If anyone thought that the 4-1 San Diego Chargers were going to go up to Oakland and New York Jets the winless Raiders on Sunday, they obviously don't know much about this AFC West Divisional Rivalry. Sunday's 31-28 Chargers victory over the Raiders was not in the typical fashion the San Diego Chargers had been beating opponents this year. In fact, the Chargers found themselves playing catchup most of the game.
But a win is a win. Especially in the AFC West.
"I know on the outside when you look at an 0-4 team and a 4-1 team that you'd say oh this is the Chargers all the way, but we knew better," Chargers QB Philip Rivers said after the game. "There are a lot of good players over there and they played really well today. In the division, there's nothing easy and it's a good road win."
"Give them (Raiders) a lot of credit," Head Coach Mike McCoy said. "They came out and played an outstanding football game. We were very fortunate to play the way that we did in the fourth quarter."
It was a fourth quarter that found the Chargers down 28-21 with ten minutes left in the game. With the game still in the balance, all three facets of the team made significant plays to contribute to the win.
- First it was Rivers driving the team on a 9-play 68-yard drive to set up a Nick Novak field goal to cut the deficit to 28-24.
- The Chargers defense would force a Raiders 3-and-out and set up a Kennan Allen 29-yard punt return to the Oakland 39 yard line.
- After the punt return, Rivers would lead a 6-play 39-yard drive that was capped off by a leaping Branden Oliver 1-yard touchdown giving the Chargers the 31-28 lead with less than 2 minutes left to play.
- Rookie Corner Back Jason Verrett intercepts a Derek Carr pass at the Chargers own 5 yard line to seal the victory.
The play by Verrett not only closed the door on any Oakland comeback attempt, it showed what the San Diego coaching staff envision for the rest of his career.
"(Verrett's) an outstanding young player that has worked extremely hard," McCoy said. "We're very fortunate to have him on our football team. That's why we picked him when we did because those are the types of plays he can make. He's going to make plenty of those in his future for us also."
In a game that saw five lead changes, this was the kind of ugly game the Chargers may not have won in seasons past. But this is shaping out to be no ordinary season.
"In a tight game be down, have to answer, they score we score, they score we score," Rivers said. "It was typical NFL division game and it was good. It was good. Everybody contributed. Again our toughness I think showed down the stretch. It was great to get the win."
"I don't know what's different," Linebacker Jarrett Johnson said. "I know our quarterback is playing lights out. That guy, he's awesome and he kept us in it. We played terrible today on defense. This is the game that every team has, but we figured out a way to win it and it fires me up. I hope we learn from it."
Though people may not give the Chargers style points after this victory, winning a Division game on the road is always harder than it seems on paper.
"We're going to enjoy this one it's not easy in this League, it's tough, it's hard," McCoy said. "That's a good football team, a lot of talent, a lot of players, playing with a lot of emotion and there are a lot of things we're going to learn from this football game and the great thing is, we found a way to win at the end. That's the only thing that matters in this business, is finding a way every Sunday or whatever day we're playing to find a way to win."
Next up on Sunday? Another Division foe in the Kansas City Chiefs. But at least the Chargers will be at home.