Raiders rally to end 13-game skid against Chargers
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – After winning 13 straight games against the Oakland Raiders, the San Diego Chargers gave one away to their AFC West rivals.
The Raiders blocked two punts to get off to a fast start, got a go-ahead touchdown late from Michael Bush and ended seven years of frustration when Tyvon Branch returned San Diego's third fumble of the game 64 yards for the final score of a 35-27 victory Sunday.
“You cannot spot a good football team points,” San Diego linebacker Kevin Burnett. “Everybody wants to make light of the record. It is one of those games where records do not matter. You talk about 13 games and they are a struggling football team. It does not matter.”
Not when a team makes as many mistakes as the Chargers (2-3) did. The ones on a potential winning drive late were particularly harmful to San Diego. Antonio Gates was called for holding on a run after the Chargers had moved it to the 23, needing only a field goal to win.
Then came the big fumble by Rivers. Unable to cover the Chargers' talented receivers, the Raiders blitzed on play after play. Huff beat Darren Sproles and got to Rivers to hit him just before his arm went forward, knocking the ball loose. Branch raced for the score to give the Raiders (2-3) a 35-27 lead with 58 seconds left.
“I knew I had to beat the one on one,” Huff said. “I had to beat Sproles. I did that and just got a hand up and luckily I hit his arm. Once I saw Tyvon running I knew he wasn't going to get caught, so I started celebrating.”
The Raiders haven't had much to celebrate against San Diego since 2003. Their 13-game losing streak was the second longest active streak in the league to New England's 14-gamer over Buffalo.
There have been many blowouts as well as heartbreakers as in last year's home opener when Rivers drove the length of the field in the closing minutes of a 24-20 win.
“That's a heck of a team, and it's been our nemesis for a number of years, obviously dating back to 2003,” coach Tom Cable said. “They've been the champ. And if you ever want to be that, you've got to beat the champ. So it's just a good win.”
Rivers threw for 431 yards and two touchdowns and Malcom Floyd had a career-high 213 yards receiving, but the Chargers have only themselves to blame for their third straight road loss this season, losing three fumbles deep in Raiders territory to go with the two blocked punts that gave Oakland nine points.
The Chargers have allowed four special teams touchdowns in those three losses, including a TD and a safety following the two blocked punts after their first two drives of the game.
Jason Campbell, benched halfway through the second game, came in after Bruce Gradkowski injured his right shoulder after being hit by Shaun Phillips late in the first quarter and played well enough in the second half to get the win.
Campbell completed 13 of 18 passes for 159 yards and a 1-yard touchdown to Zach Miller, leading drives of 93 and 73 yards in the second half to give the Raiders the lead. Michael Bush ran for 104 yards in place of injured Darren McFadden, including the go-ahead 3-yard TD run with 3:39 remaining.
Rivers' 41-yard touchdown pass to Floyd midway through the third quarter gave the Chargers a 24-15 lead. The Raiders responded with the 97-yard drive. Campbell converted a third-and-1 sneak and then connected on a 58-yard pass to Louis Murphy.
The Raiders answered again after a field goal by Nate Kaeding early in the fourth quarter with their final drive.
The Chargers got off to a terrible start, having the two punts blocked in the first quarter, leading to a safety and touchdown for Oakland. They also lost a pair of fumbles deep in Raiders territory to fall into an early 12-0 hole.
But they still managed a 17-15 lead when Rivers drove them to a 43-yard field goal by Kaeding in the closing seconds of the half.
Rock Cartwright burst through the middle for the first block against Mike Scifres, knocking the ball out of the end zone for a safety. The free kick out of bounds led to a field goal that made it 5-0, and Brandon Myers blocked Scifres' second punt into Hiram Eugene's hands for a touchdown that made it 12-0 less than five minutes into the game.
“We had a problem on the right side and we thought we addressed it after the first one, but we didn't get it handled,” coach Norv Turner said.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)