NFL@L.A.: San Diego Chargers

Wrap-up: Chargers 38, Raiders 26

January, 1, 2012
1/01/12
6:29
PM PT

A look at a blown opportunity by the Oakland Raiders as they lost 38-26 against the San Diego Chargers.

What it means: The Raiders will never forget this day. All Oakland had to do was beat the eliminated Chargers at home and they would have won the AFC West title because the Denver Broncos already lost at home to the Kansas City Chiefs. Yet, the Raiders were thumped by the Chargers, a team that the Raiders had completely handled the past three times they met. San Diego was the better team as the Raiders ended the season losing four of their final five games to finish 8-8. The Raiders haven’t been to the playoffs in nine years and are tied for the second longest drought in the NFL.

Support for Turner: It was probably too late, but give credit to the Chargers for playing hard for coach Norv Turner. He will likely be fired because the Chargers failed to make the playoffs for the second straight year. Still, if this was the end, it was impressive.

Jackson’s prediction doesn’t come true: Oakland rookie head coach Hue Jackson predicted earlier in the season the Raiders would win the AFC West. He and his troops had their chances, but they couldn’t get it done. Next season, Jackson needs to just coach and not prognosticate.

Palmer isn’t a difference maker: The Raiders traded two premium picks (including their first-round pick in April) to Cincinnati for Carson Palmer.Palmer did throw for 417 yards, but he wasn’t the difference. Now, the Raiders have to move forward with the 32-year-old and hope he doesn’t continue to decline as he had for the past three years. The Raiders went all in for 2011 with the Palmer trade and all they got was a second straight 8-8 season and no playoff berth.

Penalty kings: To add injury to insult, the Raiders set the NFL season record for penalties and penalty yardage Sunday. Oakland was penalized 163 times for 1,358 yards, surpassing the totals of 158 penalties for 1,304 yards set by the 1998 Chiefs.

Another bad defensive day for Oakland: San Diego was awesome on offense. It had 463 yards and never punted. Expect the calls for Oakland defensive coordinator Chuck Breshnahan to be fired to get very loud.

NFL@LA Four Corners

December, 23, 2011
12/23/11
8:52
PM PT
Each Friday we will update you on the four NFL teams most likely move to Los Angeles; ranking them in order of the likeliest to call L.A. home within the next few years.

1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (7-7)

Last week:
As usual the Chargers are finishing off the season strong and as usual it might not matter. San Diego is on a three-game winning streak, their longest since Oct. 9 after losing six games in a row. San Diego’s 34-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football was perhaps the first glimpse of the team some had picked before the season to make it to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the Chargers it might be a case of too little, too late.

This week:
San Diego will face the Detroit Lions on Christmas Eve and try to keep their playoff hopes alive while preventing the Lions from clinching their first playoff berth since 1999, which they can do with a win. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has finally turned his season around and helped the Chargers outscore their last three opponents 109-38 with seven touchdown passes and no interceptions. Meanwhile running back Ryan Mathews has gained 453 of his 1,033 yards over the last four games and scored three touchdowns.

L.A. Story:
Qualcomm Stadium is far from being a modern NFL stadium, in fact it's one of the three oldest in the league, and it’s a home the Chargers have been trying to ditch for the past decade but the Q did get a slight makeover recently. Qualcomm Inc. has renamed the stadium for 10 days to "Snapdragon Stadium" until Dec. 28 to bring more attention to the company's chips for its mobile devices. Considering how the Chargers played at Snapdragon last week, the team may want to keep the name next season. If they don’t get an agreement on a new stadium by then though, the Chargers may be heading to Los Angeles in 2013.

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Wrap-up: Chargers 34, Ravens 14

December, 18, 2011
12/18/11
9:21
PM PT

A look at a dominant victory for the surging San Diego Chargers:

What it means: The Chargers are not dead yet. They have now won three straight games and are in the midst of yet another late-season charge. This was impressive because the Chargers knocked around an elite AFC team. This is the Chargers’ team we’ve been waiting to see. San Diego has outscored its last three opponents by a combined score of 109-38. San Diego is now 7-7. It trails Denver by a game and the Broncos own tiebreakers over the Chargers, but the Chargers are alive in the division and wild card race. The Chargers are now 20-2 in December and January games under Norv Turner since 2007.

Barnes storms: San Diego pass-rusher Antwan Barnes had himself a night. He had four sacks and the Chargers dropped Ravens’ quarterback seven times.

Rivers stars again: After struggling for the first 10 games, Rivers has been outstanding for the past month. He hasn’t thrown an interception in his past four games after throwing 17 in the first 10 games. Rivers he was 17 of 23 for 270 yards and a touchdown Sunday.

Mathews misses 100: San Diego running back Ryan Mathews had 90 yards on 26 carries. It broke a streak of three straight games of him rushing for 100-plus yards.

What’s next: The Chargers play at Detroit on Saturday in the final AFC West-NFC North making of the season. Both teams have playoff hopes.

NFL@LA Four Corners

December, 16, 2011
12/16/11
10:24
PM PT
Each Friday we will update you on the four NFL teams most likely move to Los Angeles; ranking them in order of the likeliest to call L.A. home within the next few years.

1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (6-7)

Last week:
The Chargers have their first winning streak (two games) since winning three straight from Sept. 25 to Oct. 9 following their 37-10 win over the Buffalo Bills. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers continued his resurgence, completing 24 of 32 passes for 240 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Chargers running back Ryan Mathews also had a big day on the ground, rushing for 114 yards on 20 carries.

This week:
San Diego hosts its last home game of the season against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football. While the Ravens are in position to finish with the best record in the AFC, the Chargers simply want to finish the season strong and be 9-7 at year’s end, which would give them an outside shot at winning the AFC West if Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos ever lost a game.

L.A. Story: As we’ve been saying for the past year this will not be the last season for the Chargers in San Diego. Next year? Well that's another story. It’s a feeling that was essentially echoed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell this week who said that Los Angeles “is a viable market in the sense that we know there are millions of fans in that market who want to see football return there but we want it to return in a successful way, and that requires a stadium. I don't think we'll be in a position to make that decision by 2012, but we'll continue to work with the different alternatives in Los Angeles and hope that we get a solution that will work.”

Los Angeles will not be in a position to break ground on a stadium until the spring of 2012, which is too late for a team to move. A relocation notice by a team would have to be made in writing to the commissioner by Feb. 15 so the most likely date for the NFL’s return to Los Angeles continues to be February 2013. This fact, by the way, is not lost on all the parties involved despite what they might say otherwise publicity.

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Wrap-up: Chargers 37, Bills 10

December, 11, 2011
12/11/11
6:10
PM PT

A look at the San Diego Chargers' solid 37-10 win over the Buffalo Bills.

What it means: The Chargers won their second straight game after losing six in a row. San Diego is now 6-7 but is two games behind Denver with three games to go. The Chargers have outscored their past two opponents (they won at Jacksonville last week) 75-24. But it might be too late.

Too late for Turner and Smith: Coach Norv Turner probably has to find a way into the playoffs to save his job. General manager A.J. Smith is reportedly on the hot seat as well, but he likely has a better chance to stay in San Diego than Turner does.

Rivers is back: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers continued to play well. He completed 24 of 33 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, Rivers has now gone three games without an interception. He threw 17 interceptions in the first 10 games of the season.

Smothering defense: San Diego had three interceptions and were all over Buffalo all game long.

What’s next: The Chargers have their final home game of the season in Week 15 when they host the tough Baltimore Ravens. San Diego has to find a way to beat the Ravens to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. Will the home fans come out for what may be Turner’s last hoorah in San Diego?

NFL@LA Four Corner

December, 10, 2011
12/10/11
1:31
AM PT
Each Friday we will update you on the four NFL teams most likely move to Los Angeles; ranking them in order of the likeliest to call L.A. home within the next few years.

1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (5-7)

Last week:
The Chargers finally snapped their six-game losing streak with a 38-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Finally playing against a team dealing with more drama than San Diego (new coach, new owner), Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers finally broke out of the funk he’s been in since the opening weekend by completing 22 of 28 passes for 294 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. It took 11 weeks but it was the first glimpse at the Rivers that Chargers fans thought they would see this season.

This week:
San Diego may have snapped its longest losing streak in a decade but they still haven’t won a game at home since Oct. 2. The Chargers will try to break that streak on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, another team in the midst of a slide. The Bills, which started the season 3-0, are now 5-7 after losing their last five games. If Rivers plays like he did Monday night, it will likely be six straight for Buffalo.

L.A. Story: Despite the Chargers’ win Monday night, the apathy surrounding the Chargers in San Diego following the team’s six-game losing streak remains. Sunday’s game between the Chargers and Bills will be blacked out in Southern California because 5,000 tickets remained unsold 72 hours before kickoff. To be fair, even if the Chargers were in L.A. a battle between two 5-7 teams probably would not sell out either.

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San Diego Chargers: Moving On

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
6:00
AM PT
Here are some areas the San Diego Chargers need to focus on after a 38-14 victory at the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday night:

Recap: The Chargers played their most complete game of the season — well eclipsing their previous high margin of victory of 10 points. It might be too late to save a once-promising season, but San Diego did show it is capable of dominating. The victory snapped a six-game losing streak for the Chargers, who are now 5-7 and tied with Kansas City, two games behind AFC West leaders Denver and Oakland.

Biggest area to fix: It’s difficult to pick at something after this effort. In every San Diego loss this season, the team made crucial mistakes. There wasn’t any big issues Monday night. However, the Jaguars did take a 14-10 lead in the second quarter by scoring touchdowns on back-to-back drives — so it wasn’t a perfect night.

Biggest area to build on: There was promise everywhere, but give credit to quarterback Philip Rivers. Rivers is having his worst NFL season. He has played well for pockets of most games, but has made way too many mistakes overall. Monday, Rivers was fantastic. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 294 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Rivers hasn’t thrown an interception in the past two games. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rivers was particularly effective on deep passes. He completed 8 of 10 passes for 209 yards on passes of 15 yards or more, including all three of his touchdown passes.

What to watch for: San Diego hosts reeling Buffalo on Sunday as it tries to keep its faint playoff hopes alive. The 5-7 Bills have lost five games in a row.

Wrap-up: Chargers 38, Jaguars 14

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
9:00
PM PT

A look at night of revival for the San Diego Chargers:

What it means: The streak is over. The Chargers slapped around the Jaguars to end a six-game losing streak, the team’s longest losing in 10 years. San Diego is now 5-7 and tied with Kansas City in the AFC West. Both teams are two games behind Denver and Oakland, both 7-5.

The difference: The Chargers could have easily won all seven of their losses. But they made crucial mistakes late in games to blow it. San Diego coach Norv Turner told ESPN his team hadn’t been a “well-oiled machine.” Monday, the Chargers were the team we’ve been expecting to see all season. This was perhaps San Diego’s best overall game of the season.

Welcome back, Philip: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers had his best game of the season. He was the typically aggressive Rivers who excelled with the deep pass. Rivers completed 22 of 28 passes for 294 yards with three touchdown passes. Most importantly, Rivers was not intercepted. Three days before his 30th birthday, Rivers showed he is still an upper-echelon quarterback.

Healthy weapons: It helped that he had healthy receiving weapons. Malcom Floyd was back after missing a month with a hip injury. Rivers hit Floyd, receiver Vincent Jackson and tight end Antonio Gates a combined 14 times for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

Injuries mount: The banged-up Chargers did not leave Florida without adding to their long injury list. Standout center Nick Hardwick and young linebacker Donald Butler both left the game for periods of time.

Is it enough to save jobs? Did the Chargers’ strong effort help coach Norv Turner save his job? No. The only way Turner likely stays is if the Chargers somehow make the playoffs — and their road is still very difficult with just a quarter of the season remaining. General manager A.J. Smith is also reportedly on the hot seat.

Gaither starts: Because of major issues on San Diego’s offensive line, newly claimed left tackle Jared Gaither started. He was waived by Kansas City last week. Rivers was not sacked — a great effort by a makeshift line.

Mathews looks good: San Diego second-year running back Ryan Mathews showed his great ability as he ran for 112 yards on 13 carries. He had a 31-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Defense withstands pressure: The Jaguars took a 14-10 lead in the second quarter with touchdowns on consecutive drives. But San Diego’s defense buckled down and took the Jacksonville offense out of the game.

What’s next: The Chargers will try to keep the momentum going at home against the struggling Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

NFL@LA Four Corners

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
10:52
PM PT
Each Friday we will update you on the four NFL teams most likely move to Los Angeles; ranking them in order of the likeliest to call L.A. home within the next few years.

1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (4-7)

Last week:
The Chargers lost their sixth straight game, their longest losing streak in a decade, as Tim Tebow once again worked his magic in leading the Denver Broncos to a 16-13 overtime win. The Chargers jumped out to 10-0 lead in the second quarter but as has been the case this season, they were unable to close it in the second half. Philip Rivers was a non-factor in the second half and in overtime. The struggling quarterback has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions during San Diego’s six-game losing streak.

This week:
San Diego might finally get a chance to break their slide against another team rumored to be coming to Los Angeles in the Jacksonville Jaguars when they square off on Monday Night Football. It will be the first game for the Jaguars since Wayne Weaver announced he was selling the team to Shahid Khan. It will also be the Jaguars first game under new coach Mel Tucker, who replaced Jack Del Rio. The Chargers may be looking for a new coach soon as well if Norv Turner isn’t able to turn this season around after missing the playoffs last year.

L.A. Story: San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders listed his 2012 priorities before he left office in November and they were to eliminate the city’s budget deficit, expand the convention center, improve Balboa Park, and get the Chargers a new stadium. The problem is the only way for the Chargers to get a new stadium according to team officials is if it’s tied to a convention center expansion which is something the Sanders is not on board with. In fact, he believes both are on two separate tracks. As long as that remains the case it seems like the convention center expansion will go through while the Chargers stadium will remain stuck in neutral.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver 16, SD 13 (OT)

November, 27, 2011
11/27/11
5:19
PM PT

SAN DIEGO -- A look at an overtime thriller on an 80-plus degree day by the sea, where the Denver Broncos beat the San Diego Chargers 16-13:

What it means: Denver is now 6-5 and has won five of Tim Tebow's six starts. It trails Oakland by one game. San Diego has lost six straight games and is 4-7. Cue the Norv Turner-gets-fired talk. It will probably happen at the end of the season.

Tomorrow’s talker: What do you think? Tebow’s second NFL overtime game ends in victory. The kid got better as the game went on and once again he proved he gives this team a chance to win. The NFL’s wildest, unlikeliest story continues.

Miller (and Doom) time: Denver pass-rushers Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller are continuing to be a nasty duo now that Dumervil is healthy. Dumervil had two sacks and Miller had one Sunday. Dumervil has all 5.5 of his sacks in the past four games. Miller now has 10.5 sacks this season. He is four sacks off of Jevon Kearse's NFL rookie sack record.

Philip Rivers' protection caves in: The Chargers are playing without six offensive linemen. Think about that. That’s mind-boggling. They did a solid job last week at Chicago and for parts of Sunday’s game, but the protection did collapse late.

Third-down conversion: Denver football leader John Elway said he wants to see Tebow improve on third down. Denver improved some, but it wasn’t great. It was 5-of-16.

Mathews comes on strong: San Diego running back Ryan Mathews played well -- and he didn’t fumble, which was has been a problem. He had 137 yards on 22 carries. He played winning football Sunday.

What’s next: San Diego plays at Jacksonville on “Monday Night Football” and Denver plays at Minnesota. Both are very winnable roadies.

NFL@LA Four Corners

November, 25, 2011
11/25/11
10:12
PM PT
Each Friday we will update you on the four NFL teams most likely move to Los Angeles; ranking them in order of the likeliest to call L.A. home within the next few years.

1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (4-6)

Last week:
The Chargers lost their fifth straight game of the season to the Chicago Bears. After a 4-1 start to the year, the Chargers now find themselves tied for last place in the AFC West. San Diego fell behind the Bears 31-17 in the third quarter before losing 31-20 and continued their trend of listless second halves in the process. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers also continued his wildly forgettable season by throwing two more interceptions. He now has an NFL-high 17 interceptions to go with six fumbles, by far the most turnovers in the league for a single player.

This week:
San Diego’s last win of the season came Oct. 9 in Denver when Tim Tebow came off the bench and replaced Kyle Orton and nearly led the Broncos to a comeback win. The Chargers will now attempt to break their losing streak by beating Tebow and the Broncos again. Since that game San Diego has lost five straight while Tebow has led Denver to a 4-1 record.

L.A. Story: Chargers president Dean Spanos recently said the team’s slump won’t affect their efforts to build a new stadium in San Diego. “A new stadium is a long-term, big-picture benefit for San Diego,” he said. “I think people understand that.” Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani has also continued to say that a new stadium tied to a convention center expansion is the “last and best chance” to keep the Chargers in San Diego. If the Chargers continue to lose and miss the playoffs for the second straight year, their “last and best chance” may already be over before the debate on a new stadium can even begin.

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Wrap-up: Bears 31, Chargers 20

November, 20, 2011
11/20/11
5:57
PM PT
A look at another San Diego stumble:

What it means: The Chargers have now lost five straight games and they are falling out of the AFC West race. San Diego is 4-6 and it is two games behind division-leading Oakland, which is 6-4 and has already beaten San Diego.

Rivers’ struggles continue: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers had a solid day as he threw for 280 yards on 21 of 31 passing. He threw two touchdowns. However, he threw two more interceptions in the fourth quarter. Rivers has made critical miscues in the fourth quarter in all six of the Chargers’ defeats this season. Rivers has thrown 17 interceptions in 10 games. It is his highest interception total of his career.

Vincent Jackson has a big game: The San Diego receiver had 165 yards receiving on seven catches. He also had a touchdown. Jackson has to be a major part of the offense for the rest of the season.

Mathews has ball security issues: Second-year running back Ryan Mathews had a tough day. He fumbled twice and lost one. Mathews had just 37 yards on 13 carries.

The offensive line holds up: Credit the makeshift San Diego offensive line. Playing without three injured starters, the line did not give up any sacks Sunday. The Chargers will have to keep it up on the fly. The San Diego Union Tribune reports that left tackle Marcus McNeill may miss the rest of the season with a neck stinger.

Cutler wins dual: Rivers lost his first game playing former AFC West rival, Jay Cutler, since 2008. Cutler threw for 286 yards in the win.

Defense sagging: The San Diego defense has been giving up way too many big plays during this five-game losing streak. It looks tired and overmatched.

What’s next: The Chargers host Tim Tebow and the hot Denver Broncos in Week 12.

NFL@LA Four Corners

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
2:59
PM PT
Farmers Field Courtesy of AEGRaise the roof? Wait. Where's the roof? AEG design drawing included a "deployable" roof plan.
Each Friday we will update you on the four NFL teams most likely move to Los Angeles; ranking them in order of the likeliest to call L.A. home within the next few years.



1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (4-5)

Last week:
The Chargers’ fall from grace continued last Thursday night as San Diego lost its fourth game in a row, this time to Oakland Raiders at home, 24-17. The nationally televised game was for first place in the AFC West and once again Philip Rivers failed to step up to the occasion, throwing an interception and fumbling the ball on San Diego’s last two drives to tie the game.

This week:
San Diego now travels to Soldier Field to play a 6-3 Chicago Bears team which has won four games in a row. Last week the Bears beat the Detroit Lions 37-13 and Chicago’s defense forced six turnovers, its most since 1995, and kept the Lions out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter. During the Bears’ four-game winning streak they have forced 12 turnovers while the Chargers have turned the ball over 11 times during their four-game slide.

L.A. Story:
While the latest schematics were revealed for Farmers Field this week, the Chargers still have yet to show any kind of artist renderings for their proposed retractable roof stadium and convention center expansion in downtown San Diego. The Chargers, however, could take a page out of the Farmers Field book for those in San Diego skeptical of building a roofed stadium in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. Farmers Field will feature a “deployable” roof that would only be used when needed for conventions and events like the Final Four but would be an open-air stadium. Tim Romani, president and CEO of ICON Venue Group, said the design could only work in cities like Los Angeles and San Diego where the weather is usually nice and easy to predict.

(Read full post)

NFL@LA Four Corners

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
3:35
PM PT
Each Friday we will update you on the four NFL teams most likely move to Los Angeles; ranking them in order of the likeliest to call L.A. home within the next few years.

1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (4-5)

Last week: The preseason Super Bowl match-up some had predicted in the preseason between the Chargers and the Green Bay Packers lived up to expectations with Green Bay winning a thrilling 45-38 shootout in the rain. Unfortunately for Chargers fans, Philip Rivers has yet to live up to expectations this season. He threw three interceptions in the game, including one on the game’s final drive to tie and send it into overtime. Two of his interceptions were returned for touchdowns and the third almost was returned for a touchdown as well before Packers safety Charlie Peprah was pushed out at the six-yard line to end the game.

This week: The Chargers' fall for grace continued Thursday night as San Diego lost its fourth game in a row, this time to Oakland Raiders at home, 24-17. The nationally televised game was for first place in the AFC West and once again Rivers failed to step up to the occasion, throwing an interception and fumbling the ball on San Diego’s last two drives attempting to tie the game.

L.A. Story: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders on Thursday before the game to discuss where the city is with the Chargers’ plans for a new downtown stadium. The league would like the Chargers to remain in San Diego but Goodell admitted Qualcomm Stadium, in addition to the stadiums in San Francisco and Oakland, need to be drastically renovated or completely replaced for the teams to be financially competitive. “The three stadiums in California certainly are not up to the standards we’re seeing in the rest of the NFL or, frankly, other sports,” he said. “[Stadiums] are expensive projects. They take a public and private partnership and the players have recognized that and are contributing to that.”Asked about the prospect of the Chargers moving to Los Angeles, Goodell took the same stance the league always takes when L.A. comes up. “Until there's an appropriate solution in Los Angeles,” he said. “There won’t be a team there.”

(Read full post)

Palmer, Raiders take control of Chargers

November, 10, 2011
11/10/11
11:36
PM PT

SAN DIEGO – This is why the Raiders traded for Carson Palmer.

This is why no one trusts that the San Diego Chargers will ever live up to expectations.

In an entertaining and unpredictable start to what could be a spectacularly wild second half in the AFC West, the Oakland Raiders took ownership of the division by setting the tone offensively and defensively against a home San Diego team that can only be described as floundering.

In a game featuring big-armed quarterbacks, it was Palmer who outdueled a still-sagging Philip Rivers in a 24-17 Oakland win.

In the process, the Raiders raised their record to 5-4 and are now alone in first place in the AFC West. San Diego has lost four consecutive games and is spinning out of control at 4-5. Kansas City is 4-4 and it hosts Denver, 3-5, on Sunday. If the Chiefs beat the Broncos, who beat Oakland last week, they will be technically ahead of Oakland owing to Kansas City's victory over the Raiders in Week 7.

This game had the feel of two teams scrambling to stay alive.

The reality of the three-way tie in the division was that no team had established itself as a quality squad, nor had any team showed that it was ready to be anything but first-round playoff fodder for stronger AFC competition come January.

Oakland had lost consecutive divisional games at home by a total of 42 points — and with a rusty Palmer and without star running back Darren McFadden, was lacking an identity on offense.

San Diego entered the game losers of three in row, games they could have easily won and in which Rivers made crucial mistakes.

The Raiders made necessary adjustments in a short week. The Chargers added to their misery.

“It had a feel of a desperate game,” Oakland defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. “We talked all week about just letting it go and doing whatever we could to get this win.”

The Raiders followed a formula they have used against San Diego for the past three years — they punched them in the mouth and controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, the Raiders used a beautiful combination of Palmer converting key long passes and McFadden caddie Michael Bush jamming the ball down the Chargers’ throats. Bush, one of the best backups in the NFL, had 157 yards rushing on 30 carries. He had 78 yards on13 carries in the first quarter.

Thursday night represented a return of the Oakland offense that was clicking so well in the first six games, before former starting quarterback Jason Campbell broke his collarbone. In the first six quarters of the Palmer era – Oakland acquired him from Cincinnati two days after Campbell was hurt in exchange for two premium draft picks – Oakland’s offense was out of sorts.

They couldn’t run like the NFL's best running attack, and Palmer looked just like what he was – a guy coming off his couch after a nine-month layoff, with completely new teammates.

If Thursday night’s crisp offensive showing by Palmer and the Oakland offense is any indication of things to come, the Raiders must be considered the favorites to win the West for the first time in nine years.

You have to think Palmer will keep getting better as he continues to practice with his stable of new, young receivers.

“I like what he is bringing to our team,” Seymour said. “We needed another leader and you can see the affect he is having on the young guys. … It’s good to have him here.”

Palmer threw for 299 yards and made some terrific passes when needed most. He did commit two turnovers – he has eight in 10 quarters with the Raiders – but he clearly is getting on track in Oakland. He and rookie receiver Denarius Moore connected five times for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Palmer was 4-for-4 on passes of 21-plus yards for 146 yards Thursday night. The late Al Davis would be proud of the new Oakland quarterback who showed his arm is still a top weapon.

“What he is doing is phenomenal,” Oakland coach Hue Jackson said of Palmer.

While the season's second half started on the right track for Oakland, San Diego is mired in problems. As the Raiders' offense dominated the Chargers' defensive front, the Oakland defensive line did the same to the battered San Diego line, which played much of the game without three starters.

Four days after being humiliated by the Tim Tebow option runaway train, Oakland teed off on Rivers. He was sacked six times and it was an Oakland jailbreak on nearly every play. Oakland linebacker Kamerion Wimbley had four sacks himself. He said the constant pressure took a “toll” on Rivers.

“We knew it was on us,” Seymour said. “We wanted to get in Rivers’ face on every play.”

It worked. Now, Rivers has to face the fact that his team is no longer that 4-1 squad in need of a wee bit of tweaking — but rather under .500 and leaking oil fast. After the game, Rivers, who threw another fourth-quarter interception Thursday, again had no answers for the problems.

Rivers and San Diego had better figure out something soon, or this once-perennial Super Bowl contender is going to be on the outside looking in come January for the second consecutive year and potentially facing major changes in the offseason.

Oakland has already endured major change during this season, and it is starting the stretch run better for it.

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TEAM LEADERS

PASSING
Philip Rivers
ATT COMP YDS TD
544 378 4478 32
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
R. Mathews 285 1255 4.4 6
D. Woodhead 106 429 4.0 2
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
K. Allen 71 1046 14.7 8
A. Gates 77 872 11.3 4