Chargers drop third in a row

The San Diego Chargers continue to struggle against AFC West opponents, falling 34-24 to the Oakland Raiders. The loss drops the Chargers into a third place tie in the division with the Denver Broncos.

The Oakland Raiders continued to distance themselves from the rest of the pack in the AFC West, but their 34-24 win over the San Diego Chargers could hardly be considered impressive.

In fact, at times it was downright ugly.

With both teams coming off losses, the prevailing thought was that one, if not both, of the teams would be fired up, ready to play. This thought, at best, describes maybe half of the sixty minutes played.

The only aspect played with any ease was that of former NFC great Jerry Rice, who caught three of Rich Gannon's four touchdown passes, including the game winning 20-yard score with 2:46 to play. Rice finished the contest with eight passes for 131 yards, his biggest game since joining the Raiders.

It also marked his first 100-yard receiving game since the 1999 season finale with his former employers, the San Francisco 49ers.

"I was just out there having fun, making plays and being a kid," Rice told reporters. "I've had time to get comfortable with the offense and get used to my role, and now we're all getting it together."

Not getting it together were the 5-5 Chargers, who continued to flounder under missed tackles, blown assignments and poor execution. Highliting this was quarterback Doug Flutie, who finished with just 12-of-27 passes for 98 yards, including a game deciding fumble with 1:54 to play.

"We had some problems," said Flutie. "The special teams played great, and the defense played as well as they could, but this one bugs me, because I felt ready to have a great game. Everything felt right."

Unfortunately feeling right and doing right are two different things for San Diego, who was trying to rebound from a 26-16 loss one week earlier in Denver.

"We had some trouble in different areas at different times," Riley said. "We didn't always block them, we didn't always catch the ball, and we didn't always make the smart plays."

Miscues aside, the Chargers did have their share of excitement, thanks to Curtis Conway, who took a reverse handoff from LaDanian Tomlinson 67-yards for the team's first score, just moments into the first quarter.

It took until midway through the third quarter for their second flash of brilliance when Ronney Jenkins took a Sebastian Janikowski kickoff back 93-yards to tie the score at 17-17.

"Our special teams gave us a big lift. Ronney gave us two big returns," Chargers head coach Mike Riley said. "We place a great emphasis on special teams. But it was hard to get them off the field. Offensively, we didn't always catch the ball and we didn't always make the right reads."

San Diego, which has now lost three consecutive games, continued to struggle on the ground, with Tomlinson held to 68 yards on 22 carries. The Raiders also found the ground game difficult, as Charlie Garner collected just 59 yards on 18 carries.

Oakland did however find success through the air as Rich Gannon threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns, three of which were directed toward Rice and one which found Tim Brown from 10-yards out.

Flutie, meanwhile, continued to struggle, his low percentage completion rate shadowed only by his last minute fumble, which was recovered by Raiders linebacker William Thomas.

Thomas returned it 11 yards to the San Diego 16, setting up a 25-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski with 55 seconds left, to seal the win.

The loss drops San Diego into a third place tie in the AFC West with Denver, behind division leading Oakland and second-place Seattle.

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