Chargers win battle of wounded knees

September 26, 1994|By New York Times News Service

LOS ANGELES -- The knees buckled on both starting quarterbacks yesterday. But the one with the worse limp won.

Stan Humphries, doing his Dan Fouts impression, led the San Diego Chargers on a manic scoring drive that started on his 20-yard line with 6:52 remaining and culminated with him in kicker John Carney's arms.

Carney's 33-yard field goal with two seconds left lifted the Chargers past the Los Angeles Raiders, 26-24, kept them unbeaten and made all of Humphries' smelling salts worthwhile.

With just over seven minutes left, Humphries' knee had been speared as he threw a pass. While writhing on the ground, Humphries watched Raiders cornerback Lionel Washington intercept the ball and run 31 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

It took Chargers trainers five minutes to prop Humphries up after defensive tackle Chester McGlockton's hit. But just as the Hall of Famer Fouts used to do, Humphries did not miss a snap. On the final drive, besides completing a game-saving, third-down flare pass to Ronnie Harmon, Humphries even threw a block on an end-around run.

Meanwhile, his counterpart, Jeff Hostetler, had sprains all over. He had been body-slammed by Shawn Lee in the second half, and he had to leave for a play, but he returned to help the Raiders overcome a 23-3 third-quarter deficit. He was hit high and hit low, particularly by linebacker Junior Seau, who had eight tackles and two sacks.

If Humphries deserved a Purple Heart, Hostetler did, too. In the first half, Seau set up office in the Raiders backfield, and Hostetler was often in trouble.

So harried was Hostetler yesterday that the team abandoned its senses at a critical juncture of the game. Trailing 20-3 in the final 35 seconds of the first half, the Raiders faced a fourth down on the Chargers' 6-yard line. Needing a touchdown to make the second half less desperate, they decided to forego an all-but-sure field goal in order to run a play from scrimmage. But out of fear of Seau's maniacal outside pass rush, they ran a nondescript dive play up the middle. It failed, so the Raiders loped off at halftime to the sound of boos.

The Chargers, for the first 35 minutes, had every item in their favor -- offense, defense, special teams and officiating. If it wasn't one of their kick returners piercing through the Raiders coverage, it was an official's penalty flag bailing them out.

Before Humphries even handled the ball, his Chargers led 7-0. A Raiders punt fluttered into the hands of Darrien Gordon, a starting cornerback, at the 10. Gordon steered himself immediately to an opening. Punter Jeff Gossett had last aim at Gordon, but he found only a handful of Gordon's face mask, and it hardly slowed Gordon.

Once Humphries did touch the football, he took fine care of it. Humphries played catch with Harmon twice for 30 yards on San Diego's second drive. It led to a 38-yard Carney field goal and a 10-0 lead.

On the Chargers' next possession, Humphries underthrew a long toss to wide receiver Shawn Jefferson, but Raiders safety Eddie Anderson lodged his arm around Jefferson as the receiver strained back to grab the ball. The 50-yard pass interference penalty gave San Diego possession on the 1-yard line, and Natrone Means went around right end for a 17-0 lead.

The teams exchanged field goals for a 20-3 score at intermission. At halftime, however, someone figured out a way to block Seau and, Hostetler finally had arm space.

San Diego's opening second-half possession led to another field goal and a 23-3 lead.

Then the Raiders' Alexander Wright returned a kickoff 55 yards. The Raiders soon faced a fourth-and-goal from the San Diego 1-yard line, and Hostetler had to scramble to make ends meet. He faded back to pass, was pressured by an army of Chargers, but still managed to dive for the touchdown.

After forcing the Chargers' first punt of the afternoon, the Raiders took four minutes to score again, with Raghib Ismail snaring a 23-yard touchdown pass from Hostetler to reduce the lead to 23-17.

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