It was, said one San Diego radio commentator before Thursday night’s kickoff, going to be a fight “between two wounded bears in an octagon.”
The Raiders and Chargers, both 4-4, were desperate to regain the momentum both had lost after strong starts in 2011.
In the end, it was the bear from Northern California with the pin move.
The Raiders ended their two-game losing streak with a 24-17 victory that gives them the AFC West lead and delivers the Chargers a fourth straight loss.
Oakland built leads of 17-3 at the half and 24-10 in the third quarter, survived two turnovers in the second half and stopped a Chargers bid to tie the game late in the game when safety Matt Giordano intercepted a long Philip Rivers throw in the end zone.
Finally, after losing two straight to AFC West foes Kansas City and Denver, the Raiders got their mojo back.
Carson Palmer connected with rookie Denarius Moore for touchdown plays of 33 and 26 yards, and Michael Bush – subbing for the injured Darren McFadden – carried the ball 30 times for 157 yards and a TD to power the Oakland offense. Bush also added 85 yards on three receptions for 242 yards from scrimmage.
Palmer, in just his second start for Oakland since being acquired in a trade from Cincinnati, completed 14 of 21 passes for 299 yards, five of those to Moore for 123 yards.
All told, the Raiders outgained San Diego 489-314, won time-of-possession (32:37 to 27:23), cut down on their penalties (just seven), checked the Chargers’ rushing game just one week after being shredded on the ground by the Broncos and sacked Rivers six times.
The Raiders are assured of being alone in first place at least until Sunday, when the Chiefs (4-4) play the Broncos (3-5).
Next up for the Raiders are the Vikings in Minnesota on Sunday, Nov. 20.