Chargers Need Only Four Kicks : Pro football: San Diego’s fired-up defense makes sure that’s enough to beat the Raiders, 12-6, and regain some of AFC champions’ lost pride.
Their pride, playoff hopes and best players all suffering from serious injuries, the San Diego Chargers appeared on a national podium Monday night with a three-word announcement.
Enough is enough.
At the same time, the celebrated Oakland Raiders made an even shorter statement.
In front of a towel-waving, horn-bellowing crowd that filled San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium and the minds of the visitors, the Chargers played like defending AFC champions for the first time since they actually won the title, scoring a 12-6 upset over the Raiders before 60,607.
“We got back some of that ol’ fire, that ol’ spark,” said Charger Coach Bobby Ross, who was red-faced and hoarse even 15 minutes after the final Charger defensive stand.
The heat manifested itself in a defense that would not wilt when it could not wilt.
Three times in the final seven minutes, needing either a field goal or touchdown to tie, the Raiders’ Vince Evans-led offense could get neither.
Three times in the final seven minutes, knowing that its own injury-plagued offense was exhausted and unable to hold the ball, the Charger defense carried them.
Credit Dwayne Harper, Charger cornerback who had a career evening with three interceptions while hassling Tim Brown into only three catches for 27 yards.
Said Harper: “I think I showed the world tonight what I can do.”
Countered Brown: “Harper must have [gone] to church yesterday.”
Credit Leslie O’Neal, Charger defensive end who led a charge that harassed Evans with three sacks while holding the Raider running backs to 120 yards. That total is cut in half if you don’t count a 60-yard run up the middle by Harvey Williams against a stacked defensive line that was fooled during a stunt.
“Leslie O’Neal played the best game I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said Ross, which is saying something considering he has been here four years.
Also credit Reuben Davis, the limping defensive tackle who stepped into the huddle during the fourth quarter and began screaming at his teammates.
“He was yelling, ‘Don’t give up anything, don’t give up anything,’ ” said Harper. “He was saying a lot of other things I didn’t understand.”
But they got the message.
--Trailing, 9-6, with 6:57 left, the Raiders lost seven yards on sacks by O’Neal and Chris Mims, the latter causing a fumble by Evans.
Mims recovered, leading to a field goal that made it 12-6.
--Trailing, 12-6, with 4:02 remaining, the Raiders couldn’t even move the ball out of their own territory. A drive featuring two Raider penalties--they committed seven penalties in typical Raider big-game fashion--stalled at their 43-yard line.
From there, Evans had Brown across the middle, but safety Bo Orlando knocked the ball away at the last minute. Regular Raider quarterback Jeff Hostetler, standing in jeans and a denim shirt on the sideline and nursing his sore shoulder, cringed.
“For whatever reason, we have failed to get the job done in these critical games,” Raider Coach Mike White said. “I’m just very, very disappointed in the fact that we can’t get it done.”
Indeed, the Raiders have failed in Kansas City, in Denver, and now here, three games in an AFC West Division they were supposed to dominate.
--Still trailing by six points, the Raiders had a final shot with 1:45 remaining. But moving from their own 4-yard line, they gained only 14 yards against a Charger defense playing it safe.
Appropriately, Evans’ final pass was thrown directly to Harper, who was standing directly in front of Brown. Evans made the catch and kept the ball.
That is more than quarterback Stan Humphries did. After leading his team to 282 total yards even without star running back Natrone Means--still nursing a groin injury--Humphries celebrated by throwing the football into the stands.
The Chargers, 5-7 after only their second victory since September, need to win their final four games to even reach respectability. The playoffs remain a distant dream.
The Raiders have lost consecutive games and fall to 8-4, but they can get better next week at home with a victory over the first-place Chiefs, who lead them by two games in the West with four games remaining.