Chargers praise Oakland's progress

Perhaps there is satisfaction when one of the better teams in the league, as hard as that is to admit, offers praise of the Oakland Raiders. Then again, maybe not in a game they should have won.

Of course, given some of the circumstances, it didn't really mean much.

But the praise was offered in heaps by nearly everyone in the San Diego locker room after the game:

"I have to give credit to their defense," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "That is as good a defense you will see. They have solid players over there, but we knew that coming in. We knew that and respected it. Those guys, if they were to be a team that would score a bunch of points, tough as our division is, would be even tougher.

"This game was already tough, but look back at some of the games they've lost. If they could have put up 21 or 28 points week to week they would be right there in the hunt for this division."

"Oakland has an excellent defensive football team," head coach Marty Schottenheimer admitted. "They play man to man and try to smother you there and rush with four defensive lineman and don't need to blitz. We worked as hard on this one as any this year because that defense is damn good.

"When you play man-to-man coverage and rush with four -- in my opinion that's the way I'd play defense if I could. When I was in Kansas City and Cleveland that's what we did, we played man-to-man. You've got him, you've got him, you've got him, and let's go play ball. That is hard to defeat that.

"I think we had a total of 18 plays in the first half. We were one of five on third down. We ended up two of 11. You have to give credit to them.

When you have a front four that can put pressure on the quarterback it affects everyone. It affects the quarterback, the receivers - they can do that. When it is man-to-man instead of zone those windows aren't big. You have to give them credit. We scored 21 points off a defense that was allowing 14.6 points over the previous six games.

Even their arch-nemesis, LaDainian Tomlinson, was quick to praise the Oakland defense.

"They had been eager to come up and block the run," said Tomlinson. "They get paid too. For the most part they held me in check.

"They are getting better. There is a reason all the games are close in the division. They almost beat Denver. They almost beat KC and they almost beat us."

"The Raiders are a good football team," cornerback Quentin Jammer admitted. "A credit to the Raiders. They had a great scheme for us."

Even the losses have piled up, Oakland head coach Art Shell also sees the progress.

"I've said this, and our record does not indicate it, but we are a much better football team today than we were at the beginning of the year when we played this team."

But the Raiders remained in awe of how the game played out. They had the momentum. They had the crowd. The fumble that wasn't a fumble changed it all.

"No question, the momentum turns back around in our favor," quarterback Aaron Brooks said. "Plaxico Burress did that right after he got in the league He caught the ball, spiked it, and it was a fumble.

"What's the difference between a spike and a little flippity-flip, or whatever he did?"

And the loss – Oakland doesn't believe it would have lost if that play had been ruled in their favor.

"I believe we would have (won), yes," Shell said.

The loss, their seventh in a row in the division, stings, but perhaps there is a silver lining. Oakland is an improved team. Is that enough? Not if you ask any Raider.

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