Oakland Raiders Vault: The Streak Ends, 2010

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Sep 8, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Oakland Raiders strong safety Tyvon Branch (33) during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The beginning of the 3rd quarter certainly didn’t do much to ease the fears of Raider fans. Bruce Gradkowski came back in at quarterback to throw two more incomplete passes in another three-and-out (bringing his total for the game to 1-7). After a Raider defensive stop, Raider returner Nick Miller returned a Scifres punt 46 yards to give the Raiders the ball inside Charger territory. Jason Campbell came back in at quarterback, but the Raiders went four-and-out after failing to pick up another 4th down attempt on the ground. Three plays later, Rivers hit Malcolm Floyd for a 41-yard TD strike, giving the Chargers a 24-15 lead on a day where the Raider offense hadn’t been able to move the ball at all. For many watching and listening, it seemed as if the 14th straight Charger win was inevitable. When Jacoby Ford botched the return and forced the Raiders offense to begin at their own 4-yard line on the ensuing drive, hope seemed lost. Then something incredible happened: the Raider offense showed up.

Michael Bush carried the ball for 7 yards on the first play of the drive, and Jason Campbell kept it himself for three yards to convert a 3rd down two plays later.  Three plays later, on 3rd and 4 from the 21, Campbell hit Louis Murphy for a massive 58-yard catch and run all the way down to the Chargers 21-yard line. Five consecutive Michael Bush touches later, and Campbell rolled out and found Zach Miller in the back of the end zone from a yard out for a touchdown pass – his second of the year. At the end of the drive, the Raiders had gone 97 yards in 12 plays and put the game back in range: with 1:15 left in the 3rd, the Raiders trailed by two, 24-22.

The Chargers went right back to work, opening with a 28-yard Rivers-to-Gates connection and closing with another Kaeding field goal with 12:04 left in the game after a 9-play, 44-yard drive. Led by Rivers, the Chargers had pulled ahead 27-22, meaning the Raiders would need another touchdown to take the lead. Jason Campbell and the offense got the ball with 12 minutes left in the game at the 27 looking to do exactly that.  The ensuing drive would feature a heavy dose of Michael Bush, as well as some clutch passing by Campbell and a clutch fumble recovery by Jacoby Ford after Zach Miller fumbled on a key 3rd down play. Campbell would complete five passes on the drive, including the key 3rd-down pass to Miller, but the drive would be capped by Michael Bush’s 26th and final carry of the game: a 3-yard TD run after a 14 play drive that ran more than eight minutes off the clock. The 2-point conversion attempt that followed would fail, and the Raiders would give the ball back to Philip Rivers, trailing 28-27 with 3:39 to go. He had been hurting the Raiders all day, with 400 yards passing and two TD’s already. It was going to take a miracle.

The miracle wasn’t forthcoming at first. Rivers – not exactly a speed guy – scrambled for 14 yards on the first play of the drive and hit Malcolm Floyd for 13 yards on the second.  He converted 3rd and 5 at the Oakland 40. A pass interference call on Chris Johnson gave the Chargers another 11 yards, putting the ball at the 23 yard line – well inside Nate Kaeding’s range. Now they just needed to run out the clock.

Except on the very next play, Antonio Gates – the same Antonio Gates that had burned the Raiders for 92 yards and a TD in the game – was flagged for holding on a Mike Tolbert run, pushing the Chargers out of safe range for Kaeding. Facing 1st and 20 from the 33 and just over a minute left to play – and having averaged 3.5 yards per carry for the game – Chargers coach Norv Turner decided to go with what had worked for him all game: his passing game. Rivers threw incomplete on first and 20. Then that miracle happened.  The Raiders cued up an aggressive double safety blitz on 2nd and 20, bringing both Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch and leaving the Raider corners isolated in man coverage against the Chargers receivers. As Rivers wound up to deliver a strike, Huff slapped the ball out of his hand. The ball bounced on the turf and was picked up by Tyvon Branch, who ran it back 64 yards for a touchdown, which would – with the extra point – give the Raiders an 8 point lead, meaning the Chargers could do no better than tie it with 58 second remaining in the game. The Raider crowd went nuts. Raider players went nuts. Greg Papa went nuts. I went nuts watching the game (at my friend’s house in SAN DIEGO of all places). If you’re a Raider fan over the age of 8, you saw this game and you also went nuts.

But of course the Raiders can’t just score an apparent winning touchdown that easily. The game was challenged by the replay official, and the challenge would come down to something that Raider fans will never feel comfortable with: was it an incomplete pass or a fumble? Rivers had not tucked the ball, but he was clearly in the beginning of a throwing motion, and the call would come down to if he was beginning to bring his arm forward in the act of throwing the ball, or not. The replay showed that Michael Huff had slapped the ball out literally at the exact moment before the arm came forward, meaning the play was correct as ruled on the field. Touchdown Raiders.

A last-ditch drive by the Chargers would ultimately come up short, and the streak was OVER. The Raiders had finally beat the Chargers.  Final score: Raiders 35, Chargers 27.


The Raiders had found some heroes in the game: Jason Campbell had come off the bench to reclaim his starting job from Bruce Gradkowski, completing 72% of his passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. Michael Bush had given the Raiders the third 100-yard rushing performance of the year, gaining 104 yards on 26 carries with a touchdown and adding another 31 yards on 3 receptions. The special teams had played outstanding, blocking two punts and scoring 17 of the Raiders 35 points. Oakland’s defense, while getting exposed in pass coverage, had played well against the run, sacked Philip Rivers three times, and forced three turnovers, all three with the Chargers either in or approaching scoring position.

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  • The Raiders also managed to completely reinvigorate a fan base that had begun to lose hope after seven straight seasons of awful football, creating an excitement in the Coliseum and in Raider bars around the country that hadn’t been seen in years. Oakland would subsequently travel across the Bay to lose a close one to the 49ers, and then go on a three-game win streak against the Broncos, Seahawks and Chiefs that included a 59-14 blowout win in Denver and a 33-3 beatdown of the Seahawks in Oakland on Halloween (I was there, it was glorious). The Raiders would sweep the division, going 6-0 against the AFC West, including blowing out the Chargers 28-13 in San Diego later in the year and blowing out the Chiefs at Arrowhead in Week 17. Unfortunately, the Raiders also went 2-8 against the rest of their schedule, including awful losses to the Steelers and Dolphins.  A Week 16 loss to Peyton Manning’s Colts would eliminate the Raiders from playoff contention, and Tom Cable would lose his job that offseason.

    Under Hue Jackson, the Raiders would again go 8-8 the following year, splitting the season series with the Chargers. The Week 17 loss to the Chargers – a heartbreaker that yours truly was also in attendance for – eliminated the Raiders from the playoffs, and Hue Jackson was done after the end of the year. The Raiders are 8-28 since.

    Despite losing twice to the Raiders, the Chargers finished 9-7 in 2010, ahead of the Raiders in the final standings, but still missed the playoffs. The Chargers went 8-8 in 2011 and 7-9 in 2012, before they cut ties with Norv Turner and hired Mike McCoy, who is now in his second season with a 13-8 record as their head coach. Philip Rivers is still there, as is Antonio Gates, and the two of them are playing at a high level.  I hate those guys so much.

    So here we are, four losses into the season, second week of October, facing the Chargers at home in our first AFC West matchup of the season. Perhaps we can find a way to block a couple of punts early and win this one. All I know is I’d love to see some more of this: