Special to the BVN
The AFC West best, the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers battled for four quarters but this was a game that could not be won by either team in regulation.
But in overtime the Chargers (6 1) were charged up enough to finish off the Raiders, 27 21.
When the Chargers won the coin toss and opted to receive, it was the beginning of the end for the Raiders (4- 2). San Diego Chargers coach Marty Shottenheimer took control of the game and began to play Marty ball. After calling 42 running plays and only 16 pass plays, Shottenheimer called a pass play where Chargers Quarterback Drew Brees sprinted to his right on a designed rollout to find wide receiver Tim Dwight wide open for a 25 yard completion to the Oakland 30. Rather than settle for a field goal, Brees and Dwight hooked up again for a 11-yard gain to the Oakland 19. On the next play, San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson ended the agony, bursting up the middle to give the Chargers a rousing 27-21 victory.
Headed into a bye week, the Chargers are in sole possession of first place in the toughest division in the NFL. The last time the Chargers were (6-1) was in 1994, when the Chargers advanced to Super Bowl XXIX.
Chargers running back LaDamian Tomlinson entered the game ranked 2nd among NFL rushers with 632 yards. There was no surprise to anyone in the sold out Network Assoicates Coliseum that Tomlinson got the ball. As the saying goes, knowledge is power but execution is everything in the NFL. Tomlinson rushed for 153 yards and had 55 yards in receptions.
The Raiders had opportunities to put early points on the scoreboard. On the Raiders first two drives of the game, they advanced the ball to the red zone only to come out empty handed. On the first drive into the red zone, the Raiders 2000 first round draft pick Sebastian Janikowski, missed an easy 27yard field goal attempt that hit the right upright. The Raiders second consecutive drive into the red zone was thwarted when Chargers linebacker Donnie Edwards intercepted quarterback Rich Gannons shovel pass intended for running back Charlie Garner.
The Raiders had to play catch up as the Chargers got on the board first when Brees connected with rookie wide receiver Reche Caldwell for a 9-yard pass. Brees completed his first six passes of the game and finished 16 of 25 including a 4-yard pass to Tomlinson in the end zone to led the Raiders 14 0.
The Raiders responded to the Chargers second touchdown by putting together a 68 yard scoring drive in seven plays. Gannon took the Raiders the length of field by using six different receivers finding wide receiver Jerry Rice for a 4 yard touchdown pass to cut the Chargers lead to 14 7.
The momentum of the game shifted to the Raiders. In the Chargers next possession the Raiders led by linebacker Eric Barton stopped the Chargers and forced them to punt. The Raiders began their touchdown drive in the third quarter but it ended in the fourth quarter when Gannon hit Porter from 17- yards out to tie the score at 14.
The Raiders had an opportunity to take the lead for the first time in the game with 11:44 left in regulation but Janikowski missed a 48- yard field goal wide left. This was his second miss of the game and his fourth miss of the season.
Up to this point in the game, the Raiders exorcised their penalty demons; they only had two penalties for 15 yards. However during the Chargers crucial scoring drive, the Raiders had two critical penalties for 20 yards. Brees took full advantage of the Raiders mistakes and capped the 62 yard scoring drive with a quarterback sneak from the 1- yard to put the Chargers up 21 14.
Gannon Cannon had an answer for the Chargers. Gannon put together a drive starting on their own 18- yard line. Key plays in the drive were three Gannon passes a 18 yarder to Garner, a 16-yarder to wide receiver Tim Brown and a 10 yarder to wide receiver Jerry Rice. Gannon capped off the drive with a 7- yard pass to full back John Ritchie in the end zone to tie the game 21 21 with 1:21 left in regulation.
Quarterback Rich Gannon directed three scoring drives and ended the day with 35-of- 45 passing for 361 yards and three touchdowns. His final opportunity ended with him standing at his own 31-yard line and watching the final 40 seconds in regulation tick away despite the Raiders possessing one timeout.
The Oakland Raiders (4-2) not only lost possession of first place in their division but they lost their entire return game during the course of the afternoon. Rookie punt returner/cornerback Phillip Buchanon suffered a dislocated and fractured left wrist in a sideline spill on a defensive play and kickoff specialist returner, Terry Kirby suffered a broken leg on a return. Both were in a hospital for surgery before the sun went down. Its not for sure if Buchanon or Kirby will return this season.
The Raiders must now find a way to regroup and get ready to face yet another divisional foe in the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. And from where I sit, the Raiders must determine not to squander the opportunities that present themselves, but to find a way to take full advantage of them, especially in the redzone.
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