Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Personnel, Etc.

The Raiders got an eyeful in the Monday night game. Pittsburgh whipped San Diego 24-22. It was revealing since the Steelers did two things the Raiders hope to do -- run the ball and stop LaDainian Tomlinson from doing that to them.

That makes for an interesting parlay. The Raiders, everyone assumes, are best when throwing the ball. They are often at their worst in stopping Tomlinson.

Over the last three years, Tomlinson is averaging 146 yards a game against the Raiders. During that time, he has averaged 5.7 yards a carry. The killer was his 243-yard outburst in San Diego in the final game of the 2003 season when he averaged 7.8 yards a pop.

So, are the Raiders serious? They say they are and only needed to look as far as Tomlinson's 18-carry, 62-yard showing against Pittsburgh -- after which Tomlinson said he had never faced a better rush defense -- to gain confidence it could be done.

"They were very disciplined in terms of no one jumped out and gave up a gap," Raiders coach Norv Turner said of the Pittsburgh effort. "Second, they are a zone blitz scheme so they're going to hit some runs for no gain. Third, they tackled extremely well."

All have been Raider issues. Their lack of discipline was their hallmark a year ago. They are not a zone blitz team. Their tackling has been hideous in the past.

But the Oakland players believe things are different this year and for evidence they cite that they held Corey Dillon, Priest Holmes and Julius Jones under four yards a carry -- in fact, combined, New England, Kansas City and Dallas averaged 3.2 yards.

"In the past, we were a totally different team," LB Danny Clark said of this year's Raider defense. "The mind set, the accountability, the man-for-man (commitment) was totally different than it is now. Now, everyone really understands where they fit in this defense.

"Everyone knows where to be and we play to the strength of our defense. That (strength) is gang tackling, understanding you have support on the inside ... and that is where we have become a better football team."

The other part of the San Diego equation involves the Raiders' offense. Run or pass, what will it be?

Turner says it will be run -- and it has a lot to do with the Tomlinson threat.

"I'd like to see LaMont Jordan get 25 carries in the game," he said. "That would do two things. It would help us do the things we have to to win the game and that is to keep the ball some. If we can get some run going, it would help (wide receivers Jerry) Porter and (Randy) Moss and the guys in the passing game."

All of which runs counter to what has happened up to now this year. San Diego ranks No. 26 in pass defense, the Raiders No. 5 in passing offense. The Raiders want to run but currently rank No. 27 in that department while San Diego is No. 7 in run defense.

It may not make sense or it may be a ploy to throw the Chargers off the scent. But it certainly appears to be the way they plan to go in the game that will go a long way toward determining their 2005 future.

SERIES HISTORY: The teams have been at each other's throat since 1960 with the Raiders leading 54-34-2. San Diego has won the last three games including a 42-14 win in San Diego last year that was the Raiders' worst and possibly San Diego's best game of the year. The Raiders were also coming off a bye last year when they faced the Chargers at home only to lose 23-17, three weeks after the rout in San Diego.


-- The Raiders know San Diego RB LaDainian Tomlinson all too well.

"He reminds me of Barry Sanders back in the day," DE Bobby Hamilton said.

What is reminiscent of Sanders is the way Tomlinson is able to stop on a dime, change directions, and be back at top speed almost within a single step. It makes for the biggest conundrum a defensive player can face -- go at him for the tackle full speed and be prepared to whiff or pause to wait to see where his next move is and risking being too late to make the stop.

"It's been my experience in this league with guys like that that you have to shoot your shot," MLB Danny Clark said. "So, if you are an outside guy, you take the outside leg away and send him back to the other 10 guys on your defense. That's playing good, smart team football."

Hamilton agrees.

"You just have to go full bore and play ball," he said. "That's because you never know -- he might do a spin on you, might cut, might make you break an ankle. You can't think about it (what move he will make). When you think like that, it slows your game up wondering `What's he going to do next?'

"You can't prepare for that. You just have to have 11 guys on the same page. You've got to gang tackle. He's like the great backs who rushed for over 10,000 yards. You never get a solid lick on them. You might get them, but it has to be a deep team effort.

"We know this guy is a big-time back. The dude can do a lot of things, so we have to prepare ourselves ... and if we don't, it's going to be a long day for us."

-- Much discussion this week has focused on whether the Raiders have an advantage with the bye week prior to the game against San Diego -- which will be facing the second of three straight opponents who are coming off byes.

Furthermore, the Chargers must travel up the coast after playing on a Monday night.

"They know how to block that stuff out and go play," Raider DE Bobby Hamilton said. "This is a division game and that's the only thing we're worried about, not who got the most rest."

San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer put no stock in the seeming disparity either.

"Let me ask you this question, would it make any different if it concerned me?" he said. "So on that basis, it doesn't concern me."

-- Raiders QB Kerry Collins' thoughts on the bye week were similar. "You know, the bye week always comes at the perfect time ... whenever it is," he said.

-- Collins has been getting a load of questions about the fact that he has thrown a career-best 149 straight passes without being intercepted.

It seems to have him thinking about it ... perhaps too frequently.

"It's always a fine line between being aggressive and taking chances at times and being smart with the ball," he said. "More times than not, you're going to be safer by not trying to force something in there. But guys like Randy (Moss) and Jerry (Porter) can go high and get it. There's probably a little more room for me to take chances.

"But at the same time, if I was sitting here with a bunch of interceptions, we'd be talking about it the other way."

-- The Raiders stand 31st in the league in third down offensive success, but LG Langston Walker thinks improvement in the running game will make a difference.

In the Raiders' last game, LaMont Jordan had his first 100-yard game against Dallas, which had not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 14 games.

"It definitely will help," Walker said. "If the opposing team figures we're going to start running it down their throats, they are going to put more guys in the box and that opens it up for Porter and Moss and the rest of our wide receivers and tight ends and skill guys. It will open it up deep for them."

BY THE NUMBERS: 3-11 -- The Raiders have only won three of their last 14 overtime games after winning 10 of their first 14.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He better." -- WR Jerry Porter, when told that San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer had commented on how much he respects Oakland's wide receiver corps.


Barring a change in strategy, the Raiders will get the strongest test of their rush defense with LaDainian Tomlinson. Oakland ranks No. 6 in the league in terms of yards allowed per rush even though the Raiders have played nickel defense almost exclusively since Week 2.

If Tomlinson can beat a team with a two-linebacker alignment, the Raiders are in a position to re-insert big 'backers Tyler Brayton and Grant Irons as a changeup. This is significant since, according to LB Danny Clark, the goal is to "neutralize (Tomlinson) and make (QB) Drew Brees make all the decisions."

The Raiders have been reserving CB Charles Woodson to cover the opposing player they consider the most dangerous receiver on the opposing team since Week 2. In order, he was largely responsible for Kansas City TE Tony Gonzalez, Philadelphia WR Terrell Owens and Dallas WR Terry Glenn.

If that trend continues, that would probably mean Woodson would be isolated on Chargers TE Antonio Gates. Last year, Gates hit the Raiders for 13 catches for 164 yards and three touchdowns.


-- C Jake Grove said he believes he can play in Sunday's game, which would be quite a fear inasmuch as he had arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 3 that was supposed to sideline him three to four weeks.

-- FB John Paul Foschi is expected to return to the active roster after missing two games with a sore knee.

-- K Sebastian Janikowski is only in his sixth NFL season but he already ranks No. 6 on the Raiders' all-time scoring list with 579 points.

-- RB Zack Crockett is one rushing touchdown shy of Mark van Eeghen for third place on the Raiders' all-time rushing touchdown record (34). Marcus Allen holds the record at 79 and Pete Banaszak is second with 47.

-- QB Kerry Collins passed the 30,000-yards passing plateau earlier this year, making him the 25th QB in league history to do so.

GAME PLAN: They claim they want to get RB LaMont Jordan 25 carries and keep the ball out of San Diego's hands, but there is no ignoring the fact that the Chargers' pass defense has been somewhat leaky. Oakland's thinking is that with the threat of Randy Moss deep and San Diego's philosophy of preventing the big play by keeping opposing receivers in front of them, the Chargers will not bother to put an extra man in the box. Ball control is vital to Oakland, which has not had a superior time of possession in any of their first four games this year.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: With CB/S Charles Woodson likely to be assigned to TE Antonio Gates, rookie CB Fabian Washington is liable to be facing a dangerous seasoned veteran in WR Keenan McCardell. DE Derrick Burgess, who had two sacks against Dallas, will be looking to get to QB Drew Brees but must work his way through LT Roman Oben first. The confrontation of WR Randy Moss vs. CB Quentin Jammer with safety help over the top from Shawon Jue should be quite a battle, but the Raiders are sure to think they will have something else to work with -- WR Jerry Porter singled up against Drayton Florence. The Raiders have had trouble neutralizing SILB Donnie Edwards since his days in Kansas City which puts pressure on RT Robert Gallery and TE Courtney Anderson to deal with him.

INJURY IMPACT: Although C Jake Grove has told coach Norv Turner he thinks he will be able to play after arthroscopic knee surgery (torn cartilage), Turner said the decision will be left up to the team's medical staff. Turner did say, however, that Grove's injury, once thought to keep him out four weeks in a best-case scenario, was progressing far more rapidly than expected and that there was an excellent chance he could be back in the lineup next week against Buffalo. LG Langston Walker missed Wednesday's practice with a strained muscle in the rib cage area suffered lifting weights on Monday. He was expected to practice Thursday and play Sunday, however.

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