Oakland, CA (Sports Network) - Darren Sproles finished off a long drive with a
five-yard scoring run with 18 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, sending
San Diego to a 24-20 win over Oakland, as the Chargers beat the Raiders for a
12th straight time.
The nine-play, 89-yard drive came after JaMarcus Russell gave Oakland the lead
with 2:34 left on a 57-yard connection to rookie Louis Murphy on a 4th-and-14
Philip Rivers connected on 24-of-36 passes for 252 yards with a touchdown and
was picked off once for the Chargers (1-0), who are coming off their third
straight AFC West title.
LaDainian Tomlinson ran 13 times for 55 yards and a TD, but was on the
sidelines when Sproles ran nearly untouched up the middle on a draw play for
the go-ahead score. Chargers head coach Norv Turner said Tomlinson rolled his
ankle during the game.
Chargers center Nick Hardwick was carted off the field with an apparent knee
injury in the third quarter. Guard Louis Vasquez was also hurt, leaving
in the third quarter with a knee injury.
"You can't say enough about what the O-line did, battling through injuries and
the guys that stepped up," said Rivers. "There were some unbelievable catches
on that final drive. Darren, who you can't say enough about what he means and
does for this team and the big plays on that last drive as well."
Russell finished 12-of-30 passing for 208 yards, but was picked off twice.
That included one to Antoine Cason on a prayer pass in the waning seconds.
Russell also had to leave for a short period in the fourth quarter after
Raiders running back Michael Bush and Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman
landed on his leg.
The Raiders (0-1) lost their seventh straight season opener.
"I am very excited at what this team has come to," said Raiders coach Tom
Cable. "I'm very excited as to where we're headed. We have to let this one go.
It's tough. This is the NFL. It's a tough lesson, but a valuable one."
The game was tied 10-10 moving to the fourth quarter, but Sebastian Janikowski
kicked a 35-yard field goal less than two minutes in to put the Raiders ahead.
Rivers came right back and drove the Chargers 77 yards in 10 plays, finishing
the march with a 15-yard TD pass to Vincent Jackson in the left corner of the
end zone with 7:22 remaining.
Russell then exited the contest briefly and Bruce Gradkowski completed both
his passes for 17 yards. Russell threw a ball over the middle to Johnnie Lee
Higgins, who was driven to the ground by Eric Weddle as he jarred the ball
But on the next play, Russell aired the ball out to Murphy, who got behind
defensive backs Antonio Cromartie and Clinton Hart.
Fans at the Black Hole sensed the Raiders about to break the San Diego hex,
but Rivers had other ideas. He threw 15 yards to Sproles and 23 yards to
Legedu Naanee, moving the ball to the Oakland 32. A 13-yard connection to
tight end Antonio Gates on a 3rd-and-1 play put the ball at the 10. Sproles
then ran halfway to the end zone before scoring on the next play.
"People talk about quarterbacks that handle pressure and respond and lead
their teams from behind. I don't know I'd want anyone else doing it," said
Turner. "He has done it continuously and done it in some real difficult
situations like tonight."
Zach Miller had six catches for 96 yards for the Raiders, who finished 5-11
last season. Darren McFadden rushed 17 times for 68 yards.
"Not enough words to describe how I feel right now," said Russell. "We came up
on the short end of the stick. There's a lot that you can take away from this
game. Guys kept fighting and pushing till the end."
Russell was picked off by Quentin Jammer inside the 10 on the game's first
possession, but the Oakland QB later led his team on an 84-yard jaunt,
finished off by Bush's four-yard TD scamper.
Tomlinson fumbled the ball away in the final minute of the opening quarter,
but McFadden coughed the ball up early in the second, leading to Tomlinson's
one-yard TD run with 4:45 left in the half.
There was some controversy in the final minute of the half when Russell threw
into the end zone to Murphy, who seemingly caught the go-ahead score. Replay
officials ruled that Murphy never had control of the ball all the way through
as the nose of the ball touched the ground when he landed in the end zone.
Janikowski kicked a 37-yard field goal with 40 seconds left, but Nate Kaeding
matched that with a 47-yarder on the final play. Sproles helped set up the
short drive with a 59-yard kickoff return.
Rivers was picked off early in the third and both teams failed to move the
ball later in the quarter.
Raiders running back Justin Fargas sat out due to a hamstring injury...San
Diego hosts Baltimore on Sunday, while the Raiders visit the Kansas City
Chiefs...New Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour had a pair of sacks.
09/15 04:20:20 ET
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