Now, the torture known as the 2003 season in which the Oakland Raiders posted a 4-12 record is mercifully over after a 21-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Could this be Bill Callahan's last game as Oakland's head coach? Well, more on that later.
This day, however, belonged to San Diego running back extraordinaire LaDainian Tomlinson, who rushed for 243 yards, bringing his season total to 1,643 yards, on 31 carries and a pair of touchdowns. Tomlinson also caught eight passes for 17 yards. Tomlinson finished the season with 100 receptions, most in NFL history by a 1,000-yard rusher. Tomlinson tallied 260 yards from scrimmage. The Raiders as a team totaled 134 yards as the special teams did all of the work.
The game started with shades of that game. San Diego marched 62 yards on 10 plays on its first possession, capped by LaDainian Tomlinson's 2-yard run up the middle.
Oakland, however, weathered that early storm and used its special teams to even the score at 7-7 with 4:39 left in the second period. Phillip Buchanon fielded a Darren Bennett punt at his own 20-yard line. He made a quick juke on San Diego's David Binn and raced 80-yards to paydirt.
The Chargers took a 14-7 lead with 43 seconds left in the half when Drew Brees hit David Boston for an 18-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone. Boston beat Buchanon on the play with a double-move pattern with the latter biting on the first move.
Oakland's special teams then evened the score at 14-all with 24 seconds left in the half. San Diego committed an encroachment penalty on the ensuing kickoff, forcing a rekick.
Doug Gabriel made the Chargers pay dearly.
Gabriel fielded the kick at his own 15 on the left side before working his way to the right. Gabriel used Alvis Whitted, Shurron Pierson and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila blocks to gallop 85 yards for a touchdown.
The game remained tied until 11:42 remained in the fourth quarter when Tomlinson scored on a 2-yard run up the middle, making it 21-14 Chargers. That score was set up by a Nnamdi Asomugha face mask infraction on Boston that nullified a Clarence Love third down sack on Brees that would have forced San Diego to settle for a 50-yard field goal attempt.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com