AFC West: Al Davis. Jim Plunkett
October, 10, 2010
By Bill Williamson | ESPN.com
Kyle Terada/US PresswireJason Campbell helped the Raiders end a 13-game winless streak against San Diego.
OAKLAND -- Three weeks ago, Jason Campbell was being compared to JaMarcus Russell, another Oakland Raiders whiff at quarterback.
Sunday, he was the catalyst behind ending The Streak.
In one of the most wild and entertaining games of the young NFL season, Campbell was the unlikely hero of an unlikely Oakland victory in a game that had mind-numbing twists and turns. Oakland stunned San Diego 35-27 to complicate and tighten the AFC West. The win also ended the Raiders' 13-game losing streak to the Chargers, which was the second-longest streak of dominance in the NFL (New England has beaten Buffalo 14 straight times).
But now the Raiders have a leg up on the Chargers thanks to the forgotten man.
“It feels good after everything I’ve been through,” a composed and humble Campbell said Sunday evening. Campbell was the recipient of the game ball from coach Tom Cable, who may have taken himself off the hot seat with the win.
The Raiders' organization lauded Campbell for being the savior of the franchise when it acquired him in a draft weekend trade with Washington. Oakland soon cut ties with Russell, a major flop after being the No. 1 pick in 2007. This summer, Oakland owner Al Davis compared Campbell to Jim Plunkett, a hero of the Raiders’ glory years.
However, the good feelings about Oakland’s new quarterback didn’t last. He was replaced by spunky backup Bruce Gradkowski after six quarters. Gradkowski sparked Oakland to a win over St. Louis. Gradkowski kept the job because he gave Oakland’s offense life that Campbell couldn’t.
Gradkowski’s free-wheeling ways fit with Oakland’s athletic skill position players and his never-say-die approach helped him survive poor offensive line play.
However, Gradkowski went down in the first quarter Sunday with a shoulder injury. He played one series to open the third quarter, but it was clear he couldn’t perform at a high level.
Campbell, however, could and did. After a sluggish start, Campbell led Oakland on two long drives in the second half.
“I picked up Jason against St. Louis and he picked me up today,” Gradkowski said. “It’s exciting.”
Gradkowski said he should know more about his immediate future Monday. If Gradkowski has to miss some time, Oakland is now confident again in Campbell. Sunday, he managed the offense very well and was much more mobile than he was in his previous stint. He completed 13 of 18 passes for 159 yards.
Oakland, San Diego and Denver, which lost at Baltimore on Sunday, are all tied for second place in the division at 2-3. Kansas City, which became the final NFL team to lose with a defeat at Indianapolis on Sunday, leads the division with a 3-1 record.
Had Oakland lost this game, it would have been 1-4 and the team would be in a major hole. Now, there is hope.
The following are some other key factors in the game:
AP Photo/Tony AvelarA fumble by Philip Rivers late in the fourth quarter gave the Raiders some breathing room.
The call: It won’t make up for the Tuck Rule Game in New England for the Raiders. Nothing ever will.
But the Raiders saw a major call go their way Sunday in a game in which the ball seemed to bounce in Oakland’s direction all day long.
Oakland had just taken a 28-27 lead on a 3-yard touchdown run by Michael Bush, who had 104 rushing yards on 26 carries subbing for the injured Darren McFadden.
Still, there was 3:39 remaining and Philip Rivers was having a brilliant game.
Rivers, who threw for 431 yards Sunday (two weeks after throwing for a franchise-record 455 yards in a loss at Seattle), brought San Diego deep into Oakland territory, as he had done all game.
Needing a field goal to take the lead, Rivers brought the Chargers to Oakland’s 23, but a penalty knocked them back to the 33. On second-and-20 with 58 seconds remaining, safety Michael Huff blitzed and hit Rivers, forcing him to fumble.
The ball bounced towards the Chargers, but ended up in the hands of Oakland safety Tyvon Branch, who scooped up the ball and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown, giving Oakland a 35-27 lead.
Of course, the play was reviewed. But replays showed that Rivers’ arm was not going forward when he was hit. It was oh-so-close. But it was the right call.
“We were due for one,” Cable said.
Something has to be done in San Diego: Simply put: the San Diego Chargers are blowing their season.
This isn’t one of the classic San Diego slow starts. This is the case of a team killing itself. In all three San Diego losses, all on the road, the Chargers imploded.
San Diego dominated the Raiders. But it killed itself with terrible miscues. Special-teams disasters and fumbles -- same old 2010 Chargers.
Oakland blocked two punts in the first five minutes of the game, which directly resulted in nine points. San Diego, which had a punt blocked earlier in the season, allowed three return touchdowns in its previous two losses. Giving up 30 points on special teams in five games is not going to fly.
You have to start wondering about the job security of San Diego special teams coach Steve Crosby. Is it all Crosby’s fault? Of course not. But the Chargers cannot keep letting the special teams lose games. They are too talented.
However, the special teams are not the lone culprit. San Diego has committed 13 turnovers in five games. San Diego fumbled twice in the red zone Sunday, including once at the goal line in the first half.
These are no longer pesky little problems. They are costing San Diego games and perhaps a chance to defend the division for the fifth straight time.