Monday, December 23, 2013

Oakland Raiders 13 at San Diego Chargers 26 - December 22, 2013


With my wife joining me in California last week, it was time for healthy eating and cultural events instead of just sports. After a couple of relaxing days in San Diego, including attending my first (and last) ballet, I woke early on Sunday and drove to Old Town, where I parked the car for free and took the trolley to Qualcomm Stadium. Day passes are usually $5 but San Diego Transit raises the price by a dollar, giving you commemorative pass in return, a nice touch.

A few days before the game I hopped on Craigslist and found a lower level seat at the goal line for $60, a bargain given that StubHub had similar seats for $180. The gentleman who had the extra ticket (Joe) wanted to make sure that I was going to show up, so I told him about the blog and he was convinced. So there is some value in recording my travels online.



When I arrived at the stadium, I met up with Joe and was happy to find out he too was born in Canada, although his family moved to warmer climes when he was a child. He is now a Raider fan and was wearing a Darren McFadden jersey, prompting a stadium staffer to ask him where he got it. Turned out the worker was also named McFadden and surprised to see his name on an NFL jersey. A lot of stadium workers are actually not fans and that was the case here as this McFadden was not aware that the Raiders had 2 namesakes (Marshall McFadden is a linebacker for the team).



We spent an hour at the Power Party, one of the better pregame zones in the league (below), including $7 IPA drafts. It was sure fun watching the Bills (flag above) shutout the Dolphins on one of the big screens while Joe wandered around getting his picture taken with iconic Raider fans. With an hour to go before the game, I entered to do my usual tour.



Qualcomm Stadium



First opened in August 1967, Qualcomm is one of the few remaining NFL venues designed for both baseball and football. It served as the home to the Padres until 2003 when they moved into Petco Park, but there have been no renovations to make it a football-only facility.



The stadium was once named after Jack Murphy, a San Diego sports columnist who was behind the creation of a multipurpose venue. When Qualcomm bought the naming rights in 1997, the honoured name remained as Jack Murphy Field but this is not publicized. There is a statue of Murphy and his dog just outside the trolley entrance though.



Walking around the exterior, you will likely be less than impressed. There was only one colourful display (below), the rest is all concrete with nothing attractive. Spend your time at the Power Party in parking lot F2 if you get there early.



Inside, you can take escalators to the top level if you want pictures, and then walk the ramps back down. The next few photos should give you an idea of the layout of the venue.













Along the top are flags for each NFL team (Oakland and San Diego are last alphabetically in the AFC West allowing me to take the matchup photo at the top). There are also 3 flags for Hall of Famers, including the late Junior Seau.



One thing to be aware of is that the plaza seats have a walkway that is in use throughout the game. If you are sitting in rows 1-5 here, you might get a bit annoyed at the constant flow of traffic in front of you.



Food options are OK, with several food trucks on the plaza the best option. I should note that most concessions are outside the seating bowl, which allows for a clearer path around the interior concourse. One option is Oggi's, which seems to have a different definition of the word "deal" than I do. Only $49 for a pepperoni pizza, you say? Bargain!





Qualcomm is clearly outdated but still serves its purpose well enough. It would be nice if a renovation was undertaken to get lower level seats closer and improve the overall atmosphere, but for now, it will suffice. The trolley is a great way to get to and from the game, and San Diego always has wonderful weather, so you can easily overlook the flaws of Qualcomm and enjoy an NFL game there, as I did.

The Game

The Raiders came in at 4-10 and on a four-game losing streak, although one of their wins was over the Chargers, so the many Raider fans in attendance were optimistic. With Matt McGloin (below) starting though, they probably shouldn't have been.



Oakland started with the ball and quickly punted. San Diego followed with an amazing 16-play, 82-yard drive but a sack (below) forced them to settle for a field goal.



After another 3-and-out for the Raiders, San Diego began to march again, but an early snap caught Philip Rivers off guard and the Raiders recovered the fumble. A 37-yard pass to Mychal Rivera led to a  Darren McFadden 5-yard touchdown run, much to Joe's delight.

On their next possession, Rivers was picked off after a great 9-play drive but Oakland could not capitalize, taking two penalties before McGloin was intercepted himself on a fantastic play by Eric Weddle that made the top 10 that night on SportsCenter. Another stupid Raider penalty (they had 12 for 73 yards on the day) brought the ball to the 7, from where Ryan Mathews rumbled home to give the Chargers the 10-7 lead.



Oakland failed to do anything on their next possession, but their punt was muffed by Keenan Allen and the Raiders recovered on the San Diego 16 with 96 seconds to go in the half. A pass to Andre Holmes (above) was dropped, forcing the Raiders to kick a field goal to send us to the half knotted at 10. Despite three turnovers, the Chargers were tied, so one would expect them to protect the ball better in the second half, and that is exactly what they did, continuing their dominance driving the ball.



After both teams began the second half by punting, San Diego manufactured a brilliant 12-play, 77-yard drive culminating in a four-yard TD pass to Allen (above). Oakland went three-and-out on their next possession and when San Diego added a field goal to make it 20-10, the game was essentially over after three quarters. The Raiders fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Chargers kicked another field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it 23-10. Both teams added field goals down the stretch, but the outcome was never in doubt as the Chargers (in victory formation below) won 26-13 in a game that was perhaps the least interesting of those with playoff implications in Week 16.



That third quarter touchdown was the difference as you can see in the linescore below.



Overall, not a very memorable game, but it was great to enjoy it with a true football fan like Joe. I hope the Raiders can recover their lost lustre as their fans deserve something to cheer about in the very near future.

Notes

Before the game, there were several skydivers landing in the stadium, including a triple tandem (below). Very impressive stuff as they all landed near midfield and one was able to kick a football off a a pylon.



Best,

Sean

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