On a special night, that would mark the start of the 50th Anniversary celebration of the old American Football League, two longtime rivals would duke it out over 4 quarters of football in what many would compare to a back alley street fight.
The San Diego Chargers were the odds on favorites to completely blowout the Oakland Raiders for 12th time in 12 regular season meetings, but for some reason the football gods had other plans for how this game was going to play out.
The Raiders first drive down the field was productive and kept the Chargers defense on their heels, but was brought to a quick halt when JaMarcus Russell threw his first interception of the season into the open and waiting hands of Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer.
However, the Raiders were the first to draw blood on their very next possession.
Michael Bush scored on a 4-yard run capping a 10 play, 84 yard drive.
San Diego had to wait until 4:49 of the second quarter to even up the score. LaDainian Tomlinson ran in a 1 yard touchdown run after a 7 play, 75 yard drive.
Two possessions later would find the Raiders marching down the field as time was winding down to the half. With :50 left on the clock and 3rd & 5 from the San Diego 19-yard line, JaMarcus Russell threw a beautiful pass to Louis Murphy in the end zone for a touchdown.
However, the review booth would ask to take a second look at the reception.
Replays showed a spectacular catch by Murphy however, he didn't maintain complete control of the ball as the tip of the ball touched the ground, and even completely came out of his hands once he was on the ground.
When referee Carl Cheffers emerged from the replay monitor, the call was overturned and ruled an incomplete pass.
- On a side note, I'm thankful that Mike Greenberg, Steve Young, and Mike Golic won't have to worry about quitting their day jobs. It was nice for them to be the "B Team" for the Monday Night Football doubleheader, but it was clear that this trio of sportscasters needed a better knowledge and understanding of the rules. I even knew that the call was going to be overturned and could have easily cleaned house with all the side bets I could have took on it.
After the overturned call Oakland would call out the kicking unit, and Sebastian Janikowski would put the Raiders ahead on a 37-yard field goal.
With :33 left on the clock before the half, Philip Rivers would start the drive on the Oakland 41-yard line after a beautiful kick-off return by Darren Sproles.
5 plays later, and with :05 left on the clock San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding would even up the score on 47-yard field goal.
The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders were tied at the half 10-10.
I was in disbelief.
Many Chargers, fans including myself, had already expected the game to be completely out of control by halftime with the Raiders pondering whether or not they would actually come out of the locker room for the second half.
The Raiders looked like a well-oiled machine. Determined to put the ghosts of the previous six seasons behind them, and start the 2009 season with a win. The Chargers on the other hand looked like a High School JV team. It almost seemed as if the Chargers were over confident and looking to cruise towards a victory, but were left in complete shock, when a team that looked like something from the Raiders of yester-years showed up ready to play.
The second half of the game was going to be a slugfest.
Neither team managed to score during the 3rd quarter, however the Chargers ended up amassing a body count, in injuries that is.
Guard Louis Vasquez and center Nick Hardwick had to leave the game, and the extent of those injuries were not know. Scott Mruczkowski came in to play guard, but was moved to center when Hardwick went down. Brian Dombrowski then came into play guard. Despite a couple early mistakes, both Mruczkowski and Dombrowski showed their grit and fell right into the groove.
The 4th quarter proved to be the most exciting for the night.
The Raiders attacked first with a 35-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal, but the Chargers answered right back capping a 10 play, 77-yard drive on a spectacular 15-yard touchdown catch by Vincent Jackson.
San Diego led 17-13 with 7:29 left to play.
Oakland's next possession saw JaMarcus Russell leave with an injury only to return 4 plays later and throw an amazing 57-yard touchdown pass to Louis Murphy with 2:34 left in the game.
Oakland Coliseum erupted in excitement.
The Raider Nation faithful actually had something to cheer about.
With 2:30 left in the game and starting from his own 11-yard line, Philip Rivers had to mount a game winning drive against a defense that had been in his face all night long.
It was time to pull out the special weapons.
Rivers would complete 6 of his next 7 passes to Legadu Naanee, Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles, and Antonio Gates, moving the ball 79 yards in a 1 minute and 44 seconds.
With :21 left on the clock and the ball on the Oakland 5-yard line the Chargers lined up on the ball.
2 seconds later Darren Sproles brought the deafening roar of the Black Hole to a completely stunned silence on a 5-yard touchdown run.
The Raiders still had once last chance for redemption. There were still :12 seconds on the clock. The Chargers looked as if to have every inch of the playing field covered, and only rushed 3 linemen. Russell dropped back, and launched a desperation pass that found its way into the hands of Chargers cornerback Antoine Cason.
Philip Rivers kneeled on the ball to end the game.
For the first time in 12 meetings the Chargers found themselves playing a Raiders team that was focused on returning itself to the Al Davis philosophy of "Commitment to Excellence" and to "Just Win Baby".
The Oakland Raiders were playing with a purpose. That purpose was redemption.
The San Diego Chargers on the other hand were possibly dealt a blow to their collective egos. The Chargers are favorites to be playing in South Florida next February for what could be their first ever World Championship, but if they continue to play in the same fashion as they played the Raiders it might end up being a very long road to travel.