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Raiders take sole possession of first place

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Jerry Rice wasn't having a good day, a
40-year-old receiver losing the battle to a rookie cornerback.

Question on the Raiders: Will they be able to ride this win to home-field advantage in the AFC?
I think so. The Raiders are the best team in the AFC right now. Offensively, they're hitting their stride, and the pressure the offense puts on opponents makes the job easier for the Raiders' D. The Raiders went through that four-game skid, but I don't see them losing again this season.

Question on the Chargers: Do you expect them to still secure a playoff spot in the next three weeks?
Yes. With Denver's recent slide, the Chargers have overtaken the Broncos in the wild-card race. The Chargers lost to a better team today, but they'll bounce back. I believe that Marty Schottenheimer will find a way to get his team to the postseason.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

With one catch by the future Hall of Famer, it all changed. Rice
beat Quentin Jammer for a 56-yard gain and the momentum was all
Oakland's en route to a 27-7 win over the San Diego Chargers on
Sunday that gave the Raiders sole possession of first place in the
AFC West.

The Raiders may be getting old, and people keep waiting for them
to wear down, but boy can they can still play.

"In a game of this magnitude, you want to do something big,''
Rice said. "I think I was pressing too much. That one really
jump-started us.''

The Raiders and Chargers came in tied for the division lead, and
the Raiders (9-4) turned the showdown into a knockdown, thanks to
Rice, quarterback Rich Gannon and a defense that bottled up
LaDainian Tomlinson and handed San Diego's Drew Brees his first
career three-interception game.

Gannon, who turns 37 on Dec. 20, set an NFL record with his 10th
300-yard game of the season, throwing for 328 yards and breaking a
tie with Dan Marino, Warren Moon and Kurt Warner. He was 26-of-41,
with no touchdowns and no interceptions, and crossed the 300-yard
mark with a 9-yard pass to Rice midway through the fourth quarter.

The two-time division champion Raiders won their fifth straight
game and won for the sixth time in seven years in San Diego, where
half the crowd of 67,968 was dressed in Raiders silver and black.

"This was definitely one of our best games because no matter
what they did out there, no matter what running play, no matter
what passing play, we always felt like we were in control,''
linebacker Bill Romanowski said.

San Diego (8-5) has lost four of six since its 6-1 start.

The Raiders led just 13-7 midway through the third quarter but
the game began to change when Brees threw behind Tim Dwight, and
Tory James intercepted at the Raiders 13.

Two plays later, on third-and-six, Rice burned Jammer by turning
a short pass from Gannon into a 56-yard gain. Jammer, San Diego's
first-round draft pick, went for the ball and missed. Rice caught
it, turned and raced downfield until safety Rodney Harrison tackled
him at the San Diego 27.

Five plays later, Zack Crockett scored on a 1-yard run to give
the Raiders some breathing room at 20-7 with 2:12 left in the third
quarter.

"The way the defense played today, I felt we had to take
advantage of some of the opportunities, and that was one of them,''
Gannon said.

Chargers linebacker Junior Seau described Oakland's offense as
"dink and dunk, and then they hit a big play in the middle on
third down. Those things really hurt you.''

On the next Oakland drive, Gannon hit Rice for 9 yards on
third-and-5 to go over 300 yards and move the ball to the Chargers
23. Tyrone Wheatley scored on a 4-yard run to make it 27-7.
Crockett converted two third-and-1 situations on the drive.

Tomlinson was held to 57 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries.
He set the Chargers' single-season rushing record with 1,375 yards,
eclipsing Natrone Means' 1994 record of 1,350 yards on a 4-yard run
up the middle early in the third quarter.

Tomlinson was coming off a team-record 220 yards in a 30-27
overtime win over Denver. On Oct. 20, He ran for 153 yards at
Oakland, including a 19-yard touchdown run to win it 27-21 in
overtime.

But the Chargers couldn't turn to Tomlinson because they never
had control of the game.

"We were outplayed. The Raiders obviously came in ready to
play,'' Tomlinson said.

"Our guys put a lot of hits on No. 21,'' Oakland coach Bill
Callahan said of Tomlinson. "I thought that was one of the
deciding factors.''

Oakland went ahead 10-0 on Charlie Garner's 4-yard touchdown run
and Sebastian Janikowski's 51-yard field goal in the first quarter.

The Chargers pulled to 10-7 when Tomlinson dove over the top of
the pile for a 1-yard touchdown with 5:04 left before halftime.

Janikowski was wide left on a 49-yard attempt with 2:24 to go,
but then connected from 20 yards out with 13 seconds left on a
drive set up by Rod Woodson's interception.

Rice had seven catches for 113 yards. Brees was 22-of-41 for 259
yards and no touchdowns.

"I'm upset when I have games like this,'' Brees said. "What
frustrates me is that some of the picks were bad throws.''

Game notes
Tomlinson went from having 37 runs and 11 catches against
Denver to just 18 rushes and 4 catches. ... The crowd of 67,968 was
the second-biggest home crowd in Chargers history. The biggest was
68,274 against Green Bay on Oct. 24, 1999.

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