The Raiders blocked back-to-back punts in thier Week 5 win over San Diego in Oakland. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
The Oakland Raiders travel to San Diego to take on the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium this Sunday in the teams' second meeting of the 2010 campaign. The Raiders will try to reach a 4-0 AFC West division record and stop a Chargers team that has won four in a row. The Silver and Black look to get on track and make a December push for the playoffs.
"It's good for us. It's very good," said Raiders Head Coach Tom Cable. "I think to get back into division play, trying to get to 4-0 in the division, trying to sweep the Chargers; I don't know when that's been done here. More importantly just getting back on track and playing the kind of football we're capable of playing. The opponent definitely I think brings it out of us this week."
Every game is crucial in an NFL season, but divisional games, particularly against San Diego, seem to have a little extra meaning. "It's a big division game with a lot on the line," said LB Sam Williams. "San Diego, we know it's going to be a tough fight, physical. We just have to play our game."
Coach Cable has felt the energy in the locker room with the Chargers match up ahead. "I'm excited, we're all excited," said Coach Cable. "It is what it is; it's Oakland-San Diego, we're playing in the division, you have a chance to win another division game against a very good team, a hot team right now. But we're excited about this challenge."
The Raiders will face a Chargers team that leads the league in both total offense and total defense. "It's always good to have a challenge," said DE Lamarr Houston. "Any time you get a challenge, you get to step up and answer that challenge. That's what big [DT Richard] Seymour is always talking about and we are excited to play the number one offense in the league."
The Chargers offense is led by QB Phillip Rivers who has a 104.9 quarterback rating through Week 12. "He's a great quarterback," said Houston. "You give anyone time like that and they'll cut you to pieces so you can't let him be comfortable in the pocket."
The Raiders defense will be tested when they play the San Diego offense, but DT Tommy Kelly has been studying their tendencies and knows what needs to be done. "You got to pressure Phil," said Kelly. "Me and big Rich and big John [Henderson], we have to get the push right up in their face. Phil likes to stand up the pocket and hit the little intermediate routes to [Antonio] Gates and try to dump it off to [Darren] Sproles out the backfield. We just have to make the day very uncomfortable. It's real easy to get up for the Chargers; they always have a big time offensive player. If you want to make a name for yourself, this is the game."
While the defense suits up for Rivers and his weapons, the Raiders offense has been preparing for LB Shaun Phillips and the Chargers defense. "They've been playing great," said QB Jason Campbell. "They've been a turnover machine. If you've been watching the games over the last couple of weeks, they're very active on defense. They've got some great players on defense that make their defense go."
Phillips is one of those players that make the Chargers defense go. He has 10 sacks, seven passes defensed, and an interception returned for a touchdown so far this season. "You have to target him and know where he is at," explained Coach Cable. "Then you can see a lot of times on film that people lose him, in terms of your scheme and your protection, and you can get confused."
Coach Cable sees San Diego's success as a product of their experience and maturity. "I really think it's that you've got a veteran team that really has been there and done it," said Coach Cable. "I think they understand what it takes and how you have to be down the stretch. They are a coaching staff that's been there and done it. I think the combination of the two; very mature team that knows how to handle themselves."
In order to be successful against the surging Chargers, the Raiders will need to revert to the way they played in their last meeting. "What we did last time we played them is we went after them physically," said Williams "We're going to have to do the same thing. We're going to have to play our football, Raider football and things will take care of themselves."
The Chargers are 1-2 in the division and know the importance of this game. They have been studying the Raiders offense and defense over the last week, preparing for the showdown. San Diego TE Antonio Gates talked about the strong Raiders defense. "They believe in their ability to cover," said Gates. "They believe in their athletes. You just have to line up and beat them. They put themselves to match on athlete against athlete. I think that's what they thrive on. That front seven is athletic; the secondary goes without speaking because when you think about it, some of the better secondaries out in the league, the Raiders is definitely a secondary that comes up. We definitely have our hands full in the passing game and in the running game because they create situations where they basically say line up and beat us. They believe in their athletes on defense."
The game between division rivals holds significant weight in the AFC West standings as the NFL sprints to a finish. The Raiders hope to get back in the win column and continue their perfect division record, while the Chargers look to maintain their hot streak and move up in the division standings.