WR Denarius Moore makes the catch for a touchdown on Thursday Night Football in San Diego in 2011. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Raiders travel to San Diego to face the Chargers in their final game of the 2012 season. The Silver and Black last faced their division rival in Week 1 at O.co Coliseum. The Chargers have since gone 5-9 and most recently beat the New York Jets 27-17 at MetLife Stadium. The Raiders want to head into the off-season with a win and split the season series with the Chargers.
The Raiders held San Diego to 32 rushing yards in their first meeting of the season. The defense wants to replicate that run defense performance and step up their pass defense against veteran QB Philip Rivers. Meanwhile, the Raiders offense outgained the San Diego offense 321-258 on September 10. Despite a productive passing game, the Silver and Black were unable to get their run game going and look to improve that aspect of the game this week.
The Raiders understand they will be facing a good Chargers team, despite the 6-9 record. "I've got a lot of respect for Norv Turner and what he's been able to do, specifically offensively there," said Head Coach Dennis Allen. "I think they're a dangerous offense. Philip Rivers is still an outstanding quarterback. Defensively I think they're very much improved. They obviously get after the quarterback really well and they do a great job of taking the ball away. They're a good football team and it'll be a tough battle there at their place."
Rivers has thrown for nearly 3,500 yards this season and 24 touchdowns, more than half of which have gone to WR Malcom Floyd (now on injured reserve), TE Antonio Gates and WR Denario Alexander. "You've got Philip Rivers; he's outstanding with what he does with the ball and figuring out what you're doing," said defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. "He's very good at that. In the last game, they didn't run it so well, so Norv, he's a very good play caller, he'll have them ready to run and throw. So he'll make that tough on us. Division game anything can happen. We're excited for this opportunity to play in front of a lot of our great Raider Nation fans down in Southern California."
LB Miles Burris, who recorded his first interception and added a quarterback sack last week, expects the Chargers to challenge the Raiders with the passing game. "They have a lot of weapons and, obviously, he can sling the ball around," said Burris. "He's their main guy. I'm sure they're going to try to keep it in his hands and let him throw it and distribute the ball around the field."
The Raiders were able to put substantial pressure on Panthers QB Cam Newton last week and want to do the same to Rivers. "I think the most important thing is communicating and having a good four man rush. Don't stay outside your rush lanes and just keep on attacking him," said DE Andre Carter.
The linebackers and secondary will have to try to slow down Gates, the veteran 6'4", 260-pound tight end with six touchdowns this season. "We just have to go out there and execute with our technique and every given play that's called," said Burris.
The Raiders secondary that has been able to limit big plays over the last few weeks wants to continue that trend in San Diego. "I think we've got to play top-dog coverage, do a good job of keeping them from getting those big, explosive plays that they are good at doing," said CB Chimdi Chekwa. "After that, attacking the quarterback; they've got a good quarterback in Philip Rivers so getting after the quarterback will really help us succeed."
While the defense has continued to improve over the last few games, the Raiders offense has struggled. The team has one final opportunity to get on the right track before the 2012 season comes to a close. "Playing the final game of the season against a division rival is big for us," said WR Darrius Heyward-Bey. "We can kind of set the tone for next year; let the division know that next year we're going to be ready to go."
Heyward-Bey knows the offense needs to finish drives. "We just need to execute," said Heyward-Bey. "When we get down to the red-zone, we've got to get in the end zone. Field goals are good, but touchdowns would be better."
The offense will have to execute against a veteran secondary with Eric Weddle and Quentin Jammer. "They're smart guys; they're veterans, so you're just going to have to outplay them," said Heyward-Bey. "They're going to be smart; they're going to be in the right spots, but we're younger, we're faster. We just have to be athletic."
Not only will they have to contend with the secondary, but also a defensive front that sacked New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy 11 times last week. "Their blitz has gone up quite a bit," said offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. "We're anticipating having a heavy-blitz game from their defense. Most 3-4 teams usually have a little more blitz package available. I still think [Shaun] Phillips is playing outstanding outside as a pass rusher, and they've got good, veteran, defenders back there in [Antoine] Cason and [Quentin] Jammer at corners. We've been emphasizing to both our quarterbacks that you've got to make sure that you're not staring down a route because they will squat and jump on plays. They're playing very aggressively."
T Khalif Barnes is ready for the challenge. "Every time we play them, it's a good game," said Barnes. "They play good run defense and they have good pass rushers, so that's what I expect to see from them. Just because it's the last game of the season doesn't mean they are going to lay down by any means, so just a good game, good fight, as usual."
The offense needs to get the run game going to be successful this week. "[We need to] move guys up front and backs make their cuts and all the other guys just doing their part out there on the field," said Barnes.
The Raiders want to finish the season executing at a high level. "We certainly want to get Darren going and we haven't really been able to get it on track on a consistent basis," said Coach Allen. "We've had a few games where we've been able to do something, but on a consistent basis, we hadn't been able to do that. We have to be able to block better; we've got to be able to run it better and then be able to execute in the passing game which opens up some of the run game options."