Maybe it's because he is the definite starter from here on out, but Jason Campbell played with far better poise in this game than in any other as a Raider. Sure, he had that two-game stretch from Week 7 to 8 in which he threw for over 500 yards and four touchdowns, but against the Chargers on Sunday, Campbell looked the part of a field general.
The protection was fair and great at times. But regardless, Campbell stood tall and delivered the ball with great confidence. Whether he was dropping back or on the move, there was a noticeable ‘oomph' to Campbell's play. And when Campbell decided to run, he made those decisions swiftly and with great success—a season-high 37 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
Campbell was 10-of-16 on the day, throwing for 117 yards and a touchdown. With the Raiders relying on their ground game, Campbell simply had to keep the defense honest. But when he had to, he stepped up (literally and figuratively) and made the plays, including a nifty Brett Favre-esque shovel pass (which was ruled a run) to Michael Bush that initially looked liked it was going to be a negative play but turned into a gain of 24 yards.
Running Game: A
The story of the game will be how the ice cold running game of the Raiders managed to run for 251 yards against the red hot Chargers defense. With Campbell throwing only 16 passes, it was the running game that led the way for the Raiders.
After two poor weeks, Darren McFadden was back to his early season form. McFadden finished with 97 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. He finally had some room to work with at the line and he capitalized on whatever open space he got. Furthermore, once he got a full head of steam behind him, McFadden displayed the power and strength he's had for most of the season. This was perhaps most noticeable on his fourth quarter touchdown run: McFadden rushed off tackle to the left, avoided one defender and then put his shoulder down and plowed over Chargers safety Eric Weddle. By the way he fell to the turf, Weddle certainly got the worst of that meeting.
Michael Bush ran the ball 23 times for 95 yards and a touchdown. 24 of those yards came on that nifty shovel pass from Campbell that was ruled a lateral. Nonetheless, it was another impressive performance by Bush, who seems to play better whenever McFadden is on top of his game. It's a mutual relationship that works very well: McFadden opens things up and keeps the defense on their toes while Bush comes in to punish them.
Receiving Game: C
Forget the fact that Campbell didn't have to throw all that much but when he did, the opportunities were there for his receivers to make the play but they often times didn't.
Two of the top three receivers for the game were running backs: Fullback Marcel Reece with three catches for 42 yards and McFadden with three grabs for 30 yards. Louis Murphy caught two passes for 36 yards but he could have had a lot more. On one play, Campbell threw a beautiful ball down the right sideline that would have gone for a touchdown had Murphy kept both feet inbounds. On another play, Murphy nearly made a circus grab of one pass but it wouldn't have counted anyway because of a holding penalty.
It's confounding how Zach Miller has been non-existent in the Raider offense in the past few weeks. Miller caught only one pass for five yards and while part of that is due to defenses keying in on the Raiders' top receiver, Campbell needs to keep feeding his big tight end. There were a couple of poorly thrown balls to Miller but overall, Miller needs to be targeted more often.
Jacoby Ford scored for the second consecutive week with a touchdown grab in the first quarter to put the Raiders up 13-0. It was his only catch of the day. Chaz Schilens (finally) returned to the lineup and was targeted a few times but did not register a reception. Darrius Heyward-Bey was held without a catch for the fourth consecutive game and it's an utter disappointment when his biggest contribution to the game was drawing a holding penalty against the Chargers secondary.
Offensive Line: A
While the defense will get most of the credit for the victory, the offensive line deserves major kudos. The line held strong against the Chargers' defensive front and only allowed sack for the game.
Cooper Carlisle, Samson Satele and Langston Walker stood out especially. The right side of the Raiders line did an excellent job creating initial push but was especially effective when on the move. Walker drew a silly personal foul penalty when he shoved a defender after the play, but it's one of those penalties you don't mind because he was defending his quarterback after Campbell fell to the ground and a Chargers defender approached him.
There is still a long way to go before this unit can instill consistent confidence but on Sunday, they did just enough and then some. Jacques Cesaire was a tough assignment to draw but the offensive line never let him get going for any extended stretch of time. In the run game, the unit paved the way for two near 100-yard rushers. Again, they were particularly effective running the ball to the perimeter, where they were able to showcase their great lateral speed.
Defensive Line: A+
The Chargers obviously like to pass the ball but no team wants to be one dimensional on offense. Well, that's exactly what the Raiders line made Philip Rivers and company into—a one dimensional team.
The Raiders set the tone early and kept it up until the Chargers virtually quit running the ball. San Diego ran only eight times all game—a fact that the local reporters will no doubt press Norv Turner about. Mike Tolbert carried the ball seven times for a meager 16 yards.
The pass rush was excellent throughout the game and one of the things said throughout the night in the press box was how this was the most pressure Philip Rivers has seen all year long.
Rivers was sacked four times but could have easily been taken down a lot more. John Marshall had a great game plan going as he switched things up early and often. Sometimes the Raiders rushed with four. Other times they brought the house. Sometimes it came from the front four. Other times they brought pressure from all around. Whatever the case, the Chargers offensive line had a tough time figuring out who was coming from where and it forced Rivers to make some early decisions. Furthermore, the Raiders tested the officials' throwing arms as they were especially physical against Rivers.
Rolando McClain has now had two consecutive games with seven tackles—a career high. While he's been adequate all year long, he's really stepped things up a bit in the past couple games and it might be a sign that the game is finally slowing down for him.
The Raiders have always held that they like their linebackers to play hard and fast. They certainly did that in years past but it was largely ineffective because they played out of control and were too slow to react. For the most part, the linebackers have been consistent this year, playing all around the field with intensity and effort. This current group of Raiders linebackers are equally as impressive playing in coverage and open space as they are against the run and in traffic. Sunday was a great example of that as McClain, Kamerion Wimbley and company played with a controlled havoc.
Whatever success the Raiders' front seven had against the Chargers is thanks to the excellent coverage provided all night by the secondary. That is, the pass rush was able to put pressure on Rivers because he either had nobody to throw to or took a split second longer to make a decision.
Sure, Rivers threw for 280 yards. But that stat is diminished by the lack of any running game for the Chargers and Rivers' completion percentage of 59 and an overall quarterback rating of 79.0, his second worst rating this season.
Save for one unfortunate series when he committed two consecutive penalties, Stanford Routt play well overall. Michael Huff had a key interception in the first quarter that led to a Raiders touchdown and Mike Mitchell was solid all night and it's become evident that he is the most reliable tackler on the roster. That is, when Mitchell gets his hands wrapped around a defender, more often than not it's going to register as a tackle.
Stevie Brown had a breakout performance. He finished with five tackles in the game, tied for most among Raiders defensive backs with Routt. But perhaps his best play of the night was a pass deflection in the endzone during the fourth quarter that might have gone for a touchdown. Brown channeled his inner Dwight Howard on that play, as he was trailing the receiver but timed his jump perfectly to swat the ball down to the ground.
Special Teams: B+
The special teams didn't do much but then again, it didn't have to.
Sebastian Janikowski did not attempt a field goal for the first time this season. Shane Lechler attempted four pants that only averaged 40 yards. However, three of those four punts were downed inside the 20-yard line while another went for a touchback.
Rock Cartwright had a nice return off a kickoff that went for 28 yards. Off three kickoff returns, Jacoby Ford gained 52 yards. Johnnie Lee Higgins had two punt returns for 17 yards. 16 of those yards came off of his first attempt in the first quarter.
Darren Sproles muffed a punt in the first and Hiram Eugene recovered the ball, leading to a Raiders score.