Strategy was simple, catch the ball

Perhaps overlooked in the progression of the offense is a simple stat. No dropped balls on Sunday from the San Diego Chargers wide receiving core. No Josh Norman's to have a ball smack off his chest. No stone hands that permeated the group last year.

Chargers Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: A+ -- What an impressive showing for someone the Chargers long ago lost confidence in. Drew Brees was sensational, as he set a team mark by completing 80 percent of his passes (22 of 25) for 281 yards and a career-high five TDs. He spread the ball around to seven different receivers as he patiently went through his reads until finding the right target. The pass-blocking was superb, which allowed him the time to sort out his targets. No drops from his receivers as Brees was nothing short of brilliant.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- With Brees flinging the ball around with such accuracy, the running game didn't need to do much. But it still cranked out 175 yards, as the run-blocking demolished the fat and old Raiders -- see Warren Sapp and Ted Washington. LaDainian Tomlinson played three quarters before calling it a day to rest his groin. Jesse Chatman, as he so often does, came in late to give the ground game another boost. Again, great blocking.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- Two picks, courtesy of Clinton Hart and Sammy Davis as the secondary -- and pass rush -- never let Kerry Collins establish much of a rhythm. Yes, Collins threw for 263 yards, but most of those came long after this game was decided. Only one sack here, from DeQuincy Scott, but that doesn't explain how uncomfortable the pressure made Collins feel.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Raiders fell behind so fast, they never did try to establish anything on the ground. When they did give it a flier, the Chargers stuffed it right back into their face. In all, just 22 rushing yards, and the majority of those came in the final quarter. The defensive linemen didn't accumulate and eye-popping amount of tackles, but it did the dirty work which allowed the linebackers to plug the gaps and bring down anyone wearing silver and black.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A --- PR Eric Parker had a long of 32, a zigzagging effort in which he covered twice that distance. KR Tim Dwight was on his game, and had a 50-yard effort to show for it. All K Nate Kaeding had to do was ram home six extra points. P Mike Scifres basically had the day off, not getting called upon until late -- and he spit out a long of 60 yards. The coverage units didn't get the Chargers in trouble.

COACHING: A -- Marty Schottenheimer, it seems, always beats the Raiders. But much of the credit here goes to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who is having fun with his versatile unit. On Sunday, he broke out the no-huddle, which prevented the slow and old Raiders from making situational substitutions. Defensively, Wade Phillips' charges were determined to shut down the run and make life miserable for Collins: mission accomplished on both fronts. Schottenheimer, though, did ride the Chargers hard all week in leading to this game -- and it showed with a stellar performance.

Raiders Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: C minus -- QB Kerry Collins had decent protection (one sack), but seemed at times to be throwing from out of a phone booth. He clearly needs more space to work in. His yardage numbers (263) were slightly above average, his interceptions (2) were manageable and resulted in only one San Diego score. A slow start, though, had him throwing into trouble from the second quarter on. After a completion on the first play of the game, the Raiders went three and out three straight times. They emerged down 14-0, and the game was never the same. The passing game was far from heroic but it wasn't a disaster either.

RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- Blocking for the run was atrocious. On that trio of three-and-outs early in the game, the Raiders rushed three times for minus seven yards. Amos Zereoue finished with six carries for minus one. The bright spot was the return of Tyrone Wheatley who had 18 of the Raiders 22 yard total on one carry and also scored a touchdown. At the time of his 18-yard gain, with 6:38 to play in the fourth quarter, the Raiders' rushing total stood at four yards.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- Because there was virtually no pressure being exerted, Drew Brees had a field day dissecting the Raiders. If the Raiders want to man up, they will have to address this lack of pressure. As a result, there was a lot of zone played in this game -- and that didn't go well either as Raiders were out of position and confused. Nobody in a Raider helmet was immune to exploitation. Tight ends have now caught seven touchdown passes on the Raiders in the last three weeks.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Considering this was where the Raiders were prepared to make their stand, the 175 yards the Chargers chalked up was distressing. After a decent first quarter by Oakland, the Chargers ratcheted it up. By the end of the game, nobodies _ rather than LaDainian Tomlinson _ were gashing the Raiders for big yardage. It hardly mattered, though. Brees' passing was the real difference.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D plus -- Once more, the kickers did their job, coverage units did not. A 32-yard punt return and a 50-yard kickoff return by the Chargers testified to that. Phillip Buchanon did have his longest punt return of the year (18 yards). Shane Lechler had a 50.4 punting average and got lots of practice (5). Sebastian Janikowski got all three kickoffs into the end zone.

COACHING: D plus -- The strategy to concentrate on stopping Tomlinson and make Brees win the game was no doubt the proper thing to do. Who knew Brees would play the game of his life? Clearly the pass defense didn't. The downside: from the way he played, it seems clear Wheatley (if he was able to play), should have started; inspiration was clearly lacking; did the players merely forget their pass defense assignments? Brees, quite frankly, looked like Joe Montana. Free safety Ray Buchanan said half the credit goes to him, half goes to the Raiders' flawed play.


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