AFC West Rival Breakdown: Oakland Raiders

Coming into the 2010 season, the San Diego Chargers had beaten the Oakland Raiders 13 times in a row. It seemed as if all Charger fans could tack on 2 extra wins no matter what the schedule was, just because we got face Oakland twice. In 2011, the story changed for the Bolts as week 5 rolled around and they headed to Oakland.

If you were watching this game against Oakland, you would have noticed that there was one major factor that led to the black and silver coming away with the victory. That factor was Special Teams. Every single time Mike Scifres had the ball snapped to him to punt, Charger fans nationwide would cringe just hoping that somehow he would get the ball of before Oakland defenders got to it. So here’s the rundown. A minute into the game and the first punt of the day. Scifres is snapped the ball, he sets up and BAM, blocked right through the back of our own end-zone for a safety. Okay, this could be a long day for the Bolt Nation. Later in the 1st quarter Scifres sets up, BAM, blocked again! This time returned 5 yards by Hiram Eugene for a touchdown. Now Charger fans are really steaming. Somehow, those were the only 2 punts to get blocked for the day were not the end to our woes. Here is a video recap of the 2nd punt block by Oakland.

After halftime the Bolts lead 17-15 and Malcolm Floyd adds some confidence as he hauls in a 41 yard pass from Rivers to extend the lead to 24-15. Oakland strikes back with its own touchdown to tight end Zach Miller, now it’s 24-22. Now it’s the 4th quarter and this is where the Chargers thrive. We drive all the way down field into range and Nate Kaeding splits the uprights to make it 27-22. Now it’s time for a defense to hold. Just under 4 minutes left in the game, Oakland has made it all the way down the field, and Michael Bush pounds it 3 yards into pay-dirt. Now it’s 27-28 and obviously Oakland sets up to go for 2 so that their lead extends to 3. Jason Campbell takes the snap, drops back and looks for Louis Murphy. The ball is out and Murphy can’t come down with it, the 2 point conversion is NO GOOD! This is the clutch time for Rivers as he has 3:39 seconds left to go in the game and he has been virtually unstoppable through the air all day!
Rivers starts at his own 28 yard line, and passes his way chunk by chunk down the field until we find ourselves in Oakland territory. Okay, perfect now we are at the Oakland 23 and Gates gets caught holding. Bring it back 10 yards. No biggie, Kaeding can hit that easily. 1st and 20, Rivers looks to Floyd, incomplete. 2nd and 20, Rivers drops back and there is pressure in the pocket from Oakland’s Huff who sacks Rivers back another 3 yards. Rivers goes down but WITHOUT THE BALL! FUMBLE, and Oakland snags it up and returns it 64 yards to seal the deal. Norv Turner and the Chargers challenge the call on the field but the decision is upheld. Rivers and the Chargers got one more chance and needed a touchdown now with a 2 point conversion just to tie, but unfortunately get held to their own 42 yard line as Oakland took their first win against San Diego in 13 games!

So now that we see that Oakland can actually give us a run for our money, let’s take a deeper look at what kind of weapons we are looking at when facing the Raiders in 2011.
1. Darren McFadden
After being drafted to Oakland and having a stellar collegiate campaign, Run DMC never quite got past the rookie/injury stage to bring his game up to the NFL level. That all changed in the 2010 season when he kicked on the burners and started amassing the yards and touchdowns. So what makes him a big threat for 2011? The fact that once he found his groove he put together a stunning 1157 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. The one attribute Raider fans should be excited about is that he is very physical and a strong which leads to a large number of 20+ yard touches. He amassed 14 of them just in 2010!

2. Taiwan Jones
Taiwan actually goes to the same college as I do, Eastern Washington University. I have had the opportunity to see this kid play in real life and I will tell you one thing! THIS KID CAN RUN! He truly is a sub 4.3 in the 40 yard dash and will bring an extremely talented and diverse weapon to Oakland special teams and offense as long as he can stay healthy.

3. Pass Defense
The Oakland Raiders had the 2nd ranked passing defense in the league in 2010. They only fell short to one other team, the San Diego Chargers! With the potential departure of stud DB Nnamdi Asomugha, the Raiders will be facing a challenging season to keep up their high ranking. Not all of the credit for the Oakland pass defense should be given to Nnamdi though, and to be honest most quarterbacks are too scared to throw in his direction. Free safety Michael Huff put together a solid 2010 with 3 INT’s, 7 passes defended, and 3 forced fumbles. Cornerbacks Chris Johnson and Stanford Routt will be taking care of business once again in 2011 after combining for 22 passes defended, 4 INT’s, 2 TD’s, and a forced fumble last season.

What is Oakland’s downfall right now?
They can’t seem to put together an offensive passing game. This is great for the Chargers because not only do the Raiders not have an aerial attack, the Chargers have the highest ranked pass defense in the league. With a struggling Quarterback and no receivers stepping up to help, Oakland will once again find themselves relying on the run game solely to put together some notches in the “W” column this season. The lone bright spot in their receiving game continues to be tight end Zach Miller. Let’s just put it this way, Darren McFadden had just 100 yards less receiving than #1 WR Louis Murphy (who only had 609).

Every team has it’s own Achilles tendon and weak spot, but with our Special Teams flaws hopefully fixed this season Oakland will have to put something together offensively if they plan on giving us a run for our money. 2011 will bring a showdown of all showdowns when Oakland heads to San Diego for Thursday Night Football!

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