Drew Brees wasn't the model of perfection Chargers fans have grown accustomed to. He had a few throws that sailed on him and he was lucky he wasn't picked off on two occasions. His success on third downs continued and there was no bigger single play than the jump hook he threw (closed his eyes and prayed?) at the end of the game.
LaDainian Tomlinson was the difference in the game. Running at 90 percent, the playbook expanded and he was able to get into the secondary. He wasn't as aggressive as he usually is but the results were still there. Pumping up the away crowd was a thing of beauty and there is no question the rivalry brings out the best in him. He has dominated the Raiders over the last three years. Lorenzo Neal marred the performance of the backs as a unit. His fumble loomed large in the fourth quarter. He also missed a couple of blocks that he normally makes. Shoulder injury still hurting him?
Keenan McCardell continues to ease flawlessly into the mix. Brees' comfort level with the wideout increases daily and McCardell was able to find soft spots in the defense and make the catches – until Tomlinson threw him the ball. It was a catch he should have made but was clearly too wide open. Eric Parker caught two of the five passes sent his way and his 17 yard haul in the fourth on third and fourteen paved the way for a touchdown.
The Raiders said they were going to cover Antonio Gates. That must have been why he was wide open on his first reception of the day and went 23 yards before being touched and pushed out of bounds. Eight more receptions and Gates now has a share of the NFL lead with 62. He did have two penalties in the game but his contributions on offense continue to amaze.
Prior to Sunday, the offensive line had a tough time pulling to the outside. They weren't incapable; they just didn't do it often. That changed on Sunday and Tomlinson got yards as a result. Toniu Fonoti has blocked well on the second level this year and the rest of the cast did a good job creating holes to the outside of the Raiders' tackles. The pass protection wasn't as crisp as the first nine games but held up enough to allow Brees to make plays.
Jacques Cesaire has quietly played well in run defense and the line as a whole continues to stack em up – halting the running game before it begins. They had trouble created pressure on Kerry Collins and he was able to pick apart the secondary – it wasn't his fault that his receivers could not stay in bounds or catch the ball. From that standpoint, it was one of their worst games at creating pressure.
Randall Godfrey had the hit of the year – a shot heard round Oakland. It caused a fumble which Ben Leber scooped up. Leber also had his first sack – but he didn't have to beat anyone since he was unblocked. Steve Foley had a great game in run pursuit and blocked two passes at the line. He was the most active among the linebackers. Donnie Edwards had solid positioning throughout the game and altered a few throws from Collins.
Sammy Davis will continue to get picked on. It is one of those facts of life. The trouble is he also doesn't have help over the top. So his problems seem compounded. Jerry Wilson continues to be a step slow in coverage and it may even be impacting the trust Davis has in his help. When Oakland went trips, the Chargers confusion rivaled a jock at a science fair. They were lucky that the Raiders didn't have a clue that there was a rule that says two feet must be in bounds and another that says they have to catch the ball for it to count as a reception.
There is simply no excuse for missing an extra point. That would cost you ten points in my fantasy league and the loss is worth every penny. Twenty points next year. When Nate Kaeding had a chance to make up for it, he missed a 42 yarder. You know what you are going to get with Mike Scifres. Four punts, three inside the twenty, two returns for an average of 4.5 yards.
Not sure why head coach Marty Schottenheimer didn't go for two after the team scored in the fourth quarter. The defense needed to be a bit more aggressive with the Raiders abandoning the run. There were a lot of opportunities to make plays with a little more pressure up front. The bye week may have made the team a little soft but the team still realized the importance of the game and came away victorious. Attribute that to the coaching staff keeping them focused.
Don Criqui and Steve Tasker were inept announcers for CBS on Sunday. Criqui called the Bolts defense Oakland more than a number of times and Tasker called Phillip Buchanon by the name Hanik Milligan so often that I swore Milligan had been traded. At one point, Jamar Fletcher was covering Keenan McCardell. Was this a scrimmage and no one told us? Not one correction was made by their broadcast partner and those were just a small sample of the errors that were made. It is unbelievable that they even have jobs much less a forum to spew their mindless banter of opinions that made little sense.
Chargers report card week 11: Oakland
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