The first time around it took two blocked punts, two different quarterbacks and one 64-yard fumble recovery to defeat the San Diego Chargers. After a near decade of Bolt dominance, the thrill of victory never felt so good for the Silver and Black.
This time around, it could take an even more miraculous set of circumstances for the Raiders to remain perfect in the AFC West.
As usual the Chargers and making their late push to win the division and once again disappoint their front running fan base in the playoffs. For the Raiders, it’s all about rediscovering the rhythm that carried this team to its first three game win streak in 8 years.
Finding that rhythm is much easier said than done as almost nothing has worked the last two weeks.
The offensive and defensive lines that were once so dominant are being dominated. The airtight secondary has sprung a leak. The running game has been slowed to a jog.
Certainly the ever growing list of injuries hasn’t helped at all. Just ask Walter McFadden who was forced into action last week thanks to the absence of Chris Johnson and a hobbled Nnamdi Asomugha. McFadden got a harsh lesson in the cold hearted world of professional football. Mismatches are exploited and the punishment is usually severe.
Keeping Philip Rivers and the Charger aerial assault grounded might just be an impossible task for the Raiders. Last time these two tangled a healthy Oakland secondary was still shredded from over 400 passing yards. The notion of Rivers against a patchwork secondary is a frightening thought.
On Sunday it will be up to the Oakland offense to aid the defense.
To win, the Raiders must run the rock. Nothing fancy. Nothing special. Just good, old fashioned, smash mouth football.
One man that was not healthy last time around was Darren McFadden. Michael Bush stepped in and delivered a punishing 104 yards on the ground. Last week, against the Dolphins, the Raiders’ inability to run the ball resulted in Miami holding the rock for over 40 minutes.
That cannot happen against San Diego. Giving Rivers and his makeshift group of receivers 40 minutes to operate is like giving Charlie Sheen a get out of jail free card. Only bad things can happen.
One player just might hold the key to opening up the Oakland offense and naturally he too has not been right in some time. Zach Miller’s presence is sorely missed. Without their best threat in the passing game, the offensive production has dipped considerably. While Miller could contribute instead with his blocking, it’s his ability to wreak havoc on opposing defenses that has helped rejuvenate the Raiders this season.
With the AFC West slipping away, this Sunday cannot be about moral victories. Tom Cable has his team in contention and getting a win is the only suitable outcome. The odds are long and the deck is certainly stacked against the Silver and Black. But that’s what being a Raider is all about. Even if the entire world doubts it only takes 53 men to believe. Here’s hoping that belief still burns bright come Sunday afternoon.