One more time. If there’s a theme for the San Diego Chargers heading into their season finale with the Oakland Raiders that has to be it. If you believe the reports, the six-year period where Norv Turner was the head coach and the 10-year period where A.J. Smith was the general manager is about to come to end.
One thing, however, stands in the way, and that’s a Sunday afternoon meeting with the Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium.
“Certainly it’s been a disappointing season to say the least,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said this week. “But we get one more game. It’s the only one we can control. It’s the one on Sunday. There’s a lot to be said about finishing this the right way.”
In the minds of Chargers’ fans, the right way would to get back to winning ways against Oakland. In Turner’s first three years as San Diego’s head coach, he went 6-0 against the Chargers most-bitter rival.
Since 2010, Turner has a losing record against his former team, going 2-3 (including this year’s win in Week 1).
If there is a “right way” to finish things off for this season, it’s also going to coincide with San Diego’s first sweep of the Raiders since the 2009 season.
And if that happens, the Chargers—who have always taken the blame away from Turner for their failures the last three years—can give their coach a proper send off.
“It’s hard because you put in a lot of time, in this case six years with this group,” Rivers said. “This particular team, we’ve been going since this April, then we’re going to scatter and who knows how many will be back in four months. It can be sad on Sunday, but it in a lot of ways it can be exciting if we go out and finish it the right way.”
If San Diego played as efficiently as it did last week in its win over the New York Jets, then it might finish the 2012 season the way it began—with a win over the Raiders.
The high-point last week was the Chargers’ ability to fluster Jets quarterback Greg McElroy. San Diego sacked the second-year man out of Alabama a season-high 11 times.
Offensively, San Diego played as mistake free in weeks. Rivers pushed his interception-less streak to three games last week and the team had no fumbles—the first time since beating Pittsburgh two weeks ago. And the team scored at least 27 points for the first time since a 31-13 win over Kansas City on Nov. 1.
“I don’t buy into the mindset of not playing for anything, because obviously didn’t have last week the motivation of playing for the playoffs of playing to knock someone out of the playoffs,” Turner said. “A bunch of the guys played as well as they ever played, and defensively when you go get 11 sacks, there’s obviously a lot of effort spent.”
The aggressive defense may cause problems for Oakland. With veteran quarterback Carson Palmer out for Sunday’s game, the Raiders will have to rely on either Terrell Pryor or Matt Leinart.
While Leinart got the start last week—throwing for 115 yards on 16-of-32 passing with zero touchdowns and one interception—he has split time in practice this week with Pryor.
And coach Dennis Allen said that no decision has been made about who is starting Sunday.
Either way, what the Chargers brought defensively to New York is of great concern to the staff from the Bay Area.
“When you get the backup, a guy that hadn’t had as many snaps, the guy who hadn’t seen all the looks throughout the season,” Allen told reporter this week, “you’re going to try to give him a few more looks and make sure you can affect them.”
Prediction: The Raiders are even more hapless than the Chargers. Leinart is ineffective and Raiders coach Dennis Allen publicly stated that Terrell Pryor wasn’t even ready to be a backup last week. Oakland’s running game will not help them either. Featured back Darren McFadden is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry—not enough to take the pressure off of whoever starts for the Raiders on Sunday. Defensively, Oakland is ranked 21st in the NFL and they give up 5.8 yards per play (thanks pro-football-reference.com).
As of Thursday, Vegas hasn’t put a line on this game. But I’ll take the first week win and give San Diego at least one more touchdown. Chargers win this one and give Norv Turner a late Christmas gift. Chargers 28 Raiders 10.
Written by Gerald Nicdao