Oakland Raiders vs San Diego Chargers: Depth Charged!
Justin Smith – Sep 12, 2012
The new era for the Oakland Raiders got off to a rocky start last night, as untimely penalties and mistakes were the ultimate cause of their 22-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers.
The Raiders got off to a good start, with coordinator Greg Knapp – more on him in a bit – mixing it up nicely between the pass and run game, Carson Palmer looking sharp and the Raiders moving the ball with ease. Rookie Rod Streater, a pleasant surprise at wideout, caught the ball at the Charger 40 yard line and tried to fight for more yards. Mistake. He was stood up, popped, and the ball squirted straight up in the air and down into the arms of the enemy. Turnover. Drive stalled.
The Raiders D, in what would become the theme of the night, stiffened immediately. They stuffed the first run by Ronnie Brown, forced an incompletion and then sacked Philip Rivers. San Diego’s starting LT Jared Gaither is laid up with a bad back, so undrafted rookie free agent Mike Harris got the call. It looked like bad news at first; but that was the only time the Raiders even sniffed Rivers all evening. It was an issue.
Sebastian Janikowski, after another drive in which Darren McFadden did the heavy lifting, hit a 51-yard field goal off the dirt, assuaging any concerns over his left groin.
The Raiders defense played well until near the end of the first quarter. In a cruel twist of irony, right after commentators Chris “Boomer” Berman and Trent “Game Manager” Dilfer praised the “new” Raiders for their discipline, Tommy Kelly jumped offsides on a 3rd & 1 when San Diego was still in their own end. Well, jumped offside is kind of an understatement. He more gave Nick Hardwick a personal head massage with his elbows and the turf.
After the Chargers moved the ball down into Raider territory and into field goal range, the Raiders had them 3rd & 4 and to that point the Raider defense had proven they could hold. But Kelly had other plans. Apparently playing a completely different game in his head – or perhaps he has some kind of Minority Report-like personal, portable webasphere – Kelly jumped offside again. First down Chargers. A couple plays later an untouched Philip Rivers – a really disappointing theme after the first defensive series by the Raiders – found Malcom Floyd and it was 10-3 Chargers.
The Raiders had another nice drive in quick order, as Rivers and the Chargers took over eight minutes off the clock on their TD drive. Palmer, with a combination of short passes and a couple big plays by McFadden – drove the team down into scoring range with less than 30 seconds left.
After getting in trouble Palmer scrambled and found McFadden – an all-too familiar theme this game – on a checkdown. McFadden burst down the right hash and made a Herculean effort to get into the end zone, only to fall just short.
The Raiders, with :07 seconds left and no timeouts, were nonetheless poised to go for the gold on 1st and Goal from the one yard line when an official review – correctly – overturned the previous play and spotted McFadden back at the 1 ½ yard line – just shy of the first down.
This caused first year coach Dennis Allen a major dilemma. Had it been first down, it made sense to take one, maybe even two quick shots at the end zone before kicking it. But now? No such option. Allen took the points – which he should have – and the Raiders trailed 10-6 going into half.
During the first half Eddie Royal burst forth for an exciting punt return for the Chargers that was called back for illegal block in the back. The only reason to mention that is that during this play something that seemed fairly innocuous at the time, an injury to Raiders Pro Bowl long snapper Jon Condo, became a major theme as to how this game ultimately played out.
The Chargers got the ball, did nothing, and punted. The Raiders got the ball, did nothing, had another stupid penalty which caused them to go third and long, and forced a punt. No problem right? Shane Lechler is the best in the biz.
Travis Goethel is not.
Goethel, subbing for the injured Condo, apparently thought he was throwing fielding practice to the A’s instead of snapping the ball to his punter. His ground ball was scooped up by Lechler – who looked for Reece and probably would’ve found him if he wasn’t smothered by 43 Chargers – and the Chargers took over.
The Raiders defense held strong yet again; they allowed the Chargers into the red zone for the third time, but forced a field goal for the second time.
The Raider offense at this point was becoming painful to watch. Coordinator Greg Knapp must love vanilla more than even I do – and I loves me some vanilla – because he didn’t call any plays that tested the defense. Instead, he called multiple runs – even though they weren’t effective – with McFadden, and then when they did throw the ball they threw it to – yep, you guessed it – McFadden. McFadden’s previous career high for catches was eight; he had 13 in this game. 13! For a running back!
Many people are upset with Carson Palmer today, calling him “Captain Check-Down” and such. Really? Have you EVER seen Palmer check the ball down needlessly? Hell, the issue going into the season was Palmer’s resistance to check downs and him taking too many chances.
Well, Knapp made sure that wasn’t an option this game. McFadden touched the ball on roughly 55% of the Raiders offensive plays; it’s not hard to see why the team couldn’t move the ball in the second half. Just cover McFadden with eleven guys. Simple. Done.
The Raiders stagnated on offense all second half, checking down to McFadden and failing to throw the ball more than fifteen yards downfield until it was far too late.
Their defense, however, deserves a ton of credit and possibly a medal of valor.
After Goethel’s initial ground ball, his next snap was in Lechler’s hands. Only it was floating into his hands, and the personal protector took a hiatus for the play, so Lechler was turned into a pretzel while Dante Rosario blocked the punt down inside the Raider 10 yard line. First and goal, Chargers.
Well damned if that Raider defense didn’t stiffen yet again in the red zone – and the second time in a goal to go situation – and hold them to another field goal. The defense did all it could to hold this game close, just waiting for the offense to wake up.
On the next Raider possession, they punted again. This time, Goethel’s grounder was even worse than the first one resulting in another first down for the Chargers inside the Raiders' 20 yard line.
So in the second half the Raiders gave up less than 150 yards, yet they gave up twelve points. Twelve points off poor special teams play.
I know Goethel isn’t the long snapper; but the coaching staff needs to take some of the blame here. The long snapper is someone everyone takes for granted; apparently even those who know how important they are. Why else to explain not having a viable backup?
You can believe every coach in the NFL is training their backup long snapper today.
The Raiders did score a touchdown, but it was too little too late. Palmer led a nice drive in which he actually got to throw the ball downfield a bit, and he did it well, finding Brandon Myers twice and Rod Streater finally for the kid’s first NFL touchdown.
But at that point there was less than a minute remaining, and the special teams gaffes had allowed the Chargers such good field position that despite a heroic effort from the Raider defense the deficit was two touchdowns and two two point conversions.
Palmer hit Streater immediately for the two pointer and suddenly it was 22-14; but there was very little time left. An onside kick was needed.
For whatever reason Seabass blasted the onside kick as if he was booting a 60 yarder and the Raiders had no chance for recovery. Smother; game over.
The Raiders getting six penalties for 35 yards is a nice improvement statistically; it just so happens that four of those penalties contributed to losing the game. Two offsides by Kelly on the Chargers’ TD drive, a 12-man in the huddle that forced the first ground ball punt by Goethel and a personal foul that backed up the Raiders in field position to start a crucial drive were all killers. Yes, there were less penalties, but they were just as costly.
As were other mistakes, like Taiwan Jones’ two drops: one on a kick return that he scooped back up but once again set the Raiders deep in their zone, and one on a reverse that would’ve got some money if he didn’t drop the ball.
Streater had a fumble on the first drive that killed points, and the Raiders once again beat themselves with undisciplined football, something that was supposed to be a thing of the past.
Anyone who has observed the Raiders for any length of time knows that the result was the same, but the team was not. This defense fought hard until the final whistle and played their guts out. That simply didn’t used to happen.
The offense, especially Carson Palmer, looked sharp but not aggressive enough. The Raiders need Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford healthy, because they weren’t scaring the Chargers downfield all night and McFadden paid the price. The threat of a downfield passing game must be there; and Moore and Ford must get back on the field ASAP to help that out.
In all the Raiders played a decent game, but it was very preseason-esque in that the same problems carried over. The offense moved the ball but couldn’t score; special teams were atrocious; and the defense looks much improved – with the exception of Ron Bartell, who got abused by Floyd in coverage before he hurt his shoulder.
This Raider team is better, and Allen has improved them in areas, that much was clear last night. What was also clear, though, is that the Raiders are a bit snakebitten, and they are neither deep nor talented enough to overcome both being snakebitten AND making dumb mistakes.
They travel to Miami next week, where they should have a good shot to win. They struggle in road games to Miami traditionally, but this team must win this game or be looking at 0-2 with a bear of a schedule remaining.
The new era sparks the same old questions: the Raiders are talented enough to win, but will they ever stop beating themselves?
Like Raider Nation Times
How Would You Grade the Raiders Free Agency So Far?