When the Raiders were minutes away from another loss Sunday,
Gannon kept quiet and played like the league MVP he is.
The victory could breathe life into the AFC champion Raiders
(2-2), who were unimpressive in their first three games as well as
in the first 54 minutes of this one. After struggling to execute
all afternoon, the Raiders' offense came alive in the final six
minutes of regulation for two scores.
"Rich did this, and we all helped," said center Barret
Robbins, who returned to the starting lineup. "That's why he's the
most valuable player of this league. You could sense a calm feeling
out there. We were going to get it done."
After another bad start, Gannon finished 26-of-43 for 348 yards
and three touchdowns. The Raiders' veteran superstars all played
big roles: Jerry Rice had seven receptions -- including key catches
on all three final drives -- for 118 yards, and Tim Brown had six
catches for 110 yards.
"I thought we had a good plan and did a good job executing,"
Gannon said. "We've gone through some adversity. Hopefully this is
a way to shake ourselves out of it. This is a veteran team that's
always done a good job with adversity. I'm not saying we're out of
the woods yet, but this is a good step."
Gannon audibled a 36-yard TD pass to Alvis Whitted, capping a
60-yard drive that pulled the Raiders within 31-24 with 4:38 left.
Oakland's defense forced a punt, and Gannon found Rice twice before
Charlie Garner rolled through the San Diego defense on a draw for a
24-yard score, tying it with 1:24 left.
After San Diego's second overtime punt, Gannon hit Rice for a
29-yard gain on Oakland's first play. Gannon moved the Raiders from
their 8 to the San Diego 28, where Janikowski's kick split the
"I hope that this game serves as a catalyst and a launching pad
to get us going again," Oakland coach Bill Callahan said. "We
came alive. We were wearing them down at the end. I thought our
stamina was excellent down the stretch."
LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 187 yards -- 55 on a beautiful
scoring run -- and also threw a touchdown pass to Drew Brees, but
the Chargers (0-4) wasted a golden opportunity for their first win
in regulation since last Oct. 13. With a monumental defensive
collapse, San Diego lost its eighth straight dating back to last
"We thought we had it," Tomlinson said. "I guess they showed
why they went to the Super Bowl last year. They know how to win
games, and we don't."
Brown and Doug Jolley caught early TD passes from Gannon, but
the Raiders didn't shake their offensive malaise until the fourth
After last week's embarrassing loss at Denver, Callahan promised
a return to hard-hitting, run-oriented football. It didn't happen,
with San Diego's defense forcing the Raiders into a disjointed game
plan of tentative runs and plenty of the short passes they've used
There also was poor execution by Oakland's veterans despite
Robbins' return. The All-Pro reclaimed his starting spot after
losing it in the wake of his Super Bowl drinking binge. Rice
dropped four passes, while Gannon sprayed the ball over, behind and
far past his receivers.
The Raiders also played without linebacker Bill Romanowski, who
missed the first game of his 16-season NFL career with the effects
of a concussion from earlier in the month. Romanowski had played in
243 consecutive games.
While the Raiders labored through the first three quarters,
Brees and Tomlinson were having fun. San Diego capped its first
scoring drive with a classic trick play: Tomlinson threw a
high-arching pass to Brees, who ran under it and dove at the end
zone cone for a 21-yard score.
Though Oakland's defense clamped down in the second half, San
Diego appeared to seal a win when Lorenzo Neal rushed for a 3-yard
score with 5:59 to play for a 31-17 lead.
"The defense has got to win that game for us," Chargers
defensive tackle Leonardo Carson said. "It's a simple fact. When
we've got them down like that, there's no excuse. We've got to make
them earn everything."
San Diego got near the Oakland 30 in the final seconds, but time
ran out before Brees could spike the ball.
The Chargers played without receiver David Boston,
suspended by coach Marty Schottenheimer for this game. ... Garner
finished with 70 yards rushing. San Diego outgained Oakland on the
ground 222-120. ... Tomlinson's passer rating was 158.3, the