Whether you love them or hate them, you can't tell me that the Raiders didn't play with heart.
In the famous words of Vince Lombardi, "We didn't lose, we just ran out of time."
The San Diego Chargers' 12th-straight victory over Oakland did not come as easily as they might have expected. The Raiders' offense moved the ball very effectively, and the defense played stingy, making the San Diego offense work for every yard.
Some people called this Oakland's "Super Bowl" and, despite losing, I think they made a big statement by setting the pace and tone of the game from the beginning to the end.
The energy was there: the Raiders played with a lot of heart. It was an emotional game and a heart-wrenching loss.
"[The players were] very hurt, very disappointed, and that's a good thing. I've been a Raider since 2007, and I feel like that's the first time I've been in a locker room after a loss that really got in your gut." Tom Cable said in the press conferene. "That's a good thing. It sounds funny, but that's the way you're supposed to feel about this game."
This is in stark contrast to last year's team, when you could hear teammates laughing in the background of a Nnamdi Asomugha postgame press conference after the second loss of the season to San Diego.
Oakland only gave up one sack, despite the fact that the Chargers continuously sent heavy pressure. Cable said Mario Henderson did a great job against Shawne Merriman in his first-ever effort against an all-pro linebacker.
As Cable said, "We played our guts out; we just didn't finish."
Of JaMarcus Russell, he said, "You know, the thing I liked about JaMarcus tonight is, one place he has really grown is, that he wants to go back in: 'I want it again, I want it again,' and I think that's a real sign of where he's at and where we're trying to go with him."
Unfortunately, JaMarcus Russell never appeared to settle into this one until his knee injury late in the game. JaMarcus was 12 for 30 for 208 yards, one touchdown (which should've been two) and two interceptions, only one of which had an effect on the game.
Overall, not an all-star performance from the big quarterback. I could tell by just looking at him during pregame he was nervous. This was a big time game for him. I think it took that injury on a late quarterback sneak before he got his head on straight and calmed down.
Next week, there will not be so much pressure. No national microscope, no first-game-of-the-year jitters, and the possibility of a return of his favorite wide receiver target, Chaz Schilens.
I will start JaMarcus in my fantasy football league next week. I don't expect that of anyone else. Let's chalk this one up to nerves and not quit on the quarterback just yet.
Oakland tight end Zach Miller was impressive in this game, finding a lot of holes in the middle of the Chargers' defense. He finished with a team-leading six catches for 96 yards.
Louis Murphy was right behind him with four catches (should have been five) for 87 yards (should have been 106) and a touchdown (should have been two). Why all the "should-have-beens?" We'll discuss that later in the article.
Oakland's tailbacks combined for 123 yards and one touchdown on 29 carries. In comparison, San Diego's tailbacks combined for 78 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
Not stellar stats for either squad, which speaks tremendous volumes for how Oakland's defense played. The Raiders gave up only 317 yards to the Chargers "explosive" offense.
They had three sacks, two by new arrival Richard Seymour. They forced LaDainian Tomlinson to fumble for the first time since October 2006. Michael Huff recovered that fumble and also intercepted a pass tipped up by Tyvon Branch.
OK, so Phillip Rivers was 24 of 36 for 252 yards and led two late touchdown drives. That's why they paid him $93 million. He is supposed to be an elite quarterback. He is expected by many "experts" to lead his team to Super Bowl glory this year.
In contrast, Oakland was not expect to have an elite defense. They were predicted by many experts to be the same old Raiders defense, and they were not. They should feel good that Rivers had to throw 36 times to beat them.
Richard Seymour was great for Oakland. I can't wait to see what he is capable of after a little practice with the team under his belt. Second-year safety Tyvon Branch was great in coverage and run support, totaling eight solo tackles and one assist.
Linebackers Ricky Brown and Thomas Howard each totalled seven tackles, and Howard added two assists.
Cornerback Chris Johnson had a great game, with seven tackles plus an assist. He also laid the smack down on Darren Sproles on a swing pass that got the Coliseum pumped. On another play, he cut in front of a quick slant from Rivers and swatted the ball to the ground very athletically.
The Raider defense held the Chargers to 5 of 12 (41 percent) on third-down conversions. The average gain per rushing play was 3.3 yards, ranking 12th against the run this week.
Oakland's 148 yards on the ground has them ranked eighth in the league. These are two trends the Raider Nation hopes will continue.
In closing, I would like to say we were very close against a team that is expected to make a Super Bowl run this year.
If the Louis Murphy touchdown that was overturned had stood, it would have been a tied ball game.
After the game, I looked around for a minute and asked myself, "What happened to that four points? Oh yeah, that bullspit call on that touchdown."
You guys know. The one where Murphy had possession with two feet, a butt, and an elbow down before losing the ball when he rolled over on the ground.
You know, that play that all three television announcers agreed they didn't believe the referees would overturn.
Oakland should've won this game. Everything was in their favor except a bad call by the refs. Oakland even won time of possession, 31:37 to 28:23.
But, just think: We were a few Chaz Schilens catches away from beating the Chargers. This just in: Chaz will be in uniform in San Diego, and karma is a...well, you know.