The Week Ahead

The San Diego Chargers face the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Qualcomm stadium. This is a game with major playoff implications as both teams sit at 8-4 atop the AFC West with the Chargers currently owning the tiebreaker advantage. The Chargers won in Oakland on Oct. 20th, 27-21 in overtime.

In the first meeting between these two teams, the Chargers took a 7-0 lead into halftime with a touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Reche Caldwell. It was the first and last time the Raiders would be held scoreless in the first half this season. On the first possession of the second half, Brees connected with LaDainian Tomlinson to extend the lead to 14-0.

The Raider stormed back to tie the game on the first play of the fourth quarter as Rich Gannon hit Jerry Porter on a quick slant pattern from 17 yards out. Gannon had hit Jerry Rice for a touchdown with 5:21 left in the third quarter. Brees ran 1-yard for the go-ahead score with 7:18 left in the fourth. The Raiders then tied the score with just over a minute remaining in the game on a pass from Rich Gannon to Jon Ritchie for a 7-yard score.

After winning the toss in Overtime, Brees led the Chargers within field goal range. On first down from the Oakland 19, after converting two 3rd and 10's, LaDainian Tomlinson ran 19 yards for the winning touchdown allowing the San Diego Chargers to beat Oakland 27-21.

Key stats from that game

The Chargers shredded the Raider defense for 172 yards on the ground, led by LaDainian Tomlinson who gained 153.

Brees finished 16-of-25 for 170 yards and two TDs.

Gannon completed 35 of 45 passes for 361 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for the Raiders.

The Raiders only ran the ball 12 times for 37 yards in the game.

Sebastian Janikowski missed two field goals, one from 27 and another from 48.

The Chargers went 4-4 in the red zone while the Raiders went 3-5, the difference in the game.

Last Week

The Raiders beat the NY Jets 26-20 behind the emotion of Tim Brown and his 1,000 reception on Monday night in Oakland. Combined with the solid passing of Gannon who completed 31 of 42 for 342 yards, the Raiders overcame 10 penalties to secure the win. One play after Brown caught his 1,000th pass Gannon hit Rice for a 26 yard touchdown. Chad Morten fumbled a punt which Oakland recovered. Four plays later the Raiders had a 20-10 lead. Chad Pennington brought the Jets back in the fourth quarter by came up short after being sacked by Rod Coleman and then throwing an interception to Rod Woodsen on the final plays of the game.

The Chargers won their third overtime game of the season with a 30-27 win over the Denver Broncos on a Steve Christie field goal. Tomlinson ran for 220 yards on 37 carries and also added 11 receptions for 51 yards for an incredible 271 yards from scrimmage. Brees was a competent 27 of 41 passing for 217 yards. Despite missing 3 field goals in the game Christie came up big when given a second chance. He had one blocked from 38 yards out and after Jason Elam missed one from 53 yards out, Christie hit his redemption kick from 27 yards to win the game.

The Skinny

The Chargers will try and continue to ride the success of Tomlinson who is just 33 yards behind the team record of Natrone Means for yards rushing in a season (1,350) that Means set in the Super Bowl year of 1994.

The Chargers run defense has hit many snags of late. They have been unable to stop Ricky Williams of Miami and Clinton Portis of Denver in consecutive weeks. Added to the pain is the loss of potential Pro Bowler Jamal Williams for the season. Now they face the dual pronged attack of Charlie Garner who is a threat in the rushing game and the receiving game.

Rich Gannon has also been on fire all season long. He has nine-300 yard passing games on the season and is leading the short passing attack to perfection.

Sebastian Janikowski has also played well as he went 4-4 on his field goal attempts against New York. He had missed two against San Diego on Oct. 20th.

Keys to the Game

1. Third down. The Chargers must be as stout on defense against Oakland as they were against Denver on third down. The Chargers held the Broncos to just 2-13 third down conversions and with the Raiders leading the perfect passing attack they need to hold them to third and long.

2. Throw deep. Brees must lead a passing attack that stretches the field. The Raiders are still hurting in the secondary and the Chargers may be able to toast them deep with Oakland concentrating on the run.

3. Bump. The Chargers secondary must play close to the line of scrimmage and bump receivers off the timing Gannon has developed with them all.

4. Don't forget the little guys. The Raiders have eight players with 10+ receptions and will look to get those players involved if too much concentration is put on their star receivers.

5. Special teams. Seems like a constant every week. Now that Wade Richey is gone, and James Tuthill has been added the Chargers may experience more pain in this area. The hope is the transition brings stability to the unit.

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