Chargers 34, Raiders 10
But hey—at least it’s clean.
Drew Brees threw two touchdown passes and LaDainian Tomlinson bounced back from an injury scare as the Chargers ran their winning streak to five games and brightened their playoff hopes with a 34-10 win Sunday night.
The most amazing thing, though, was that there was only one penalty— against the Chargers, not the Raiders, the NFL’s most-penalized team.
“I cannot remember the last time I coached a football game in the NFL that there was only one penalty,” said San Diego’s Marty Schottenheimer, who’s in his 19th full season as a head coach and improved to 25-7 against the Raiders. “That is absolutely remarkable, and unfortunately we had the one.”
“You could have made a lot of money betting that,” Schottenheimer said about the Raiders’ clean slate. “I couldn’t believe it.”
The Chargers (8-4) pulled within one victory of the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos.
The Broncos lost 31-27 at Kansas City, which is tied for second place—as well as the last wild-card spot—with the Chargers. The defending division champion Chargers beat the Chiefs 28-20 on Oct. 30, and the teams will play again in Kansas City on Dec. 24. The Chargers will host Denver in the season finale on Dec. 31.
Of course, San Diego must still play at undefeated Indianapolis, on Dec. 18.
The Raiders (4-8) lost their fifth straight to the Chargers. Oakland is 0-5 in the AFC West.
“We’ve been able to get up on them and just continue to pound them and pound them,” Brees said. “I think we know that if we go out and play our game and execute that that should be the result.”
San Diego got a scare when Tomlinson came out with a rib injury late in the second quarter. After talking with the team’s medical staff on the sideline, he jogged to the locker room, accompanied by a doctor, with 22 seconds left before halftime.
A few seconds later, Michael Turner ran in from the 2 to put the Chargers ahead 17-10.
Tomlinson was back for the start of the second half, carrying on the Chargers’ first two plays. He finished with 86 yards on 25 carries.
“He wanted to finish but I decided it was time to give Michael a few shots,” Schottenheimer said.
San Diego safety Clinton Hart, subbing for the injured Terrence Kiel, put the game away when he intercepted Kerry Collins’ pass and returned it 70 yards for a score with 6:29 to play. Oakland didn’t get its first first down of the second half until that drive.
“Their defense took control in the third quarter,” Collins said. “They forced us three-and-out and put pressure on the quarterback.”
The Chargers had gone up 24-10 on Brees’ 1-yard throw to Eric Parker in the third quarter. Brees was 4-for-4 for 49 yards on the 13-play, 57-yard drive.
Nate Kaeding added a 32-yard field goal. He kicked a 41-yarder in the first quarter.
Brees was 17-of-22 for 160 yards with no interceptions. He was coming off one of the worst games of his career, when he threw three interceptions and was just 22-of-44 for 215 yards and no touchdowns in a 23-17 overtime win at Washington.
Keenan McCardell became the 13th player in NFL history with 800 catches, reaching the milestone with an 8-yard reception late in the second quarter.
The Chargers’ first touchdown came courtesy of instant replay.
Tight end Antonio Gates caught a 6-yard pass from a scrambling Brees before falling out of the back of the end zone early in the second quarter, but the nearest official ruled that he was juggling the ball.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer threw his red flag, and, after reviewing the play, referee Bill Vinovich ruled it a score, giving San Diego a 10-3 lead.
The Raiders came right back as Collins picked apart the Chargers’ defense on a crisp eight-play, 67-yard drive, capping it with a 16-yard TD throw to tight end Courtney Anderson to tie it at 10.
Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Mike Scifres’ 71-yard punt in the first quarter tied for third-longest in Chargers history. Paul Maguire, who had the longest punt in club history, 82 yards in 1962, broadcast the game for ESPN.