When it was over, after Raiders coach Tom Cable had raised his meaty fist in triumph, after the joyful hugging and hollering throughout the Coliseum, each Raider had his own unique reaction.
Michael Bush sighed and said he wants more. Tommy Kelly permitted himself a few moments of satisfaction. Nnamdi Asomugha, the locker room valedictorian, was typically gracious.
Richard Seymour, the man who earned three Super Bowl rings in New England and was acquired before last season to help set an example, merely grinned.
"This," he said, "is what I always envisioned happening when I came over here. Being in tough, close football games "... all we needed was a few guys to get us over the hump."
The Raiders on Sunday got over perhaps the biggest psychological hump they could face at this point. With their season at a critical point, before an enthusiastic home crowd (48,279), they found a way to topple their most persistent tormentors.
They walked away with a victory over the San Diego Chargers, who have won four consecutive AFC West titles and, more to the point, had bullied the Raiders into submission 13 consecutive times dating back to 2003.
It wasn't a pretty experience for the Raiders -- except for the 35-27 score in their favor.
Indeed, dental records might be required to identify various members of the Oakland secondary, which Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers torched for 431 yards, 290 of which came in the
One week after Houston came to town for a victory that exposed Oakland's vulnerability against the run, San Diego proved the Raiders' defense can be just as susceptible to the pass.
This time, however, the Raiders fought back as if they meant it. In the fourth quarter, with the game at stake, the defense cranked up the pressure and made enough timely plays to more than offset San Diego's gaudy offensive statistics.
"Coach stressed it all week: just finish," Kelly said. "Finish everything. Finish the plays. Finish the quarter. Finish everything."
They finished with a rush, as defensive coordinator John Marshall abandoned the soft schemes that Rivers picked apart and sent an array of blitzes at the Chargers quarterback. The pressure paid off, as San Diego's last penultimate drive ended in a fumble off a Michael Huff sack that led to a 64-yard touchdown return by Tyvon Branch. The final drive concluded with incomplete passes on third and fourth downs, giving the ball to Oakland, which ran out the clock.
The streak was dead, setting off celebrations on the field and throughout the stadium, players and fans enjoying a collective catharsis.
"It was a huge step for this team," first-year offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said.
"To get where we want to go, we know we had to beat this team," Huff said.
Not only are the Raiders (2-3) 1-0 in the AFC West for the first time since 2001, but the victory comes against the division favorite.
"It feels good, feels like we're finally getting to where we need to be," said Bush, who started at running back and finished with 104 yards on 26 carries.
"But we still haven't won two games back to back."
Ahh, yes, the significance of it all is yet to be determined. The last time the Raiders won two in a row and had at least a .500 record was through four games in 2007. It has been eight seasons since they won two straight with at least one win over an AFC West opponent.
In other words, it's much too soon to declare this a definitive breakthrough win.
But it's the kind of breakthrough win required to reach a definitive breakthrough win.
"This is a tremendous win," Cable said. "It's good to stop the streak. But as I said to (the team), 'Let's not make this a 24-hour, feel-good party. Let's make this who we are becoming.' That's where we need to go."
It has been a while since this team and this franchise and these fans had anything worthy of celebration. The recent history speaks for itself. The past seven seasons have been a slow-motion descent into the bubbling quicksand of ineptitude.
On this day, though, there was a glimmer of hope. Beneath the hard numbers, there was a glimpse of progress. Quarterback Jason Campbell came off the bench, replacing an injured Bruce Gradkowski (shoulder) and performed with efficiency and purpose. Bush ran violently and well. Mostly, the defense came together when it absolutely had to.
The Raiders cross the bay to face the 49ers next week. Win at Candlestick Park and they may be onto something.
Contact Monte Poole at email@example.com.
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