Escape from Oakland

The San Diego Chargers moved to 7-3 on the year with a win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Nothing was pretty about it and a year ago their luck would probably have run out. But Sunday, the team found out it could play poorly and still win.

It is not a habit the Chargers would like to find themselves in again anytime soon. They had their share of miscues and at another time those errors would have been a foreshadow of doom.

  • A blocked extra point in the opening stanza impacted how the Chargers went about business the rest of the game.

  • The Bolts committed nine penalties to the tune of 90 yards but the Raiders had 76 yards of penalties and theirs had more impact.

  • Lorenzo Neal, despite having two hands on the ball, fumbled inside the Raiders five yard line as the Bolts were poised to score. They could have gone up 13-0 at that point and a potential rout could have ensued.

  • Sammy Davis drops a sure interception – but Ronald Curry one-ups him by dropping a bomb from quarterback Kerry Collins that could have been a touchdown and game-winner.

  • Three chances from the one yard line to punch it in and the Chargers settle for a field goal.

  • Nate Kaeding misses a 42 yard field goal.

  • It seemed like everything that could go wrong did.

    It was one of those games where the football Gods shined down on San Diego – for a change.

    Polling the team on whether this team would have won such a game in 2003 led to a unanimous decision – not a chance.

    "Two years ago, I would not have said that but certainly last year," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "A deer in the headlights look.

    "The dynamic is far different than it has been since I have been here."

    "I think last year that wouldn't have happened to us," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said of pulling out the victory. "Just for the simple fact that's how it was going for us."

    And the fortunes say there will be no monumental collapse as there was in 2002. When a team can find a way to win despite its shortcomings, they are destined for something greater.

    It is the ugly wins that define a football team and this team needed a win as they had on Sunday. It keeps the focus in check. There is no walk through the park on a Sunday in the NFL. And the gut check on Sunday – and San Diego's ability to weather the storm - says a lot about their confidence and demeanor. They believe they can win the close ones, as much as they prefer the blowouts.

    "This is the kind of win we needed," linebacker Steve Foley echoed. "It kind of tested us, especially at the end. We kept making countless mistakes, which we can't have but we found a way."

    "You are not always going to play your best but good teams generally find a way to win when they are not playing their best," said Schottenheimer.

    Only a few times this year has the head coach alluded to the success of the team. Good teams find a way. Whether it is a lucky bounce, a call that goes their way or simply skill, no team will play its best through a 16 game season. By winning on Sunday, they proved they can duke it out at close quarters and still come out with a win.

    After successive blowouts, the game on Sunday served its purpose. They must continue to work hard in practice and carry that attitude over to the games.

    Linebacker Randall Godfrey agreed, "We practice to prepare ourselves for these situations. Every game is not going to be a blowout. It is going to be tight coming down to the end."

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