains 8 yards on the play. Tomlinson takes the ball again for a yard, brining up a 3rd and 1 play. The Raiders are stacking the box to prevent the big run, and the Chargers are getting some good blocks from their receivers and tight ends. Rivers keeps the ball and sneaks it for the first down to extend the drive.
Turner carries again up the middle for a gain of two. The next play was a pass where Rivers tried to hit Jackson in the endzone, Raiders cornerback Washington almost intercepted it, but Jackson managed to pull the ball out and break up the interception. The next pass is incomplete, and Kicker Nate Kaeding tries the 50 yard field goal wich goes just wide.
The Raiders take over at their 40 yard line, the first play Culpepper fumbles the ball and manages to fall on it, losing four yard. Jordan takes a pass up the middle for four yards. The next play is a first down pass for 16 yards to Porter. The next play Phillips come rushing in and sacks Culpepper for a loss of 10 yards, bringing up 2nd and 20. Culpepper hits Williams for a gain of 5, Culpepper is forces out again, and rolls out then hits Fargas for the first down.
The Raiders are not able to get the play off in time and has to call the time out as the ball is at the Chargers 29 yard line. The Raiders keep the ball on the ground, handing off to Jordan for a 3 yard gain. The Raiders then throw a lateral, which the Chargers recover only to have it called an incomplete pass by the referees. The next place is another incomplete pass. Cromartie dove for it an almost had the interception. The Raiders go for it on 4th and 7. The Raiders then get hit with a false start on Gallery, pusing them back to a 4th and 12. They still go for it, Culpepper hits Curry for the first down, in front of Cormartie.
The Raiders, in the red zone for the second time today hand off to Jordan, who gains 2 more yards. The next play is an incomplete pass to Curry. Culpepper rolls out and hits Curry for 7 yards to bring up a first and goal situation. Jordan takes the ball to the one yards line. Jordan again runs the ball and loses a yards as Line Backer Brandon Siler comes in to make the stop. 3rd and goal, Culpepper is forced to scramble as Merrimand and Linebacker, Carlos Polk chase him. 4th and goal and the Raiders go for it. Culpepper throws a touch down to his Tight End Miller.
<strong>Chargers</strong> 21, Raiders 14
With just over five minutes to play, and up by a touchdown the Chargers are going to have to grind the clock on the next series, which they will begin from their 15 yard line after Sproles brings the ball out of the end zone.
Chargers open with a pass to Gates for 11 yards. The Raiders continue to stack the box as Tomlinson breaks out with a 16 yard run that keeps the clock rolling. The next play Tomlinson appeared to be stopped in the back field, but he breaks out of the cluster and runs the ball out for another 10 yards and a 1st down. Turner gives Tomlinson a breather and gains two more yards as the clock continues to count down. On second down Tomlinson gains 5 more yards.
The two minute warning is getting closer, as Tomlinson rushes for yet another touchdown, breaking it on the side for 41 yards. He has 198 yards on 24 carries and 4 touch downs on the day!
<strong>Chargers</strong> 28, Raiders 14
On the kick off the Raiders are stopped and with a block in the back penalty see the ball moved back to the 9 yard line. The first play goes to the 20 for a Raiders first down. The next play is an incomplete pass. You can sense the sense of urgency about the Riaders, as they throw to Jordan for a gain of 11 yards down the middle of the field. This brings up the 2 minute warning.
Culpepper works out of the shotgun, and hands off the Jordan, who is stopped after a gain of 7 as the clock continues to move. The next play is a pass to Jordan for a first down, which is followed by another pass to Jordan. The Raiders then take their last time out with 1 minute left on the clock. Culpepper again from the shotgun throws to Miller for another first as the Referees yellow flag stops the clock, as holding is called on the Raiders.
Culpepper continues to throw hitting Wide Receiver, Johnny Higgins for another first. The Chargers deliver their 6th sack as the clock runs down. The Raiders end the game with a false start call.
<strong>Chargers</strong> 28, Raiders 14
<strong> The Good!:</strong>
<em><strong>Offensive Line: </strong></em> Rivers had great protection today, the line is playing better and better each week. The big bodies did a good job opening holes and giving Rivers the time he needed to take control of the game.
<em><strong>Tomlinson: </strong></em> 24 carries for 198 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tomlinson continues to be a Raider killer. Tack on 3 receptions for 16 yards and you see the impact the defending league MVP had on the game.
<em><strong>Gates: </strong></em> What can one say about this kid. He will end his career owning all records for Tight Ends is he continues to play at this level. Which he will not, he continues to get better and better each week. He is the best Tight End in the league. He again led Chargers receivers in passing yards with 3 receptions for 58 yards and got the team some key first downs.
<em><strong>Florence: </strong></em> Drayton is not what you would call a fan favorite. He played a solid game today and set the tone for the Chargers defense with three early plays that got the team going.
<em><strong>Merriman: </strong></em> He is starting to have a big impact again, you can see the defense evolving around the line backers each week. 2.5 sacks, and 6 tackles on the day, that is not covering the many plays he blew up with his presence in the backfield.
<em><strong>Phillips: </strong></em> 9 tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble. Like Merriman he was a disruptive force in the backfield as he had his best game of the season thus far.
<em><strong>Penalties: </strong></em> The Chargers need to tighten it up a bit, too many yellow flags were thrown their way today.
The Chargers have won their 8th straight game against the Raiders and they won a good game today. They head into the bye on a high note at 3 and 3, tied for first place in the division and appear to be rolling and gelling under the new coaching staff. This will be tested in two weeks as the Houston Texans come to town also at 3 and 3.
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