LB Shaun Phillips (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty)
The AFC West was a bizarre place to play Sunday. Luckily for the Chargers, they came out on the winning end of both divisional showdowns. San Diego scored 25 fourth-quarter points to top the Oakland Raiders, 28-18, while the Kansas City Chiefs upended the Denver Broncos, 33-19.
The Chargers continued their slow-starting trend on Sunday, allowing their opponent to score first for the fourth time in as many games. The Chargers dug a particularly deep hole on Sunday, taking a 15-0 deficit into halftime.
The first-half miscues were too numerous to count. Philip Rivers threw an interception to Chris Johnson; LaDainian Tomlinson mishandled a handoff that resulted in a safety; and Nate Kaeding badly missed a 44-yard field goal.
Luckily for the Chargers, the fourth quarter was as pretty as the first half was ugly. The Chargers scored three touchdowns in the game’s final stanza, with their biggest stars doing the damage. Antonio Gates nabbed a 9-yard score, his third TD of the season, while Tomlinson served up scoring jaunts of 13 and 41 yards, respectively.
While the usual suspects saved the day, San Diego’s newest superstar made the game’s biggest plays. With less than three minutes to play, Darren Sproles returned a kickoff 67 yards to set up the go-ahead points, a 47-yard field goal by Kaeding. Sproles also scored a crucial two-point conversion, slipping past Sam Williams to give the Chargers a three-point cushion late in the game.
On the defensive side of the ball, coordinator Ted Cottrell can hold his head high. The Chargers tallied a season-high six sacks and forced two turnovers, both of which came in the final 19 minutes of the game. The defense was stingy on third down, allowing the Raiders to convert only three of 20 opportunities.
One defender who continues to carry the defense is Quentin Jammer. Jammer made a huge play in the second quarter, coming up to stop JaMarcus Russell on a quarterback scramble 1 yard shy of the first down. He also came through in the final two minutes of the game with the Raiders driving for the tying score, flying up to smack Raiders WR Ronald Curry and break up what appeared to be a sure reception. The Raiders turned the ball over on downs three plays later.
The victory improves San Diego’s record to 2-2 and marks the Chargers’ first road win of the season. The Bolts have won 10 consecutive games over the Raiders; no NFL team has a longer active winning streak over any single opponent.
Making the victory especially sweet was that the division-leading Denver Broncos lost on the road to the Kansas City Chiefs, 33-19. The Chargers trail the Broncos by only a game in the standings, with a rematch in San Diego waiting in December.