OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 10: Michael Bush #29 of the Oakland Raiders runs with the ball against the San Diego Chargers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 10, 2010 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
NFL punting enthusiasts saw Sunday's Oakland Raiders' game as a "punter's duel," with Shane Lechler and the Chargers' Mike Scifres considered the best two punting legs in the game.
Some punter's duel. It was Lechler in a laugher, as the Raiders blocked two -- two! -- of Scifres' punts in the first quarter, and hung on to beat the Chargers 35-27 in the Black Hole.
Both teams rallied repeatedly in the fourth quarter, and the Chargers' Phillip Rivers shredded the Raiders for 431 yards passing. But Michael Huff got the last laugh, stripping Rivers of the ball inside the two-minute warning to allow Tyvon Branch to rumble 64 yards for the insurance touchdown.
Rock Cartwright blocked a punt not one minute into the first quarter, resulting in a Raiders' safety and the rare 2-0 lead. On the Chargers' very next possession, Brandon Meyers blocked Scifres' punt again and Hiram Eugene took it on for a touchdown.
The Chargers, undaunted, appeared to gunning their way right back to into it. Philip Rivers went a perfect 6-for-6 and drove the Chargers all the way down to the Raiders' one-yard line.
But they were daunted. Safety Mike Mitchell stripped Charger fullback Mike Tolbert of the ball, and San Diego committed third red zone turnover in just the first quarter.
The storybook first quarter took a discouraging turn at its conclusion. Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips knocked Bruce Gradkowski out of the game. Jason Campbell came in with 20 seconds left in the first quarter, spotted a 12-0 lead.
It looked like the turning point. Campbell couldn't score, and the Chargers scored two touchdowns within six minutes to take a 14-12 lead.
Philip Rivers struck again late in the third, with a 41-yard touchdown to put the Chargers up 24-15.
But Jason Campbell, this season's massively disappointing Jason Campbell, marched the Raiders on a 97-yard drive and capped it off with a one-yard touchdown throw to Zach Miller.
The new and improved Jason Campbell was still not done. He chewed up and spat out more than eight minutes of fourth quarter clock time on another Raiders touchdown drive to give the Oakland a 27-25 lead. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful.
That would have loomed large, except but the Raiders' defense rose to the occasion and forced the Rivers fumble-slash-touchdown to seal it with 1:10 left in the game.
And finally, for one day at least, Jason Campbell has won the hearts and minds of Raider Nation.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who is particularly amped because everyone else in the AFC West lost today.