The Raiders’ most valuable player is apparently long snapper Jon Condo. Condo went down in the second quarter to a head injury and backup LB Travis Goethel took over at long snapper, utterly failing at the job and leading to three failed Raider punts, including one that was blocked. This gave the Chargers an extremely short field all throughout the second half and allowed them to put the game away as the Chargers won 22-14.
Meanwhile, the Raider defense looked extremely stout and disciplined in their assignments, holding the Chargers to a mere 32 yards rushing. Philip Rivers was his normal efficient self, amassing 231 yards on 24/33 passing and one touchdown, but the Chargers’ lack of ability to rush limited his chances to take the game over. The Raiders bent but didn’t break throughout the contest, holding the Chargers to several field goals when it appeared touchdowns were inevitable.
The Raiders’ offense was efficient and moved the ball well at times, but the lack of playmakers at wideout and tight end severely limited their options. Darren McFadden touched the ball on what seemed like half the offensive snaps, and he did his best against a Charger defense that was clearly geared to stop him. McFadden gained 118 yards from scrimmage on the night and was both the team’s leading rusher and receiver.
Carson Palmer was very good, eschewing his normal habit of forcing the ball deep. He did not make the costly mistakes we saw him make in the preseason, but without Denarius Moore or Jacoby Ford he also was mostly unable to take his shots down the field. The lack of this option was the major factor leading to San Diego’s seeming defensive dominance of the game. Palmer did manage one garbage-time touchdown, and even though the Raiders lost he did statistically outplay Philip Rivers in the game. Palmer seems like he will play at a very high level all year.
In the first half, Oakland put together several good drives but on each one, some calamity befell the team and cost them the opportunity for a touchdown. On the Raiders’ first drive, when it seemed the Raiders were marching steadily down the field with little resistance, Rod Streater fumbled while trying to fight for extra yards. On the next possession, Taiwan Jones fumbled on a reverse. On the Chargers’ first touchdown drive, DT Tommy Kelly had two offsides penalties on critical third downs.
There were some positives to take away from the game. Carson Palmer looks as good as he has ever been, the offensive line played very well and kept Palmer from being touched by the defense until midway through the fourth quarter, and Darren McFadden looks as explosive as he was in his 2010 season. Also, the Raiders appear more disciplined and aside from a string of plays in the second quarter, appear to have cut down on costly penalties- they totaled only six penalties for 35 yards in the entire game. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver looks like a genius and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s system seems as though it will be effective. However, the lack of weapons in the passing game and special teams woes ultimately led to a heartbreaking defeat Monday night.