Don’t look now, but the Chargers are officially in a free fall in the AFC West.
After losing last week to the Packers, the team needed a bounce back game Thursday night against one of their rivals in the Raiders.
Instead, they played flat in the first half, allowing 17 points while scoring just three, and walked away with their fourth straight loss, a 24-17 setback that puts them at 4-5 and currently in 3rd place in a division that looked like it was theirs just a few weeks ago.
Michael Bush totaled 242 yards from scrimmage as the Raiders took home the victory. Bush had 157 yards rushing with a touchdown on 30 carries while adding 85 yards on three catches as the Raiders (5-4) tentatively took possession of first place in the West.
Oakland, San Diego and Kansas City entered Week 10 tied for the division lead with 4-4 records. Kansas City will hope to keep pace with the Raiders on Sunday as they face off with the Denver Broncos in another AFC West clash.
Carson Palmer threw for 299 yards with two touchdowns and an interception on 14-of-20 passing, and Denarius Moore had five receptions for 123 yards and two scores as the Raiders snapped a two-game slide.
“We definitely have some areas to clean up and things to get better at, but it’s good to come into this environment and get a win,” Palmer said.
Philip Rivers completed 23-of-47 passes for 274 yards, two scores and an interception for San Diego. Vincent Brown paced all Chargers receivers with five grabs for 97 yards and a touchdown.
“We’re in a rough stretch right now. We’re not the first team to have a rough stretch and we won’t be the last,” Rivers said. “We just have to keep playing.”
After managing just three first downs in the first half, San Diego opened the third quarter with an eight-play, 80-yard drive capped by Brown’s leaping 30- yard catch in between two defenders on the left side of the end zone to bring the Chargers within 17-10.
But Oakland quickly answered to regain it’s two-touchdown advantage. Faced with a 3rd-and-9, Bush reeled in a screen pass and raced down the right sideline for a 55-yard gain. Two plays later, Moore reeled in a 26-yard TD grab.
After Nick Novak missed a 46-yard field goal wide to the right, Palmer was stripped from behind by Antwan Barnes and San Diego recovered at midfield.
Four plays later, Brown made another leaping catch over a defender in the left side of the end zone for what would have been a 33-yard touchdown, but the play was overruled after a review because Raiders cornerback Lito Sheppard had a hand on the ball while lying out of bounds before Brown had complete control. By rule, referee Ed Hochuli explained, that made it an incomplete pass.
The Chargers then converted a 4th-and-1 with a 17-yard gain on a short pass to Mike Tolbert before Jacob Hester reeled in a seven-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the third quarter, making the score 24-17.
Oakland threatened to extend its lead again on its next possession, driving into the Chargers’ red zone, but Palmer was hit as he attempted a throw and the ball fluttered right to the Chargers’ Paul Oliver for an interception.
The Chargers later took control of the ball at their own 11 with 6:48 left on the clock in an attempt to knot the game. Rivers found Vincent Jackson for a 22-yard strike before Antonio Gates hauled in a nine-yard pass to move the Chargers into Oakland territory.
But as Rivers launched a deep pass to Jackson in the end zone, the receiver inexplicably slowed down at the end of his route and did not make an effort for the ball, allowing Matt Giordano to jump in front of Jackson and intercept the pass.
“I don’t think [Jackson] ever saw the ball,” Chargers head coach Norv Turner said.
The Raiders then converted a 3rd-and-11 before having to punt the ball back to San Diego with a little over a minute left. The Chargers were able to move to the 50, but Rivers was sacked on consecutive plays as the clock ran out to seal the win for the Raiders.
San Diego drove down to the Oakland two-yard line on the opening possession of the game, but they couldn’t push the ball into the end zone and had to settle for a Novak 20-yard field goal.
Bush started the ensuing drive with a 44-yard run up the middle, but the Raiders could not manage to get another first down and punter Shane Lechler’s deep throw down the right sideline on a fake punt attempt fell incomplete, turning the ball over on downs at the San Diego 34.
The Chargers were held to a punt, though, and Palmer’s 41-yard bomb to Jacoby Ford moved the Raiders into San Diego territory before Bush rumbled into the end zone from two yards out, making it a 7-3 game with less than a minute to go in the first quarter.
Palmer connected on another deep throw on the Raiders’ first touch of the second quarter, a 46-yard strike to Moore, to set up Sabastian Janikowski’s 23-yard field goal and give Oakland a seven-point lead.
Palmer found Moore over the middle for a 33-yard score on the first play after the two-minute warning to make it a 17-3 game at the half.