Raiders end winless streak vs. Chargers

BY foxsports • October 10, 2010

Just when it looked as if Philip Rivers would lead another late drive to crush the Raiders, Oakland's beleaguered defense came up with the big play.

Michael Huff knocked the ball out of Rivers' hand and Tyvon Branch returned the fumble 64 yards for a score to help the Raiders snap their 13-game losing streak to San Diego with a 35-27 Sunday over their AFC West rivals.

"That's a heck of a team, and it's been nemesis for a number of years, obviously dating back to 2003," Coach Tom Cable said. "They've been the champ. And if you ever want to be that, you've got to beat the champ. So it's just a good win."

It sure didn't come easy. The Raiders (2-3) used two blocked two punts, two long touchdown drives in the second half led by backup quarterback Jason Campbell, and the play at the end by Branch and Michael Huff for their first win over the Chargers (2-3) in more than seven years.

That was the second-longest active streak to Buffalo's 14-game slide against New England. While only a handful of players endured all 13 losses, even the newcomers felt how big an albatross the skid had become.

"It definitely meant a lot, just seeing the guys on the sideline, how hard they were fighting," said Campbell, who replaced an injured Bruce Gradkowski. "The one thing I said was, 'You didn't give up.' And guys said maybe in years past they would have tucked it in, but this time they didn't."

After Michael Bush gave the Raiders a 29-28 lead with a 3-yard TD run with 3:39 remaining, the Chargers were driving, something they did in beating Oakland in the 2009 season opener.

Unable to cover the Chargers' talented receivers, the Raiders blitzed on play after play. Huff beat Darren Sproles and got to Rivers to hit him just before his arm went forward, knocking the ball loose. Branch raced for the score to make it 35-27 with 58 seconds left.

"I knew I had to beat the one on one," Huff said. "I had to beat Sproles. I did that and just got a hand up and luckily I hit his arm. Once I saw Tyvon running I knew he wasn't going to get caught, so I started celebrating."

When referee Clete Blakeman upheld the call on replay, years of frustration were let out by the small but enthusiastic crowd of Raiders fans.

Rivers threw for 431 yards and two touchdowns and Malcom Floyd had a career-high 213 yards receiving, but the Chargers have only themselves to blame for their third straight road loss this season, losing three fumbles deep in Raiders territory.

The last one was biggest.

"They did a good job of bringing some pressure and we tried to do some stuff to handle it, tried to get another completion or two to give ourselves the position to kick it, and they were able to make the plays to keep it out of the end zone, keep us from getting to where we needed to be," Rivers said.

The Chargers have allowed four special teams touchdowns in those three losses, including a TD and a safety following the two blocked punts after their first two drives of the game.

Campbell, benched halfway through the second game, came in after Gradkowski injured his right shoulder after being hit by Shaun Phillips late in the first quarter.

Campbell completed 13 of 18 passes for 159 yards and a 1-yard touchdown to Zach Miller, leading drives of 93 and 73 yards in the second half to give the Raiders the lead. Bush ran for 104 yards in place of injured Darren McFadden.

Rivers' 41-yard touchdown pass to Floyd midway through the third quarter gave the Chargers a 24-15 lead. The Raiders responded with the 97-yard drive. Campbell converted a third-and-1 sneak and then connected on a 58-yard pass to Louis Murphy.

The Raiders answered again after a field goal by Nate Kaeding early in the fourth quarter with their final drive.

The Chargers got off to a terrible start, having the two punts blocked in the first quarter, leading to a safety and touchdown for Oakland. They also lost a pair of fumbles deep in Raiders territory to fall into an early 12-0 hole.

But they still managed a 17-15 lead when Rivers drove them to a 43-yard field goal by Kaeding in the closing seconds of the half.

Rock Cartwright burst through the middle for the first block against Mike Scifres, knocking the ball out of the end zone for a safety. The free kick out of bounds led to a field goal that made it 5-0, and Brandon Myers blocked Scifres' second punt into Hiram Eugene's hands for a touchdown that made it 12-0 less than five minutes into the game.

"We had a problem on the right side and we thought we addressed it after the first one, but we didn't get it handled," Coach Norv Turner said.

NOTES: The Raiders had lost 19 of 20 home games against AFC West opponents, beating only Denver in 2007. ... San Diego's Antonio Gates extended his record for tight ends by catching a TD pass in his ninth straight game.

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