WR Vincent Jackson (Harry How/Getty)
In many ways, San Diego's 34-7 win over Oakland felt like all the others. The Chargers used the run to control the tempo and set up the play-action pass, making Oakland pay for its aggressive schemes. However, this time it wasn’t LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates doing the damage -- it was Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson.
The Chargers didn’t get the kind of Herculean efforts they’ve come to expect from their perennial All Pros. LaDainian Tomlinson ran 25 times for just 91 yards (3.6 avg), with no run going for more than 9 yards. As for fellow Pro Bowler Antonio Gates, he was held without a catch for the first time since his rookie season in 2003.
So how did San Diego pile up 372 yards of total offense?
Darren Sproles provided the big plays that used to be served up by LT. In the second quarter, Sproles took a check-down pass on third down, made a sharp cut up the field and crossed the goal line for six points. He was at it again in the fourth quarter, taking a screen pass 18 yards into the end zone for the game’s final touchdown.
As for replicating Gates’ production, Vincent Jackson was up to the challenge. Jackson established a new career-high with 148 receiving yards, 39 yards more than Oakland’s entire pass-catching corps. Jackson also tied a career-high with his sixth TD of the season.
The romp over the Raiders was only the latest example of Jackson’s breakout season. He now has 851 receiving yards on the season, meaning he must average just 50 yards per game over the next three weeks to become San Diego’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Curtis Conway in 2001.
The 2008 season has been one of transitions. At least for one week, the new guard looked up to the task.
--QB Philip Rivers finished with his worst completion percentage of the season while hitting just 10 of 22 passes (45.5 percent). However, his three touchdown passes matched a career-high and helped him regain the league lead in that category. Rivers (26) has two more touchdowns than Drew Brees and Kurt Warner.
--FB Jacob Hester finished with seven carries, which is more than twice as many as he registered during the first 12 games of the season.
--Gates wasn’t the only notable pass-catcher held without a reception. Chris Chambers was missing from the box score for the second time this season -- he caught at least two passes in every game last year.
LBs Shaun Phillips and Stephen Cooper
--The Chargers entered Thursday’s game with only one interception by a linebacker all season. The Bolts added three more against the Raiders, with Stephen Cooper grabbing two and Matt Wilhelm one. It was the first multi-interception game of Cooper’s career.
--LB Shaun Phillips finished with a season-high 2.5 sacks. He has four sacks in two games against the Raiders, and just 2.5 sacks in the other 11 games.
--Quentin Jammer finished with two pass breakups, both of which should have been interceptions. Nonetheless, no Oakland wide receiver finished with more than two catches or 22 yards receiving.
--SS Steve Gregory made just the second start of his career, playing in place of Clinton Hart (shoulder). Gregory led the team with seven tackles and played fairly well against TE Zach Miller. Incidentally, the only other start of Gregory’s career came in Week 17 last season against the Raiders.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.