Monday Night’s hard-to-watch performance by the Oakland Raiders will not sit well with the Raider Nation.
The Raiders opened the 2012 season with a thud, losing the season opener 22-14.
The silver and black’s only touchdown came with 54 seconds left in the game on a two-yard pass from Carson Palmer to rookie Rod Streater. Streater also helped Palmer convert the two-point conversion to bring the Raiders to within eight. The Raiders’ ensuing onside kick failed and the Chargers ran out the clock and ended the game in victory formation.
The Raiders’ defense hung tough, forcing five field goals by Chargers place kicker Nate Kaeding.
The Chargers’ lone touchdown came with 3:10 left in the first half via a six-yard touchdown pass from Phillip Rivers to Malcolm Floyd, putting the Bolts ahead 10-3.
The Raiders answered Floyd’s score with a 14-play, 69-yard scoring drive of their own. However, Oakland had to settle for a 19-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal after their drive stalled inside the Charger’s 2-yard line. The three points brought the Raiders within four at 10-6 heading into halftime.
The game was not as close as the final score would indicate. The Raiders were actually within striking distance the entire night. But their trouble with the punt team and the inability to find any success throwing the ball downfield should have left fans feeling this was not the Raiders’ night.
In 2012, the Raiders are supposed to run a West Coast style offense. That said, the team was missing two wideouts on Monday night. Deep threats Denarius Moore (hamstring) and Jacoby Ford (foot) missed the contest due to injuries.
The deep ball is no longer a main priority in Oakland, but having them on the field at least gives the team the ability to stretch the opposing team’s defense from time to time.
Having running back Darren McFadden as your leading receiver with a career-high 13 catches is not going to get it done.
An injury to Pro Bowl long snapper Jon Condo was behind the Raiders’ punting woes.
The backup to Condo is linebacker Travis Goethel. He was terrible; he rolled two snaps to punter Shane Lechler and he couldn’t manage to get the kicks off and was tackled for a loss on both attempts. The two blunders set up the Chargers in Oakland territory both times. Both mistakes led to San Diego field goals.
After the first skip and roll by Goethel, Lechler moved in closer on the next Oakland punt attempt to help his teammate out. It didn’t work. The snap was at least airborne, but the shorter distance did no good, as the Chargers’ Dante Rosario was able to bust through and block Lechler’s attempt, setting up another Charger’s field goal.
What Does Monday Night’s Game Tell Us?
The slop-fest in Oakland was hard to watch, but did it really give us any insight to how the season will play out for both teams? I don’t think so.
No one wants to hear excuses, but come on, Condo’s injury changed the game.
Palmer was efficient, completing 32 of 46 passes for 297 yards and had the late touchdown.
The running game needs balance, though. McFadden ran 15 times for 32 yards, but he caught 13 passes for 86 yards and was targeted 18 times by Palmer. This will change. McFadden will average more than 2.1 yards per carry. Fans can count on that (if healthy). I’m also pretty sure that when the Raiders get all their wideouts back, McFadden will not see 18 balls thrown his way.
The Raiders’ offense is still a work in progress, so give offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp a chance to get things ironed out.
Don’t forget about that the Raiders’ first drive of the night was humming right along until it was killed by a Streater fumble on the Chargers’ 29-yard line.
There was also a 12 men in the huddle penalty on 4th-and-2 early in the fourth quarter. The Raiders were going to go for it, but the penalty caused them to line up to punt, and then Goethel started his little show with the first of two rolled snaps.
One would think these things can be rectified and the team can play at mid- to high-level football in 2012. These are all correctable mistakes, but time will tell if the team can rebound from such a miserable night.
If the Raiders wouldn’t have had their problems, do they still lose? Maybe not. The Chargers didn’t exactly look sharp. Instead of five field goals, they should have put six on the board a few more times than they did and put the Raiders away.
But this game is no way a sign that San Diego is a mediocre team. You have to remember that they were without two key players on the offensive side of the ball. They had to start undrafted rookie Mike Harris at right tackle in place of Jared Gaither. The highly paid tackle’s absence caused Chargers head coach Norv Turner to put the Shackles on Rivers for his own protection. He threw a ton off short passes, with 16 of his 24 completions going to running backs and tight ends.
Rivers finished the night completing 22 of 33 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown.
The Chargers were also missing running back Ryan Mathews and receiver Vincent Brown to injuries.
Even without Vincent Jackson, and an aging Antonio Gates, the Chargers have a lot of talent and could make a lot of noise in the AFC West. I don’t see Rivers having another 20-interception season this year like he did in 2011.
So the moral of the story is, don’t judge either team by Monday’s performance—what we saw on the field could have just been a mirage.