Were they to wind up sharing a Los Angeles stadium, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders would be the most mismatched roommates since Felix and Oscar.
They met Sunday in San Diego, possibly for the last time at Qualcomm Stadium, and the Raiders turned the tables on a San Diego-slanted trend that’s lasted for more than a decade.
Cheered on by thousands of their silver-and-black-clad fans, the Raiders knocked off the Chargers, 37-29, behind strong performances by quarterback Derek Carr and receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. The Chargers had beaten the Raiders in 19 of the previous 23 meetings.
When Crabtree scored a touchdown early in the third quarter, and the split crowd roared as if it were a Raiders home game, Oakland had a 37-6 lead.
“It was sickening how fast it happened,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “Shoot, it was 30-6 at halftime.”
But the Chargers clawed their way back to make a game of it with three touchdown passes by Philip Rivers in the fourth quarter. San Diego, in the AFC West cellar at 2-5, was playing without All-Pro safety Eric Weddle, who because of a groin injury missed his first game since 2009, and injured linebacker Manti Te’o.
This week could be even more contentious in the hometowns of the three teams considering an L.A. relocation. The NFL will stage town hall meetings in St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland on consecutive nights, giving fans a chance to speak their minds and vent grievances. It’s an unprecedented experiment and a requirement of the relocation guidelines.
There were three other divisional matchups Sunday, with Minnesota playing at Detroit, the New York Jets at New England, and Dallas at the New York Giants.
The Lions came out strong but withered under the weight of a strong performance by Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who threw for a season-high 316 yards and two touchdowns.
The Jets indicated they’re closing the gap on the Patriots, but Tom Brady came through down the stretch with a pair of touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. New England, which has won eight of nine against the Jets, is 6-0 for the first time since 2007.
The Giants took advantage of a flurry of Dallas mistakes to stop their five-game losing streak to the Cowboys with a 27-20 win. Those included two interceptions by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, including a 58-yard pick-six; an interception by Brandon Meriweather; and Myles White’s recovery of a muffed punt by Dallas’ Cole Beasley.
That game also included a 100-yard kickoff return by New York’s Dwayne Harris, formerly of the Cowboys.
By halftime of the early games, Houston, Indianapolis and Washington were dead in the water. They trailed their opponents by a combined 85-7.
The Colts made their game interesting against New Orleans, though, digging most of the way back from a 20-0 deficit before losing, 27-21. And the Redskins made club history by coming all the way back and beating Tampa Bay, 31-30, after trailing, 24-0, midway through the second quarter.
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, who scored the first points for the Redskins with a touchdown run at the end of the first half, threw for three scores in the second half. The franchise had never come back to win after falling behind by more than three touchdowns.
“It was a good lesson,” Cousins said. “Just keep playing, and you never know what can happen.”
In the week leading up to Sunday’s game against Cleveland, St. Louis Coach Jeff Fisher said rookie running back Todd Gurley wasn’t quite 100% after the knee injury he suffered in college.
Scary to think that Gurley has room to get even better.
He ran for 128 yards and his first two NFL touchdowns in a 24-6 victory over the Browns. In his previous two games, he ran for 146 against Arizona and 159 against Green Bay. Gurley is the first rookie since Cadillac Williams in 2005 to rush for at least 125 yards in each of his first three starts.
After Sunday’s game, Fisher was asked if he’s ever coached a back who has had so much success so early in his career.
“No,” Fisher said, “and I’ve been around some really good ones. Chris Johnson was outstanding early. Eddie George was outstanding early. I don’t recall them having the numbers that they had after three full games like Todd has.”
Pittsburgh, coming off victories over San Diego and Arizona, saw its momentum blunted with a 23-13 loss at Kansas City. Steelers quarterback Landry Jones, making his first career start, threw for a touchdown but also had two interceptions and a fumble.
Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said Ben Roethlisberger, recovering from a knee injury, should be ready for the Week 8 game against Cincinnati. He indicated Roethlisberger could have played Sunday if necessary.
“We decided to go with the guy that had the practice reps,” Tomlin said. “That was the appropriate thing to do. No second-guessing. We’ll move forward with Ben as we prepare this week.”
Call him Flipper
Dan Campbell, new coach of the Miami Dolphins, has flipped the fortunes of that franchise. His team has beaten Tennessee and Houston in consecutive weeks by scores of 38-10 and 44-26. Granted, neither the Titans nor the Texans are juggernauts, and the Dolphins should have a tougher go of it Thursday at New England.
Still, the turnaround has been impressive since Campbell took over for the fired Joe Philbin. According to STATS, Campbell is just the fifth interim coach of the 26 in the NFL since 2000 to win his first two games.
“I always said this team had the players and playmakers and talent to play like we have the last two weeks,” said Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who completed his first 18 passes and threw for four touchdowns in the first 16 minutes. “For whatever reason we weren’t showing up the way we wanted to. Give credit to Dan and the rest of the coaching staff that they’ve turned it around.”
As if the day weren’t bad enough for the Texans, they also lost running back Arian Foster, to what NFL.com is calling a season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury. He was carted off in the fourth quarter after falling to the turf without making contact with anyone.
Foster, in his seventh year, has made it through only two entire seasons. He missed three games earlier this year with a groin injury.
Another week, another rough outing for Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who has had multiple interceptions in four of his five starts this season. He was picked off twice Sunday by New Orleans.
Although he rallied in the second half with three touchdown passes, Luck did not complete a pass until midway through the second quarter.
“Egregious turnovers, especially the one at the end of the half,” Luck said of an end-zone interception that wiped out the Colts’ first scoring chance. “It’s really bad football.”
It won’t get any easier for Indianapolis, whose next three opponents are Carolina, Denver and Atlanta.
Sky’s the limit
Some NFL teams have reached a comfortable cruising altitude. Others, not so much.
Consider the Texans. Their backup quarterback, Ryan Mallett, missed the team charter to Miami and wound up having to buy his own ticket and fly commercial. In light of the way the Texans played Sunday, Houston players should have been required to pay their own way home.
Then there was Adrian Peterson. The Minnesota running back was downgraded to questionable because of an illness the day before a game against the Lions. There were conflicting accounts about the situation. There were reports during the game that Peterson got sick after accidentally swallowing his chewing tobacco during the bumpy flight to Detroit. Afterward, Peterson pointed to bad shrimp as the culprit.
Either way, he was stronger than a lip full of wintergreen against the Lions, contributing 98 yards rushing to Minnesota’s 28-19 victory. Lends new meaning to the cheer “Skol Vikings!”
And what about that trip home after the Jaguars edged the Bills, 34-31, at Wembley Stadium?
Perceived flight times:
London to Jacksonville: One hour.
London to Buffalo: An eternity.