Two Raider Air Strikes, and a Stout Defense Bring First Win, 17-13
The Raiders have won a football game.
It took four long weeks, and the way the Raiders played at times Sunday, they’re fortunate it didn’t take even longer.
“I don’t think you could put into words how important it was--and is--to win the first game,” All-Pro defensive end Howie Long said following the Raiders’ 17-13 come-from-behind victory over the San Diego Chargers before a crowd of 63,153 at the Coliseum.
“We’ve come out of the first half of most of our games close and petered out in the second half,” Long said. “I’m proud of the guys for just hanging in there.”
Quarterback Marc Wilson threw two touchdown passes in a span of 41 seconds to propel the Raiders from a 13-0 deficit to a 14-13 lead in the opening minute of the third quarter. The Raider defense shut out the high-scoring Chargers the rest of the way.
The outcome left both teams with 1-3 records. The Raiders, playing without star tailback Marcus Allen, who was sidelined because of a sprained ankle, had opened the year by losing their first three games for the first time in 22 years.
“You have to take them any way you can get them,” Coach Tom Flores of the Raiders said. “We’ve had our ups and downs the past few weeks, but today we played with a tremendous amount of character. We played tough. We played hard, and I’m very proud of them.”
The Raiders won despite turning the ball over five times, four in San Diego territory, and allowing Wilson to be sacked eight times.
“We didn’t start out very good,” Wilson said. “But the Raiders have a way of hanging in there. Our defense played great and kept us in the game and finally we got some things going.”
Wilson, who completed 19 of his 28 passes for 314 yards, threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Dokie Williams with 16 seconds left in the first half and hit Jessie Hester with a 40-yard bomb after just 25 seconds of the third quarter.
Turnovers by San Diego set up the two touchdowns which gave the Raiders a 14-13 lead. The defenses of the two teams dominated the rest of the game until Chris Bahr kicked an 18-yard field goal with 1:41 left to give the Raiders a four-point advantage. San Diego didn’t threaten seriously after that.
“I want to give a lot of credit to our defense,” Coach Don Coryell of the Chargers said. “They hung in there, played hard. They got us some turnovers, did everything possible you can ask of a defense to help us win.
“Offensively, we just dug ourselves into a hole and never got out of it. We buried ourselves with our own poor play.”
Linebacker Jerry Robinson made the first of his two interceptions of Dan Fouts’ passes at the Chargers’ 40-yard line with 59 seconds to go in the half. That put the Raiders in position to score their first touchdown since the third period of their season-opener, meaning they went nearly 11 full quarters without a touchdown.
San Diego’s Lionel James fumbled the second-half kickoff and Tim Moffett recovered for the Raiders at the Chargers’ 40. Wilson hit Hester on the very next play.
The Chargers had taken their 13-0 lead on a pair of nine-yard touchdown passes by Fouts.
The first was to Kellen Winslow after 6:22 of play and the second was to Trumaine Johnson with 3:34 left before halftime. Rolf Benirschke’s conversion attempt following the first touchdown was wide to the left.
Fouts completed 20 of his 45 passes for 208 yards and was intercepted three times. Fouts suffered a broken nose when sacked early in the second quarter but didn’t come out of the game.
Williams had eight receptions for 143 yards in the game. Raider tight end Todd Christensen also had eight catches, good for 105 yards.
The Chargers, who have lost three straight games since opening the season with a 50-28 victory over Miami and have dropped eight consecutive road contests dating back to last year, took a 6-0 lead by moving 81 yards on 10 plays the first time they had the ball.
San Diego was aided by three penalties against the Raiders, one a 15-yard personal foul call against Sean Jones, on its first-period touchdown drive.
The second Chargers’ touchdown came after the Raiders’ Fulton Walker muffed a punt and Mike Douglass recovered for San Diego at the Raider 34-yard line. The Chargers needed seven plays to go the 34 yards.
Rookie running back Napoleon McCallum, who didn’t play in the first half, led the Raiders in rushing with 57 yards on 14 carries. James led the San Diego ground game with 41 yards on 14 carries. He also caught eight passes for 77 yards.
Rookie Vance Mueller started in Allen’s place and picked up 20 yards on nine carries before giving way to McCallum.
Veteran San Diego wide receiver Charlie Joiner had two receptions for 20 yards, leaving him 19 yards shy of the all-time receiving yardage mark of 11,834 yards held by former New York Jets’ receiver Don Maynard.
The 38-year-old Joiner, now in his 18th NFL season, has 724 career catches, the most in league history.