Chargers Lose in OT, 34-31

The San Diego Chargers went into Oakland looking for a win. Taking a ten point lead into the fourth quarter, things looked great for San Diego to get that needed victory. Instead the Raiders came back from a 14 point deficit and the game headed to overtime, same as last year in Oakland. The difference, this year the Raiders won on a 46 yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski.

Forget the run, the Raiders went back to their successful ways from last year, passing the ball to the tune of 348 yards by Rich Gannon

The first real test for the Chargers came on the first drive. Jammer tried to hold up Tim Brown downfield, on fourth and one, but fell down in his pursuit. Brown scooted past him, now uncovered, and caught a 34yard touchdown just 3:34 seconds into the game to give Oakland a quick 7-0 lead. Brown has a 21 yard catch to set up the score.

The Raiders knew they would have to defend LaDainian Tomlinson. On the first drive for the Chargers, they could not defend all that Tomlinson showed. Tomlinson had four rushes for 35 yards. With the ball at the Oakland 21, Brees took a shotgun snap from center, handed off to Tomlinson who ran right and stopped. Tomlinson then looked back in the direction of Brees and threw a strike for a completion. Brees running down the sideline dove for the end zone and just got the ball across the line, using all 72 inches of his body to get the tip of the ball across the line and tie the game at seven.

On a punt by Darren Bennett that Philip Buchanon let go before it started bouncing past him. He made a move as if to field it and Drayton Florence smacked Buchanon as he went to after it knocking him away from scooping it up. The ball hit off the leg of Anthony Dorsett and Jesse Chatman recovered it at the 18 and ran it in for a touchdown. Since it was a muff, the ball could not e advanced. A roughing the passer call helped set up first and goal. After a short run by Tomlinson, Brees ran a play action and rolled out left. He set and fired a strike to Justin Peelle who went up for it and caught a touchdown to give the Chargers their biggest lead of the season, seven points.

Drayton Florence got whipped on an outside in move by Tim Brown who caught the ball in stride and went 31 yards before Florence caught up with him. Alvis Whitted smacked Sammy Davis late on the play which cost the Raiders 15 yards. Then a questionable pass interference call on Jammer put the Raiders inside the ten. After two runs, Rich Gannon found a totally uncovered Doug Jolley in the end zone for an easy score. No one was within ten yards of Jolley on the play. It is hard to say who blew the coverage, but Donnie Edwards, Kwamie Lassiter and Zeke Moreno would be the prime candidates to point to.

A false start penalty on Justin Peelle actually saved the Chargers. Tomlinson fumbled on the dead play and it was returned for a touchdown. False start penalties on the offense end the play before it can happen. Tomlinson then took a ball up the gut, following a huge hole opened by the Chargers offensive line traversing 55 yards for the touchdown to put the Chargers in unfamiliar territory again, with another lead at 21-14.

Drew Brees could not hit Eric Parker in the first half. With two minutes left in the first half, Brees threw a ball intended for Parker, open over the middle. Rod Coleman tipped it and Eric Johnson intercepted it. Luckily, Donnie Edwards intercepted a Gannon pass to give the Chargers the ball again. They could not capitalize.

Brees did not hit a wide receiver in the first half. Only three passes were attempted to the receiving corps, all to Parker. None were completed, but the Chargers kept a lead into halftime, 21-14. Brees is the leading receiver at halftime for the Bolts.

Andrew Pinnock took the opening kickoff, a short one into the wedge fielded at the 25, 41 yards to the Oakland 31. Fourth down and six at the Oakland 30, the Chargers choose not to allow Steve Christie to kick a field goal and go for it. Brees hits Dondre Gilliam, his first catch of the year and his career, for a first down at the 15 yard line. Christie eventually lined up for a 32 yard field goal and put it through to give the Chargers a 24-14 lead.

An unbelievable 73 yard kick by Shane Lechler pinned the Chargers at the one yard line with the Black Hole squarely at their backs. After no gain on first down and a timeout, Brees hit Antonio Gates for a first down. The Chargers then went back to the ground game behind Tomlinson and Chatman subbing in when needed. While the Chargers didn't get any points on the drive, they did make sure the Raiders would have a long field to drive for a score of their own. After a 23 yard pass to Jerry Rice on third down, the Raiders converted a fourth down on the San Diego 44 on a pass to Tim Brown. Charlie Garner ran the ball three times for 20 yards and Tyrone Wheatley ran twice for seven yards to bring the ball inside the ten. On third and two, Gannon fired incomplete to Whitted. After a timeout called by the Chargers with a Raider running onto the field, Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 23 yard field goal to bring the Raiders within seven, 24-17. Turns out it was a good timeout as the Bolts had too many men on the field.

After another short kick the Chargers made two clutch third down conversions, one to Gates who made acrobatic reception and another to Gilliam who was wide open downfield and gained 37 yards. On the play Rod Coleman was draped all over the back of Brees and he got it away in what looked like a prayer throw certain to be intercepted. The thing is, there was no Raider within ten yards of Gilliam. Two plays later, Lorenzo Neal ran the ball in untouched from four yards out to put the Bolts up 31-17.

The ensuing kickoff by Mike Scifres was kicked out of bounds, giving the Raiders the ball at the 40 yard line. After a ten yard sack by DeQuincy Scott, Gannon hit Rice for a first down. After a pass to Doug Jolley for a first, Gannon hit a wide open Whitted for a touchdown from 36 yards out to put the Raiders within seven, 31-24. It only took one minute and 21 seconds to score. Missed coverage on Vernon Fox and Kwamie Lassiter allowed Whitted to get deep.

Oakland started at their own 36 with just about three minutes left in the game. The first play went to Rice over the middle into San Diego territory, down at the 42. After an incomplete pass to Rice, Gannon connected with Rice at the 28 for a gain of 14 as the two minute warning came. Garner then took a ball up the gut and went 24 yards for a touchdown and tie game after the extra point. Vernon Fox and Jerry Wilson missed tackles along they way. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Jerry Wilson cost the Chargers 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Chargers the ball at the 20 with 1:24 to go.

Kassim Osgood caught a ball over the middle, his first catch of the game, 23 yards downfield with 1:09 left. The called their last timeout after the catch. A pass to Gilliam brought another first down in Raider territory at the 42. Another completion over the middle brought the Chargers within field goal range, but with no timeouts left they could not spike the ball in time before the clock ran out.

The Chargers won the toss heading into overtime and Tomlinson is sitting on the sidelines. The Bolts ended up punting without the added threat of LT. Oakland then punted it back to the Bolts who got the ball at the San Diego 42.

Tomlinson returned to action and it would not matter as the Chargers went three and out with Tomlinson getting one rush for minus one yard.

A 29 yard pass to Rice who slipped past Kevin House quickly put the Raiders at their 37. Two passes to Jolley and another to Garner put the Raiders inside the San Diego 40. Two runs and an incompletion gave Janikowski a 46 yard attempt on the dirt. He hit it for the win.

Notes:

Dondre Gilliam caught his first pass of the year after being signed just this week. Gilliam caught another clutch ball on third and eleven in the middle of the fourth quarter. Gilliam was wide open on the play. Gilliam caught his third ball late in the fourth for a gain of three.

Antonio Gates got the first reception of his career midway through the third quarter, it went for a first down with the ball on the San Diego 1 yard line and the Black Hole at the Bolts backs. He caught another for a first down that was acrobatic. Using his jumping skills he snared a pass out of the air with 8:11 to go in the game.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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