Raiders lose nail biter in final seconds

San Diego Chargers v Oakland Raiders
Louis Murphy looked like a veteran in his first regular-season game against the Chargers.

The Raiders were wearing uniforms from their AFL days, rushing the quarterback and stopping the run like they did when their legends were still on the field, scoring on long touchdowns as they did when they were perennial winners, but when they needed to play like their glory days the most, they looked more 2006 than 1966.

The Raiders gave up a five-yard touchdown run to Darren Sproles with only 18-seconds remaining to give the Chargers their 12th-straight victory over the Raiders 24-20.

In a game where the Raiders mostly dominated the Chargers, it came down to a soft fourth quarter defense in the waning moments and a call that would rival the ‘Tuck Rule’ call had it been a postseason game.

The Raiders started off the game from their own 29 and drove down the field on eight plays to the Chargers’ 25-yard line.  On first and 10, JaMarcus Russell got caught staring down his receiver, Louis Murphy, and his pass to the rookie was picked off by San Diego’s Quentin Jammer who returned it back to the original line of scrimmage.

The Chargers couldn’t do anything with the turnover and ended up punting to the Raiders after a three and out series.  This time, Russell would lead the Raiders on a 10 play, 84-yard drive that culminated with Darren McFadden four-yard touchdown run.  At the end of the first quarter, the Raiders would lead the Chargers 7-0.

During the Raiders’ first drive in the second quarter, Darren McFadden had the ball stripped from him for a fumble that the Chargers would recover at the Raiders’ 45.  Seven plays later, LaDainian Tomlinson ran off right tackle for a one-yard touchdown score.

Later in the second quarter, Russell drove the Raiders down to the Chargers’ 19-yard line.  After calling a timeout with 50-seconds remaining, Russell threw, with defenders at his ankles, a perfect strike to Murphy in the end zone for what appeared to be a touchdown.  Upon further review, the officials ruled that Murphy didn’t have control of the ball through the end of the play, overturning the touchdown.

He was up, I think if I remember, (on) one foot, he was getting contacted prior to his second foot coming down,” said referee Carl Cheffers after the game.  “By definition in our rule book, he’s going to the ground and has to maintain possession of the ball throughout the entire act of the catch. And in this case, he lost possession and the ball hit the ground. Therefore, it’s incomplete.

I had no idea I lost the ball, honestly. I came down, and when I was pushing myself up, that’s the only time I really felt the ball come out, when I was getting up to celebrate. It is what it is. All my teammates said they thought it was a touchdown. Both feet and my rear end land in the end zone.
– Louis Murphy on the touchdown that wasn’t.

The ruling resulted in a 37-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski, putting the Raiders up 10-7 with 40-seconds left in the half.

Unfortunately, that was too much time for the Chargers.  On the kickoff, Sproles returned the kick 59 yards to the Oakland 41-yard line.  Four plays later, Rivers had the ball at the Raiders’ 29-yard line with five seconds left and Nate Kaeding on to kick.  The 47-yard field goal was good and the half would end with the score tied at 10.

The third quarter would end without a score and the Raiders driving to the Chargers’ 21-yard line.  The Raiders wouldn’t get any farther than the 17, leading to another Janikowski field goal–this time a 35-yard attempt that was good.

San Diego came right back with a 10 play, 77 yard scoring drive that ended with a Rivers pass to Vincent Jackson between two Oakland defenders.  The score put the Chargers up 17-13.

With 7:22 left, Oakland would begin a drive that would take two different quarterbacks and a long fourth-down completion to be successful.  Three plays into the drive, Russell would hurt his shin on a quarterback keeper.  Russell went off the field and Bruce Gradkowski took his place for five plays.  During Gradkowski’s time, the Raiders only moved the ball seven yards, but due to a hands to the face call, the Raiders had a first down at their own 47 when Russell returned.

On fourth and 14 from their own 43, Russell launched a tight spiral deep to a streaking Murphy who caught the ball at the Chargers’ 10-yard line wide open.  Murphy then streaked to the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.  After the extra point, the Raiders were ahead 20-17 with 2:34 to go.

We ran it a little earlier. You saw it against the Saints, Murphy kind of caught the pass coming across and led the safety. They played it different this time.
– Russell on the bomb to Murphy that put the Raiders ahead with a little over two minutes to go.

Too much time for Rivers.  The San Diego quarterback, aided by a prevent defense, was able to lead the Chargers all the way down field for Sproles’ touchdown run to win the game.

We made some plays and you just have to be able to finish.  We’re just not able to.  It is tough.  It’s a tough loss, you guys saw it.  It’s a tough loss and umm–It’s a tough loss, I don’t really have more to say.  It’s tough.
– Thomas Howard on the loss.