Posted by Jay Paris
The Chargers head for the Black Hole in a season which has been all blue skies. OK, there was the hiccup in the opener, when a double-digit fourth-quarter lead in the Arizona desert evaporated like a watery mirage. But since it’s been smiles and giggles as the Chargers (4-1) take a four-game winning steak to the East Bay. The Raiders (0-4) are the Raiders and what else is there to say?
The decade of dreadful football continues with interim coach Tony Sparano at the helm for the first time since Dennis Allen got the pink slip. Sparano has some fire in his belly and he proved it after practice. He buried a football which represented the team’s first four games. Down the football went and just maybe 16 quarters of inept performances went with it.
Chargers coach Mike McCoy isn’t reaching for shovels. Instead his team has been top-shelf, residing atop the AFC West and numerous NFL ranking polls. The Bolts are No. 1 has a ring to it, even if McCoy isn’t listening. He’s more in tune to getting his team to peak again on Sunday, despite a list of questions that won’t be answered at game time.
The Chargers’ offensive line could go from upheaval to heavens no. The running back situation could go from banged-up to tapped-out. The linebacking crew still includes Donald Butler but few predicted Dwight Freeney would still be standing with the injury bug bit. But the Chargers keep rolling even with the ailments.
The Raiders have no business beating the Chargers on Sunday. Strange things, though, happen in Oakland and the Chargers’ most recent trip there proved it. The Chargers won at Denver, Philadelphia and Kansas City last year — and Cincinnati in the playoffs — but came home from the Bay Area with a loss. The Raiders will be rested from their bye and energized from their new coach. Still, they shouldn’t hang with a Chargers team which, dare we say, could be the best in the AFC, if not the NFL.
Time to pump the breaks with such talk? Possibly, but the Chargers are coming off their first shutout since 2010 and have outscored their last two opponents 47-0 in the six quarters. The Chargers have allowed but 26 points in the second half of games this year.
But does this run came with a grain of perspective? Should we note the combined record of the previous three opponents is 4-11? The Chargers have feasted on quarterbacks such as EJ Manuel, Blake Bortles, Geno Smith, Michael Vick and now here comes rookie Derek Carr. Yes, the Bolts have been fortunate the schedule-makers did them a solid. But they did their part as well.
“You got to bank those wins,” cornerback Brandon Flowers said.
The bloom is off the Raiders and they’re busy burying painful memories. The Chargers aren’t so anxious to forget the past as to embrace the present.
“We got,” Flowers said, “something special going on around here.”