Carson Palmer has emerged from semi-retirement mode and is back to looking like an NFL quarterback.
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Palmer threw two touchdown passes and Michael Bush ran 30 times for a season-high 157 yards and one touchdown to lead the Oakland Raiders to a 24-17 win over San Diego on Thursday night, the Chargers’ fourth straight loss.
The Raiders (5-4) broke a two-game losing streak and took a half-game lead over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.
Palmer threw touchdown passes of 33 and 26 yards to Denarius Moore in his second start and third appearance since being acquired in a trade with Cincinnati. He’d been semi-retired and living in Del Mar, just north of San Diego, before being traded. His next-door neighbor is Chargers coach Norv Turner. Palmer was 14 of 20 for 299 yards, with one interception.
”We had a real good rhythm going,” Palmer said. ”There were some great play calls at the right time. We still have some things to get better at, but it’s just good to come into this environment and get a win.”
The Raiders traded for Palmer after Jason Campbell went down.
”I know the man, I know what he is and what we have,” coach Hue Jackson said. ”We haven’t seen the best of him yet. He’s just warming up.”
Last December, Palmer helped crush the Chargers’ playoff hopes when he threw four touchdown passes as the Bengals stunned San Diego.
Palmer said he’s put in ”long days, long nights,” in getting back to form. ”It has been information overload at times just trying to get everything in and whittle it down into a game plan.”
Bush helped carry the load for the Raiders with his running and also had three catches for 85 yards.
The Chargers (4-5) looked dismal most of the night and lost left tackle Marcus McNeill, right guard Louis Vasquez and linebacker Takeo Spikes to injuries.
Philip Rivers struggled again as the Chargers hit their longest losing streak since they started 0-5 in 2003.
”We’re in a rough stretch right now. We get a few days off to take a deep breath,” Rivers said.
The Raiders have won three straight against the Chargers. Before that, San Diego had won 13 straight in a rivalry that dates to the birth of the AFL.
With the Chargers threatening to tie it, Rivers was intercepted in the end zone by Matt Giordano with 3:22 left. It was Rivers’ NFL- and career-high 15th interception. Rivers was sacked on consecutive plays near midfield to end the game. He fumbled on the final play, giving him an NFL-high 19 turnovers.
Rivers was 23 of 47 for 274 yards. He was sacked six times as the Raiders overwhelmed Brandyn Dombrowski, who replaced McNeill at left tackle.
”Obviously some of the offensive linemen went down and we smelled blood and we just went after him,” Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour said.
”All week our defensive coordinator said, `Hey, they can score from anywhere on the field and it’s going to be up to our defensive front to get pressure on the quarterback,”’ Seymour added. ”We knew we could get it done but it was going to be a collective effort.”
Rivers said Oakland ”in a lot of ways is built to be up 14 because they can pound it and obviously Carson played great today. They have a huge defensive front and they can just rush four and play coverage, coverage, coverage, because they know you’ve got to throw it a lot.”
The Raiders had 14-point leads in the second and third quarters, and San Diego could never quite catch up.
San Diego struggled in the first half, going three-and-out four straight times after getting a 20-yard field goal by Nick Novak on the opening drive.
Rivers was only 4 of 11 for 44 yards for a passer rating of 49.1. By comparison, Raiders punter Shane Lechler had a rating of 39.6 by going 0 for 1. Sebastian Janikowski has a sore hamstring, so the Raiders tried a fake punt from the Chargers’ 34 on their first drive. Lechler threw a pass to Jacoby Ford, who was mauled by Quentin Jammer because pass interference can’t be called in a punt formation.
Bush scored on a 2-yard leap over the pile late in the first quarter and Janikowski kicked a 23-yard field goal on the next drive. Palmer threw a 33-yard scoring pass to Moore for a 17-3 lead that held up at halftime.
The Chargers finally came to life on the first drive of the second half, capped by rookie Vincent Brown’s leaping catch of a 30-yard touchdown pass in double coverage, his first NFL score, to pull to 17-10.
Rivers completed five passes on the drive, one more than he had in the first half, and the Chargers gained 80 yards, compared to 65 yards total in the first half.
The Raiders pushed the lead to 24-10 on the next drive after Palmer found Moore for a 26-yard score. Two plays earlier, Bush gained 55 yards on a screen pass.
Brown appeared to come down with another great TD catch in the third quarter, this one for 33 yards. But referee Ed Hochuli overturned it on replay, saying that since the defender landed out of bounds with his hand on the ball, it was considered out of bounds.
”It really is pretty clear cut,” Hochuli said.
Three plays later, Rivers found fullback Jacob Hester for a 7-yard TD pass to pull to 24-17.
Notes: Raiders WR Ford left with a foot injury after a 41-yard reception late in the first quarter. … The Raiders, playing without injured Darren McFadden, rushed for 191 yards. When they beat the Chargers here in December, they ran for 251 yards.