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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
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.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
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.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
-- 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
-- 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
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.
Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Personnel, Etc.
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