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Time to lighten up

By Jerry McDonald

Yes, the 27-0 loss by the Raiders to the San Diego Chargers was atrocious, horrendous, embarrassing and just about any other adjective you want to use, but facts are facts.

It’s one game. One of 16.

Let’s be serious here. You really thought the Raiders were going to the playoffs?

It’s time to let it go.

After being labeled a “hater” by more than a handful of e-mailers and message board posters across Raider Nation over the past three years, I find it amusing to point out that maybe _ just maybe _ it’s not all that bad.

A few reasons why Week 1 was not necessarily the end of the world as we know it:

– The San Diego Chargers are good. Real good. Maybe the best team in the AFC. They’ve got three outright superstars in LaDainian Tomlinson, Shawne Merriman and Antonio Gates.

They’ve got established systems of offense and defense. A coach that historically beats up on the Raiders. A new quarterback in Philip Rivers who _ mark my words _ will be better than the old one in Drew Brees.

Of course, Schottenheimer, as good as he is in the regular season, will probably screw it up in the playoffs, but that’s beside the point.

The Raiders got the hell kicked out of them by a better team.

– It’s the NFL. You think it’s impossible Oakland could beat Baltimore Sunday. Nothing is impossible. If the Raiders defy all logic, the Ravens stink on ice, turn the ball over on the 1 a time or two and someone important gets hurt, who knows?

Then all the people spewing hate and hopelessness for the past few days will be jump back on board. Either that, or hide out for a week or two while those who consider themselves among the faithful shout “I told you so” and make fun of all the Chicken Littles.

A football season is 16 games. A baseball season is 162. One loss in football is like a 10-game losing streak in baseball when it comes to panic level. Throw in the emotion of a sold-out home opener and anxiety over a 13-35 record over the last three years and all sense of proportion is distorted.

– Games can turn on one play. The Raiders kept the Chargers pinned deep in their own territory for much of the third quarter. Say what you want about Schottenheimer _ he played it perfectly by sitting on the ball, knowing his defense was in control.

If the Raiders had scored a defensive touchdown, the entire momentum of the game could have swung the other way. Schotteheimer did everything but kneel on the ball himself to make sure that didn’t happen.

– Robert Gallery’s a flop, a bum, Tony Mandarich, (fill in your insult here). He was beaten by a player I firmly believe is the best NFL defender since Lawrence Taylor. Would anyone be truly surprised if Merriman is not only the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, but the MVP?

That doesn’t mean Gallery will become Jonathan Ogden or Tony Boselli, but to throw him in the trash because he had a rough time against the NFL’s premiere defender is excessive.

Assuming his calf injury is not serious, he’ll get plenty of chances to become a solid pro, if not a Pro Bowler or Hall of Famer.

– The Shell Raiders give an awful first impression. Their opening days of training camp were unwatchable. Their first pre-season game against Philadelphia _ even though they won _ was terrible. They got better in training camp, and improved in the pre-season.

It’s not a stretch to think it might happen again.

Can you really just chuck an entire season on four quarters of play?

It’s not that there aren’t some valid criticisms worth making.

How can you make a 270-pound fullback, a former tight end no less, inactive when facing pass rushers the caliber of Merriman? John Paul Foschi is no doubt wondering the same thing.

How can Corey Hulsey go from starting center to inactive so quickly? He can’t be good enough to start at center one day, then not be good enough to back up at guard the next. It makes no sense.

In what universe does Michael Huff come out of the game in goal line situations? Rob Ryan used to do the same thing when Charles Woodson was healthy, and I never understood it. He takes his best tackler, the guy most likely to make a stop, strip the ball, maybe return it 100 yards the other way, and puts him on the bench.

Even worse against San Diego, Huff shadows Antonio Gates and holds him to one reception for 22 yards. He comes out on goal line, and Derrick Gibson takes over. Gates catches a 4-yard touchdown pass.

You put Gibson on Gates near the goal line, and you might as well add the six points to the scoreboard while you’re at it.

What was up with that game plan? Al Davis while extolling the virtues of Shell, also told us Tom Walsh is a bright guy. He also said there would be some rust, considering Shell hadn’t been a head coach since 1994 and Walsh hadn’t coached in the NFL since them.

Anyone got a case of WD-40? Or at least a few pages from an old playbook which detail some decent short pass patterns, swing passes and screen passes?

There’s a lot to work on, for players and coaches alike.

And 15 more weeks to spew the appropriate venom if history repeats itself over and over again to 2-14 or something along those lines.

Shell will say over and over there are no moral victories, but don’t believe that for a second. A close game in Baltimore would be one. Getting to seven wins would be cause for a parade.

I’ve got some doubts about not only the new coaching staff, but the organization as a whole. I’m just willing to let it play out a little longer and allow them to prove me wrong.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer