SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30: Antonio Gates #85 hugs head coach Norv Turner of the San Diego Chargers after the 24-21 win over the Oakland Raiders on December 30, 2012 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
In what is probably head coach Norv Turner’s swan song with San Diego, the Chargers won against the hated division rival Raiders.
But it was an emotional day at Qualcomm.
“It’s the Raiders,” said linebacker Shaun Phillips. “They don’t like us, we don’t like them. It’s going to always be that way.”
And it started from the beginning.
The Raiders won the toss and chose to defer. That sent wide receiver Michael Spurlock back to receive.
He caught it at the 1-yard line and took it to the house. Last week against the Jets, Spurlock returned a punt for a touchdown.
Spurlock is the first Charger in history to return a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in consecutive games.
On the next three series, the Raiders, then the Chargers, then the Raiders again, went three-and-out.
On the Chargers third series of the game they got within field goal range and Nick Novak kicked it in from 30-yards out.
In the second quarter, the emotions came to a head.
Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor threw an incomplete pass and somewhere in the scuffle after the play the referees came out with three penalties. Two personal foul penalties resulted in ejections.
Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes would not be allowed to return to what could be his last NFL game. The 15th-year league veteran was voted Most Inspirational Player earlier in the week by his teammates. And in a little scuffle that included Raiders running back Michael Goodman, Spikes career may have ended on a sour note.
An emotional Spikes was escorted off the field by teammate and close friend Randy McMichael, not to return.
“Our friendship is bigger than football,” McMichael said.
Spikes has played in over 200 NFL games without ever making a playoff appearance, and still his attitude and demeanor in the locker room convinced his San Diego teammates to vote him Most Inspirational both years he’s been a Charger.
“We like having Spikes in there because he’s our emotional leader,” Phillips said.
“It’s inspiring for a guy to be playing that long in the NFL,” said safety Corey Lynch. “And just the way he talks to us and encourages us and motivates us and pushes us. TK’s that inspirational player.”
The Raiders finished that emotional drive with a touchdown pass from Pryor to Darius Heyward-Bey, making the score 10-7 Chargers.
San Diego responded with an 81-yard touchdown drive of it’s own. Quarterback Philip Rivers found tight end Antonio Gates from 11 yards out. It was the pair’s 56th time connecting for a TD and with that reception, Gates tied Lance Alworth for most receiving touchdowns ever by a Bolt.
At halftime, the scoreboard read 17-7 Chargers.
In the third quarter the Bolts lengthened their lead.
Rivers hit Danario Alexander deep on the right hand side for a 34-yard touchdown.
Alexander joined the team in October but didn’t see his first play until November first against Kansas City. Since then he’s caught 36 receptions for 624 yards. Wide receiver Malcom Floyd is the only Charger who has caught for more yards on the year.
The fourth quarter finished with a pair of useless Raiders touchdowns.
Although the last one, within the two-minute warning, put Oakland within three points of the Chargers. The attempted onside kick was recovered by San Diego and after a few Rivers kneels, the final score was Chargers 24, Raiders 21.
There has been a lot of speculation this season regarding Turner’s future as head coach. And he as much as admitted in the post-game conference that his era was ending.
If this was his last game as San Diego Chargers’ head coach, Turner’s locker room stuck with him to the end.
“After the game it was pretty emotional,” said safety Eric Weddle. “Just because we all know what’s going to happen and we all love and appreciate Norv and what he’s done for us. Including myself, growing me into the player I am today, he has a lot to do with that.”
“My relationship with Norv goes beyond football,” said cornerback Quentin Jammer, whose future with the team is also uncertain. “I love and respect him for a lot of different reasons than just football. It meant a lot for the team, all the veteran guys to send him off with a win.”