Chargers Squeak Out Win Against Oakland, Two Back in AFC West

Eric GomezAnalyst INovember 2, 2009

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 1:  Shawne Merriman #56 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates a sack during the first half against the Oakland Raiders on November 1, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo By Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

File this under "the glass is half-empty."

Facing an Oakland Raiders (2-6) team that could not get any semblance of pass defense against San Diego's aerial attack, the Chargers (4-3) chose to run 30 times in 55 plays.

When the Raiders had the ball, the Bolts faced a team they knew would run at them (as their QB boasts a rating of 47.2), and yet they allowed nearly 100 yards on the ground and eight rushing first downs.

Going into halftime with a cozy 21-10 lead, the Chargers dozed, left the Raiders for dead, and found themselves defending on their own side of the field with 2:00 remaining as Oakland looked to potentially tie the game.

That, of course, didn't happen. But it wasn't San Diego's doing.

Two Oakland receivers smashed into each other, leading to a JaMarcus Russell sack and fumble (which caromed off of Chargers DE Jacques Cesaire's fingers, twice) that the Raiders eventually recovered.

A false-start penalty then made it 2nd-and-28, a sack made it 3rd-and-31, and just like that, the Raiders had successfully self-destructed, true to their nature.

The Raiders are a very, very bad football team.

Any halfway decent squad would've put up more of a fight in that situation, a fight that the Chargers allowed themselves to be roped in to.

Underestimating their rivals and overestimating their own capabilities have lead to some pretty poor outings from the Chargers this season; uneven, suspect play calling from the sideline has wasted some golden opportunities for San Diego.

San Diego's second-half performance at Qualcomm Stadium today was ugly, a symphony of mistakes both blatant and subtle.

Darren Sproles let a kickoff roll within two inches of the sideline at the five-yard line before deciding to pick it up, and then got tackled at the eight.

Sproles himself would later fumble a punt return that he appeared to fall on top of. In the ensuing scuffle, his 5'6" 180-pound frame was no match for Oakland's bigger bodies, and he lost the ball.

During a fourth-quarter drive, San Diego marched 83 yards down the field largely on the strength of the passing game, with Philip Rivers totaling 49 yards on just three passes.

It took seven rushes to get the other 34 yards.

With 1st-and-goal at the three, the Chargers committed a false start, allowed Philip Rivers to be sacked, and eventually settled for a field goal from Nate Kaeding.

Norv Turner ignored all logic and conventional wisdom by running the ball 33 times for 100 yards, a dazzling average of 3.3 yards per rush.

The average of yards per pass play? Nine and a half.

Why nibble and insist on feeding an increasingly finished LaDainian Tomlinson (who had a couple of nice runs, but again, mostly duds) when the big play is undoubtedly your best friend?

Why not blitz and fill up inside gaps as often as you can when you're playing against a good running team and an awful QB?

Why let the Oakland Raiders hang around for so long when you started off so hot (a TD off a Wildcat play? Attaboy, Norv) and could've potentially put the game out of reach early?

Norv must dabble part-time as a CBS executive, as his antics definitely made for great TV Sunday afternoon. Like their best crime dramas, the game had most on the edge of their seat.

Recently, I wrote that the Chargers weren't as good as we (and they) thought they were .

I still stand by that statement, and the proof is in the pudding.

When you can't put the Raiders away this season twice until very late in the fourth quarter, there's something wrong with your football team.

A point of comfort?

The glass might be half-empty here, but it's downright shattered in Oakland.


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