Corners provide electrifying plays

The Chargers secondary has been criticized in recent weeks for its breakdowns in coverage and its lack of big plays. While there were still breakdowns against the Raiders, the big plays more than made up for it.

Although Chargers were outplayed for most of the afternoon, three members of the secondary came up with momentum-altering plays that allowed the team to win its fifth consecutive game.

It started early in the second quarter with the Chargers trailing 7-0. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, filling in for the injured Michael Turner, returned a Sebastian Janikowski kickoff 91 yards to the Oakland 12-yard line. The San Diego offense, which had been stagnant to that point, scored two plays later when LaDainian Tomlinson ran in from four yards out.

That momentum didn't last long, however, as the Raiders quickly regained control of the game. Oakland took back the lead on its first possession of the second half, as Aaron Brooks connected with rookie John Madsen for a two-yard score. Madsen set himself up by hauling in a 57-yard pass one play prior.

Early in the fourth quarter, Oakland was positioned at the San Diego 25-yard line, looking to go ahead by two scores, until another member of the Chargers secondary came up with a big play. Quentin Jammer intercepted an errant pass by Brooks and returned it 35 yards.

"I give a lot of credit to Oakland," Jammer said afterwards. "They had a great scheme coming in and they were effective with that scheme. Once we got it figured out, then we were okay."

The turnover set the Bolts up at midfield. The offense quickly took advantage of the field position – the ensuing drive ended with a 19-yard pass from Tomlinson to Antonio Gates, tying the game at 14.

After the Chargers claimed their first lead of the game on a 10-yard score by Tomlinson, the defense needed just one more big play to seal the victory. This time, it was Drayton Florence who came up big, picking off Brooks with less than two minutes remaining and boosting his team's record to an impressive 9-2.

"It was good to get one, but we have to keep getting them and making big plays," said Florence of his interception.

The Chargers cornerbacks have been making big plays in bunches this season, and their success is directly correlated to the team's impressive record. Jammer and Florence have combined for six interceptions already this season; that duo picked off just two passes in 2005.

Things will only get easier for the secondary in the coming weeks, as Shawne Merriman and Luis Castillo return to the lineup to make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks. But, in their absence, the secondary did more than enough to keep the wins coming.

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