This is another rough one, folks. As we all know, it's (a short) Raider week, and that means re-visiting last year's series with Oakland. As I'm sure we all remember, the Chargers not only lost a game to Oakland for the first time since 2003, but were swept in the season series for the first time since 2001. Like always, we'll look at the last match-up with the Chargers' upcoming opponent, which means we have to look at last year's game in Qualcomm when the Chargers were pretty much handled by the Raiders on their own field.
San Diego came into this game on a roll. After another horrific start, the Chargers had won four straight, and were coming off a blowout on Sunday Night Football over the Indianapolis Colts, where they almost completely shut down Peyton Manning and company. Most Charger fans (and Raider fans for that matter) expected this game to have similar results. Alas, it was not to be. I'll repeat a bit from a flashback from a couple weeks ago: Of course the Chargers would suffer a sack and be forced to punt on their first possession. Of course the Chargers defense would force a punt on the ensuing Oakland possession. Of course Darren Sproles would muff the punt and give the Raiders the ball on the San Diego 18 yard line, and of course Oakland would convert an ensuing 4th down attempt for a touchdown.It was pretty much all downhill from there. Rivers threw an interception on the next drive, and the Raiders converted two third downs and a fourth down en route to scoring another TD to go up 14-0. San Diego managed to hit a FG to get on the board, but the Raiders would again convert their next drive into a touchdown, taking a 21-3 lead. The rest of the half was turnovers galore--San Diego failed to convert a 4th down, Oakland lost a fumble, and the Chargers missed a field goal. The Raiders took a 21-3 lead into halftime. Ouch.
The Chargers did manage to make it a one score game briefly in the second half, when they kicked a FG and scored a touchdown to make it 21-13 with 10 minutes left in the game, but the Raiders went right back and scored a touchdown on a Darren McFadden run, and at 28-13 with 4:40 left in the game, that was all she wrote. The Chargers would rebound to absolutely crush Kansas City and San Francisco the next two weeks, but the damage was done. This game was yet another example of the Chargers' mistake-prone ways doing them in. Muffed punts, turnovers, and key penalties cost them a home game against a divisional opponent.
San Diego has a chance to reverse this trend with a win tomorrow night over Oakland. Jason Campbell, who gave the Chargers fits, is gone, and has been replaced with the interception-prone Carson Palmer. Darren McFadden has all but been ruled out for this game, meaning a heavy dose of Michael Bush, who is talented to be sure, but he's no McFadden. If the Chargers can't win this game, then they probably won't even win a weak AFC West. What that will mean for the beleaguered front office and coaching staff, is anyone's guess.