SAN DIEGO -- The Raiders apparently spent the last four days in finishing school.
Free safety Matt Giordano's end zone interception with 3:21 to play and a clutch third-and-11 pass from quarterback Carson Palmer to tight end Kevin Boss helped the Raiders hold on to a 24-17 win over the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night at Qualcomm Stadium.
"We make games a little harder than they should be sometimes," coach Hue Jackson said. "It's not easy, but we'll keep working at it. This is a resilient bunch. We hadn't played well for the last two weeks, and it was time for the Raiders to stand up."
Palmer completed 14 of 20 passes for 299 yards and touchdowns of 33 and 26 yards to Denarius Moore, and Michael Bush rushed for 157 yards on a career-high 30 carries with a 2-yard touchdown as the Raiders had 489 yards of total offense.
The showing delighted much of a crowd of 68,109, which appeared to have more volume from Raiders fans than Chargers fans.
They withstood a furious second-half rally by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who passed for 230 of his 274 yards in the second half while absorbing six sacks for the game (including four by nickel pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley) from a punishing Oakland pass rush against a crippled San Diego offensive line.
Rivers had a 30-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Brown and a 7-yard scoring pass to Jacob Hester in the second half. Giordano's interception thwarted the last realistic chance at a score, and Tommy Kelly punctuated a big day for the Oakland pass rush with a game-ending sack.
The Raiders are temporarily alone at the top of the AFC West with a 5-4 record after hitting the low point of their season in a 38-24 home loss to Denver in which the circumstances were similar.
Oakland played its best half of football of the season in taking a 17-3 lead, one week after it led the Broncos 17-7.
"It was definitely something we talked about at halftime," center Stefen Wisniewski said.
San Diego, loser of four straight (and three in a row to the Raiders), dropped to 4-5 in the AFC West. If Denver beats Kansas City on Sunday, the Raiders would be alone at the top of the division. Not that they're paying attention to anything other than their own play at this point.
"We're not going to get too high," Jackson said. "Trust me, this is a huge win, but we know what we have to do and we can get a lot better."
Both teams went on short rest with considerable injury problems. Jackson called the Raiders a "skeleton" compared with the team that started the season.
Starting center Samson Satele didn't play because of a knee injury, with Wisniewski taking his place and Stephon Heyer making his first start at left guard.
Free safety Michael Huff was out with an ankle injury, and wide receiver Jacoby Ford left the stadium after the game on crutches with his left foot in a boot after falling awkwardly following a 41-yard reception from Palmer. Running back Darren McFadden remains out with a mid-foot sprain.
The Raiders, however, were able to physically impose their will on San Diego with 191 rushing yards with Bush doing most of the pounding.
"I came in at halftime and Coach said he was going to give it to me 15 more times," Bush said after getting 17 carries for 86 yards in the first half.
"I told him, 'Just feed the stud,' " Bush said. "So he did."
The Raiders took a 24-10 lead with 9:01 left in the third quarter when Palmer found Moore behind Quentin Jammer for a 26-yard touchdown, his second of the day.
San Diego scored on Rivers' pass to Hester to cap a 51-yard drive after a lost fumble by Palmer on the final play of the third quarter.
Palmer also had an interception after being hit from behind.
With 6:48 left, Rivers drove the Chargers from their own 11 to the Oakland 37, with Rivers taking a 5-yard sack from Desmond Bryant back to the 42. On second-and-15, Rivers dropped back and let fly for Vincent Jackson in the end zone against Stanford Routt.
Rivers does this often, liking Vincent Jackson's ability to jump and make a play. Except Jackson didn't make much of an effort to catch the ball, Giordano read the play, intercepted in the end zone and ran it to the 26-yard line.
"That's Phil and it shows how much confidence he has in his receivers," Giordano said. "I thought I could have made a play earlier on the touchdown to Vincent Brown, and that helps make up for it."
For all the big chunk passing plays Palmer had, his 24-yard pass to Boss on third-and-11 helped put the game away.
"Option No. 1 wasn't there, option No. 2 wasn't there, and there was option No. 3, right there at midfield," Hue Jackson said.