Prior to this season, the San Diego Chargers had never lost a December game under Norv Turner. For those counting, that's 14-0 over the last three seasons. I wasn't crossing this off as a guaranteed loss because of that stat, but I certainly was feeling less comfortable about the game. And then the Oakland Raiders did the unexpected and became the first team to beat Norv Turner's Chargers in December.
On December 5, the Raiders went into San Diego and handled their business with a 28-13 thumping of the Chargers. The Raiders jumped out to an early lead courtesy of a Darren Sproles muffed punt and a Philip Rivers interception. Oakland turned those two turnovers into 14 points and never looked back. After taking that lead the Raiders proceeded to absolutely run over the Chargers behind 251 rushing yards at a 4.8 per rush clip. Although the passing game wasn't incredibly explosive, Jason Campbell was efficient and didn't make any stupid mistakes as he was 10 of 16 for 117 yards and a touchdown. Given the Raiders rushing attack, there was no need for anything more from Campbell.
While it's true this is only one game, this kind of thing only further feeds my irrational hopes. Considering I remain hopeful of a playoff berth, this should not surprise anybody in the least.
Now the 49ers head down to San Diego for Thursday Night Football looking to find some manner of success, be it through the Raiders game plan or something they can draw up on their own. It's not easy to guarantee the turnovers the Raider forced, but as they did against Seattle, the 49ers simply must find a way to get touchdowns on turnovers they potentially do force. The Chargers are not a team against whom you can leave points on the field. The 49ers will need some level of efficiency that they have not seen on a consistent basis.
The Raiders used a bruising rushing attack to maintain their lead and keep the Chargers explosive offense off the field. Oakland led time of possession 38:39 to 21:21 and that combined with the two turnovers and points off those turnovers was the reason they won this game. Are the 49ers in a position to impose their will on the Chargers in a similar fashion? If Frank Gore was still healthy I'm fairly certain we would see a heavy diet of Frank the Tank. However, given his season-ending injury, we instead get to see the team try and establish something with Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon.
How should the 49ers offense approach the Chargers defense? They've found some success when they open things up a bit, but the Chargers aren't exactly a team the 49ers can hang with in a shootout. I suppose if the 49ers defense can step up against Rivers & Co. this might not be a shoot out, but the 49ers defense hasn't exactly been a model of consistency this year. They looked solid at times against the Saints, Falcons and Eagles, but were decimated by the Chiefs and Packers. Can anybody really say with any confidence that they'll show up tomorrow?
So how would you gameplan on offense against the Chargers? In a perfect world the 49ers would be able to establish the run and keep the Chargers off the field. However, this is not a perfect world as the 2010 NFL season has shown us. This game leaves me scratching my head.