Since November 27th, 1960 the Chargers have matched up with the Raiders 105 times, claiming victory in 45 of those contests -- including the most recent game to close out the 2011 season. That's a lot of memories of one opponent.
One of the great things about the NFL is that the divisional rivalries have remained fairly constant. And in the case of the Raiders, the familiarity has brought contempt. No matter the standings we know these games will be battles. Even during the recent stretch from 2003-2009 when the Chargers won 13 games in a row, the games were extremely hard fought, physical battles.
We all have our most vivid recollections of games. Mine is the one where Steve Foley got shot . . .I suppose the story would be more interesting if the Raiders were actually responsible for shooting Chargers linebacker Steve Foley but that scenario would be too unlikely*. As the Chargers prepared for their first game of the 2006 season, a Monday Night Football game to be played in the Black Hole on September 11th, Steve Foley was in a hospital recovering from gunshot wounds. The linebacker, returning to his home in Poway during the early morning hours of September 3rd, was followed by an off duty Coronado police officer who suspected Foley of driving under the influence of alcohol. The police officer confronted Foley on the suburban streets and shot him three times in the arm leg and chest. It was Foley's second run-in with the law dating back to April of that year. He would never play in the NFL again.
*Raiders fans shooting Foley in the parking lot in Oakland? Far more likely.
I recall the Chargers rallying around their fallen teammate and using the Monday night stage as a platform to showcase their defense against their arch rival. The Chargers blew the Raiders out on their home turf compiling 9 sacks. The Chargers came out blazing, racking up one sack after another, and as they recorded each tackle for a loss, they mimicked Steve Foley's sack dance -- a bull stamping his feet into the tufts of grass below. It was a fantsastic start to the 2006 season.
But What Really Happened?
When I looked at the boxscore for this game I realized my memory had failed me, to a degree. The Chargers didn't get off to the fast start that I remembered, failing to record a sack in the first quarter.
1st Quarter: Setting the Stage
The boxscore for this game indicates that the Raiders were fully aware that their best course of action was to avoid dropping back to pass against the vaunted Chargers pass rush. Their first two possessions consisted of a lot of Lamont Jordan runs and short passes by Aaron Brooks. Late in the first quarter a harbinger of things to come appeared when left tackle Robert Gallery took a false start penalty.
Chargers 3 Raiders 0
Merriman doing Foley's "bull dance" after a sack.
2nd Quarter: The Reckoning
Ten seconds into the second quarter tthe flood gates had opened. Shawne Merriman sacked Aaron Brooks for a loss of 8 yards and then did the same two plays later. But on that second sack Merriman was offsides so they replayed the down. This time Shaun Phillips (Steve Foley's replacement) teamed with Luis Castillo to drop Brooks again for a loss of 3 yards.
When the Raiders finally got the ball back late in the 2nd quarter and down by 13, they went to a short passing game. Brooks completed a few short ones before Donnie Edwards and Shaun Phillips dropped him for 7 yards and the game's 3rd sack. Two plays later Shawne Merriman sacked Aaron Brooks for a loss of 8 yards at the two minute mark and the first half concluded shortly thereafter without any more points for the Chargers.
Chargers 13 Raiders 0
3rd Quarter: More of the same
The Raiders continued with a short passing game to avoid San Diego's pressure but it ddin't stop Jamal Williams as he dumped Brooks for the Chargers 5th sack of the night. The night continued with more short passes and handoffs to Lamont Jordan. Aaron Brooks continued to throw incompletions before he was sacked two more times to end the third quarter when Merriman tackled him for a 3 yard loss and Luis Castillo again sacked Brooks for a loss of 7 yards.
Chargers 13 Raiders 0
4th Quarter: Too little to late
The Raiders switched to Andrew Walter in the 4th quarter but it was more of the same: Incompletions, sacks, delay of game calls, and punts. Shaun Phillips tallied the 8th sack of the night when he tackled Walter for a 5 yard loss, resulting in another Shane Lechler punt.
During their next possession, Walter decided to take things into his own hands -- by dropping it out of his hands. Marques Harris recovered the fumble and running back Michael Turner scored a TD three plays later.
The Raiders got the ball back, down by 27, and frantically began to pass the ball down the field. They moved the ball well enough, but it was too little too late. Stephen Cooper recorded the game's 9th sack for the Chargers and the game ended two plays later when the Raiders' drive stalled on the Chargers 10 yard line.
Chargers 27 Raiders 0
So that's my most memorable Chargers versus Raiders game. For me it was a perfect storm of detail: It occurred on the 5th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, on a Monday night to open the season with a key player injured on the defensive side of the ball. Shaun Phillips filled in admirably for Steve "GSW" Foley and has continued to be a fixture at outside linebacker to this day. But it was the sacks that stood out. Oh, the sacks! And the tributes to Foley after each subsequent tackle of the QB -- memorable stuff.
The 2006 season was a fantastic one. And then we had our hearts torn out. But that's a story for another time.
Which Charger/Raider game is at the forefront of your mind?