MMML: Monday Morning Middle Linebacker
Were the embellished words of Marty Schottenheimer pinned to the bulletin board motivating? The Raiders did exactly as the famous Raider-killing coach said they couldn’t; they finished. They finished off plays, they finished off the game and now the streak of 13 consecutive losses against the Chargers is finished.
The Raiders defeated Norv Turner’s Chargers, 35-27. The Raiders scored nine points on special teams and seven on defense to overcome the Chargers passing parade.
Philip Rivers passed for 431 yards and two touchdowns. Malcom Floyd had eight receptions for 213 yards and one touchdown. Antonio Gates added five receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown.
Bruce Gradkowsk injured his shoulder and was replaced by Jason Campbell who went on to go 13 of 18 for 159 yards and a touchdown. Michael Bush rumbled for 135 total yards and one touchdown.
The Raiders blocked Mike Scifres first two punt attempts, the first by Rock Cartwright went through the endzone for a safety. The second was blocked by Brandon Myers and Hiram Eugene scooped and scored to put the Raiders on top 12-0.
The Raiders switched up their defensive strategy against Rivers, blitzing frequently and dropping into zone coverage. Rivers started dumping passes into the flat to his backs and when given time he hit on long passes against the soft coverage.
It was reminiscent of the game against the Eagles last season, but the pressure was not getting to Rivers like it got to Donovan McNabb. Credit the Chargers offensive line for a brilliant performance.
It wasn’t until the Chargers were marching down the field to score the game-winning field goal that defensive coordinator John Marshall tweaked his strategy. Knowing his defense would have a hard time stopping the Chargers from getting into field goal range, Marshall dialed up the pressure a notch and sent eight rushers at Rivers three plays in a row.
Marshall left three players in the secondary in man coverage on the outside. Mike Mitchell broke up a pass intended for Antonio Gates just before Marshall’s defense put the game away.
The much maligned safeties combined on the game-winning play. It was Michael Huff who had the sack fumble of Rivers and Tyvon Branch who scooped it up and returned it 64 yards for the touchdown. Chris Johnson, burned twice and the recipient of a pass interference call, hit a Chargers offensive lineman attempting to recover the fumble.
The Raiders run defense was stout. It appears Matt Shaughnessy at defensive end and Trevor Scott at linebacker made a difference. The run defense forced a fumble at their own one-yard line and allowed only 91 yards on the ground.
Nick Miller’s first punt return was a good one as he dodged a would-be tackler at the ten and returned the ball to the Chargers 46-yard line.
Bruce Gradkowski will have a MRI on his shoulder, but is the Raiders starter if healthy, according to Tom Cable.
Robert Gallery should be back against the 49ers and it will be interesting to see if the Raiders consider shifting Loper to RG in light of Carlisle’s struggles.
Darren McFadden’s status is uncertain next week and the Raiders can’t count on him to be ready. Expect a heavy dose of Bush again this week.
Nick Miller will retain his job as the primary punt returner.