Although the pundits hailed this game as a coming out party for the San Diego offense, this game started off as anything but. Philip Rivers pulled his best Ryan Leaf impersonation on his interception three plays into the game, and the Raiders immediately pounced with a 40-yard bomb to Rod Streater. Pryor looked incredibly sharp through the first half, and it is definitely reassuring to note that Pryor has started to run out of bounds and be careful and deliberate with his runs. He doesn’t seem to instinctively take off, but instead is willing to scramble to get his receivers open. Pryor came out firing in the first half with 13/18 for 141 yards and 2 TD’s, adding 30 yards rushing on 4 attempts. The second half was much less efficient, but Pryor and the offense still pulled together a great time-killing drive, ending with a long Janikowski field goal to put the Raiders up 27-17.
The Raiders receivers in particular showed up in a big way at home. Moore, Streater, and Butler all connected on critical receptions. Butler’s 20-yard reception late in the game, in particular, was a sigh of relief and a much-needed conversion to put the Chargers away for good. It is encouraging to see that the youth of the receiving corps is finally a benefit and not a hindrance, as these receivers seem to be getting better and better at helping Pryor move the ball downfield.
The defense had a bend-but-don’t-break mentality against an explosive San Diego offense. Rivers moved the ball well, but a goal-line stand despite being 1st-and-goal from the 2 yard line helped keep the shutout through the first half. As Rivers received better protection, however, he was able to pick apart the secondary, bringing the Chargers within a score with over seven minutes remaining. Three turnovers from the defense helped seal the game, however, as Charles Woodson recovered a fumble for a touchdown (tying an NFL record for defensive touchdowns) and got Philip Rivers’ final interception of the night. DJ Hayden was picked on a lot throughout the night, but it was his redzone interception to prevent the Chargers from pulling within three points that let Raiders fans sigh in relief.
The special teams also stood out well tonight. Janikowski made both of his field goals, including a 50-yarder from the dirt, Marquette King punted well all night, and they forced another turnover for the second straight week. They also had a blocked field goal, but San Diego was able to advance the blocked field goal for a first down…bittersweet moment for most Raiders fans.
This was a true team win in the latest West Coast game in NFL history. Against a division rival, Oakland made a statement: Pryor and this offense are legit, and Woodson and this defense are good enough to force turnovers and seal wins. This game was well worth the late start time, and it was a great win for Raider Nation. Gone are the rumors of Freeman replacing Pryor, and now everyone truly knows how good Pryor can be. Sorry if this article doesn’t make as much sense as normal, it is almost midnight after all, but the Raiders were well worth staying awake for.