Friday, October 14, 2005 | There is no love lost between this bitter rivalry of AFC West foes. The Silver and Black possess a lethal attack that can go toe-to-toe with San Diego’s scoring machine. Oakland claimed its first victory of the 2005 season before taking a week off to prepare for the Bolts. A trio of tough losses has the Chargers in need of a strong showing on defense or they risk being on the wrong end of a do-or-die battle.
Déjà vu. Calling this contest a must-win is starting to sound redundant. Seems like that storyline was touted in columns like this for four consecutive weeks. A setback in Oakland could literally send the Chargers into a Black Hole at 2-4. There are several squads in the AFC capable of posting 10 victories, which translates into an 8-2 finish to seriously contend for a postseason spot. A 3-3 mark does not seem much better until realizing the Raiders represent one of the easiest marks on the schedule.
In the Zone. San Diego’s remarkable red zone success rate took a small hit as two of three drives inside the Steelers 20-yard line ended with Nate Kaeding splitting the uprights. The second-year kicker set a career-high mark with three field goals on Monday Night, but touchdowns are mandatory against an imposing Oakland offense. The Chargers have converted 13 of 18 opportunities into touchdowns, which translates into the second most prolific scoring attack in the NFL. A league-best 48.3 third-down conversion percentage is a key to controlling the clock and putting points on the board.
Closing the Deal. Fourth-quarter woes continue to haunt the Bolts. Opponents outscored the Chargers 27-12 in the final stanza of their three losses. San Diego owns a 20-3 fourth quarter edge in its two victories, plus a 28-0 advantage in the third quarter of those contests. Bottom line: second-half surges equal successful results.
No Passing Fancy. Neither side has shown an ability to slow aerial attacks. Oakland can go deep consistently thanks to Randy Moss, however it surrenders just as many long bombs to the opposition. Drew Brees thrives on accuracy, not airing it out 40 yards downfield, which makes perfect sense considering Antonio Gates and Keenan McCardell are not regarded as deep threats. In fact, San Diego’s All-Pro tight end leads the team with 14.8 yards per reception.
On the other hand, Moss averages 24.5 per catch and is going the distance on every down. Quarterback Kerry Collins is feeling the positive effect Moss’ presence provides. He is throwing for more than 250 yards per game and has six TD tosses, including a pair to Moss. Collins has not been picked off this season and owns a streak of 139 attempts without an interception.
Crossing Jordan. LaMont Jordan is the other prized offseason addition on Oakland’s offense. A balanced mix of runner and receiver, Jordan leads the team in rushing yards and receptions. He ran for merely 148 yards in the Raiders’ three losses before leading the way to victory with 126 rushing yards against the Cowboys. Seem to recall Dallas limiting LaDainian Tomlinson to 72 yards on the ground in the season opener. That was then, this is now. L.T. darted and dashed for 440 yards throughout the last four games. He leads the NFL with nine touchdowns and ranks third in rushing. Fantasy owners revel in Tomlinson’s unprecedented scoring streak, which stands at 17 consecutive games with at least one rushing TD.
Rivalry Revisited. San Diego has won three straight against Oakland after dropping 10 of 12 to the Raiders from 1997-2003. Two of the last three tilts between these foes in Northern California went into overtime with each side claiming a victory. Last season, San Diego did not need extra time and silenced the Raider Nation, 23-17.
Kevin Aron is a freelance writer in San Diego and outright sports junkie. Kevin has worked in college sports information, sports agent offices and, most recently, as managing editor of DIRECTVSPORTS.com for nearly five years.