By Steve Corkran
Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 at 12:10 am in Oakland Raiders.
In simplistic terms, it would be easy to blame the Raiders season-opening loss to the San Diego Chargers on an injury to long-snapper Jon Condo. In reality, there was plenty of blame to go around.
Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly jumped offsides twice on third-down plays that resulted in first downs with the 5-yard infractions. The Chargers parlayed the freebies into a touchdown-scoring drive.
Rookie wide receiver Rod Streater fumbled away the ball after gaining 8 yards on a third-and-four play from the Chargers 38-yard line. That cost the Raiders a shot at a touchdown and at least a field goal.
A delay of game cost the Raiders 5 yards on a drive at the end of the first half, with the Raiders forced to kick a field goal on a fouth-and-one play from inside the Chargers 2-yard line.
“We got to eliminate the self-inflicted wounds,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “That’s the thing that has hurt us in the preseason and, obviously, it hurt us tonight. We have to find a way to get those things eliminated. Really, when you look at it, we did some good things in the game.”
Yet, those things weren’t enough to offset the bad things that surfaced, in part because of a head injury suffered by Condo early in the second quarter.
On three successive punts, Shane Lechler was unable to get off a punt in the second half.
On the first one, backup snapper Travis Goethel’s snap one-hopped Lechler, who was forced to run for his life. The Chargers parlayed that field-position swing into a field goal.
On the second one, Goethel’s snap floated back to Lechler, who had his punt blocked right off his foot. Another Chargers field goal ensued.
The capper came when Goethel three-hopped his snap to Lechler, who bobbled the ball, which the Chargers recovered in Raiders territory. Again, the Chargers turned their good fortune into another field goal.
“My hat’s off to him just for doing it,” Lechler said. “That (stuff) ain’t easy. He went out and did his best. That’s all you ask from a guy to get put in a situation like that.”
Allen said he had confidence in Goethel based on the way Goethel performed in practice.
“He’s worked on snapping the ball,” Allen said. “Actually he’s done a nice job in practice. It’s obviously a lot different when you get in a game-like situation. He was put in a tough situation and it hurt us.”
Goethel said he last long-snapped in a game back in high school. That was seven years ago or so. He said his practice time is limited to before full-team practices
When asked how many snaps Goethel gets during practice during a typical week, Lechler said: “Zero.”
Yet, there he was, the man on the spot when Condo went down.
How he got there is rather curious, too.
“(Allen) asked if I knew how to long snap, and I was the only one at camp that stood out,” Goethel said. “That’s kind of how I got put in there.”
Goethel said he is confident that he can get up to speed with more practice.
He might not get the opportunity.
“We’ll look at that tomorrow and we’ll find out what options we have available to us,” Allen said, “but we’ll make sure we have someone who can handle those duties.”
Condo’s status will be re-evaluated Tuesday, with an update provided at that time.
– Cornerback Ron Bartell allowed completions of 46 and 23 yards before he suffered shoulder and elbow injuries. He exited the game midway through the second quarter and missed the rest of the action.
Allen seemed more concerned about the shoulder. Again, an update won’t be forthcoming on Bartell’s status until Tuesday.
Veteran Pat Lee filled in for Bartell the rest of the way, and he appeared to do fine.
– Any concerns about kicker Sebastian Janikowski’s groin were allayed by his kicking a 51-yard field goal late in the first quarter. He added a 19-yarder at the end of the first half.
– Running back Darren McFadden caught 13 passes for 86 yards, one shy of former wide receiver Tim Brown’s franchise record (1997).
In all, quarterback Carson Palmer directed 18 of his 46 passes for McFadden. Overall, McFadden was the focal point on 33 of 64 offensive plays.
“We just go with the offense, however the offense is called that’s how we roll,” McFadden said. “You never know what to expect when you run into a football game, whether you’re going to get it this many times or however. We roll with the flow of the game.”
McFadden played in a regular-season game for the first time since last October, when he suffered a season-ending foot injury. By all accounts, he looked at full strength and quite capable of handling the sizable workload.
McFadden said he is confident that he can hold up for an entire season with this kind of workload.
“Oh, yeah, I don’t have a problem with it,” McFadden said. “I’m a ball player and that’s what they pay me to do, go out there and handle it like this. That’s what they pay me to do.”
– As expected, Allen said he opted against activating wide receiver Denarius Moore as a precautionary measure.
Moore returned to practice Thursday after missing a little more than a month with a hamstring injury. He showed no lingering effects from his injury, but Allen said all along that it would be a game-time decision.
“Any time you don’t have one of your better players, it’s something you have to try to work to overcome,” Allen said. “He was very close. He probably could have played in the game, but I chose not to play him because it’s a long season and we have 15 more of these games left to play. I wanted to make sure we had him healthy for the majority of the season.”
Moore’s absence necessitated Allen going with Streater as the starter opposite Darrius Heyward-Bey. It also meant significant playing time for veteran Derek Hagan, who was signed Thursday.
Streater and Hagan combined for eight receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. Palmer targeted them 15 times combined.
Heyward-Bey caught three passes for 43 yards, but he wasn’t much of a factor. Rookie Juron Criner didn’t have any passes thrown his way.
Allen said Criner was limited more so because of the practice time he missed than the ankle injury that has hobbled him for more than a week.
– The Raiders held the Chargers rushing attack to 34 yards on 19 carries, excluding the kneel-down by quarterback Philip Rivers.
It’s worth noting that the Chargers were without lead back Ryan Mathews. Still, the Raiders played well against the run and forced the Chargers to become one-dimensional at times.
“Defensively, we played really pretty well,” Allen said. “There’s really a couple of plays. We gave up a big pass to (Robert) Meachem on a third-down situation and then we gave up a long drive there in the second quarter. ”
– Rivers completed 24 of 33 passes for 231 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked only once and didn’t have any passes intercepted.
“Their offensive line did a nice job of protecting tonight,” Allen said. “Philip did a nice job of retreating some in the pocket, buying himself some time and being able to throw the ball. He did that a couple of times when we had a chance maybe to get to him.
“Philip played well. He’s a good quarterback. We have a lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for the Chargers and the team that they are. They executed. They were better than us tonight.”
– Allen also praised the play of his own quarterback, Palmer.
With good reason, too. Palmer completed 32 of 46 passes for 297 yards and one touchdown, without any interceptions. He was sacked three times in the second half.
“Carson played well today,” Allen said. “Offensively, we were able to move the ball but we didn’t have a lot of points to show for it.”
For his part, Palmer said the Raiders hurt themselves too often.
“We stopped ourselves, especially in the first half,” Palmer said. “We had the fumble and then the drop (on the) reverse that we lost a lot of yardage on. Just kind of silly things that really slowed us down and put us in third-and-long situations. You can’t do that.”
– Linebackers Rolando McClain, Philip Wheeler and Miles Burris were all over the field for the Raiders on Monday night.
The trio combined for 22 tackles and played a key role in shutting down the Chargers running game.
Rivers said he was impressed by what he saw from the new-look Raiders defense.
“It’s certainly a different scheme,” Rivers said. “It’s more of a Denver scheme from last year. … It’s a good group. It’s a stout front seven and the guys in the secondary can really run. So, they certainly presented some challenges tonight.”
– A Raiders drive that bridged the first and second quarters came undone when fullback Marcel Reece took a hand-off from Palmer and flipped it to running back Taiwan Jones.
Reece’s flip sailed toward Jones’ head, and Jones was unable to get his hands on it before it bounced off his helmet and to the ground. By the time the play was over, Jones had lost 25 yards.
The Chargers scored their first touchdown on the ensuing drive, though they had to march 90 yards to get there. That’s the drive on which Kelly jumped offsides twice within a five-play span.
Allen said he didn’t consider benching Kelly for his gaffes. Kelly came out for a few plays, but it owed more to fatigue than anything.
“We don’t set hard line rules like that,” Allen said. “At the end of the day, we understand that we have to eliminate the penalties. We had six penalties for 35 yards in the game. Penalties weren’t what cost us the football game. It was the self-inflicted wounds of turning the ball over and giving them the ball at our end of the field.”