Chargers Extend Streak, Gain Ground in West

The Chargers jumped in front with 21 first-half points and the defense closed the deal with four second-half sacks as San Diego topped Oakland, 24-16, on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium. The win, combined with Denver's loss in Baltimore, brings the Chargers within two games in the AFC West.

Sunday's victory over the Raiders was bittersweet. The Chargers were happy to earn their second consecutive win and climb over .500 for the first time since 2007, but there was a small sense of disappointment that the game was so close.

The Chargers' two turnovers kept the Raiders in the game. Vincent Jackson had a pass bounce off his hands and into the arms of Chris Johnson late in the first quarter. Then, late in the third quarter, Darren Sproles fumbled a punt return after the Chargers had the Raiders pinned deep. Those two turnovers led to 10 of Oakland's 16 points.

"Those couple plays just kept us from taking complete control," Norv Turner said. "Jackson had the ball go out of his hands at the 40 going in, and Sproles' fumble on the punt gave them field position and momentum."

LB Shawne Merriman
Harry How/Getty
The Chargers were able to sustain Oakland's late charge and win the game on defense. Ron Rivera's unit answered the bell with Oakland driving for the tying score late. Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips each had one of his two sacks on the decisive drive, which ended with Oakland turning it over on downs.

Chargers fans were elated to see the return of the "Lights Out" dance, as Merriman's sacks were his first since the 2007 season.

"Shawne Merriman is starting to look like Shawne Merriman and continuing to grow," Turner said. "I don't think people appreciate the process you have to go through that he's going through."

Merriman wasn't the only Charger with a resurgent game. LaDainian Tomlinson put on his Raider Hater gear and scored a pair of touchdowns, his first multi-score game of the season. His first score came on a Wildcat play on the game's opening drive, marking the first time the Chargers offense has scored a touchdown on its opening drive in the last 23 games.

Tomlinson has been the central figure in San Diego's 13-game winning streak over the Raiders, the longest active streak of one team over another in the NFL.

"I remember when I first got here the intensity and the atmosphere of this game, the Raiders having a lot of fans at our games," Tomlinson said. "I wanted to make sure I did everything possible to make sure their fans go home unhappy. Thirteen in a row means 13 games their fans went home with their heads down. I love it."

Another Charger with a vintage performance was Antonio Cromartie, who corralled his first interception in the last 22 games on the game's opening drive. The play was reminiscent of the season-opener, when Quentin Jammer picked off JaMarcus Russell on the game's opening drive.

What did fans have to say about Sunday's victory? Find out in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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