Opening week is always the time where you get most knee-jerk reactions. If I told you the Raiders would out gain their opponent by 63 yards, allow zero second half touchdowns, shut down the run and only have six penalties and one turnover, you'd think they would be victorious, right?
Well, the Raiders lost 22-14 in a game that was not as close as the score indicated. And although it's never good to start the season with a loss, there were positives to take away from Monday night's game.
First and foremost, the Raiders run defense was outstanding. The Chargers gained 32 yards on 20 carries. Let me repeat that. The Chargers gained 32 yards on 20 carries. That's a 1.6 yards per carry average for a team that allowed 136 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry last year. And I don't care who was running for San Diego, that is mighty impressive.
Second, the Raiders, despite San Diego's average starting field position being inside the Oakland 50 in the second half, didn't yield a second half touchdown. In total, San Diego gained all of 258 yards, its fewest in this series since the 2007 finale. Oakland lost, but it was not because of the defensive effort.
And in spite of a couple of stupid pre-snap mistakes, the Raiders ended up with only six penalties for 35 yards in the game. For some teams, that's room for improvement. For the Raiders, it's a means to rejoice. If you take those numbers and stretch them out over 16 games, the Raiders commit 96 penalties for all of 560 yards. Which is to say, Raider Nation would take that seven days a week in contrast to last year's team.
Now, the obvious negative was the atrocious, yet almost predictable job by backup long snapper Travis Goethel. I am of the idea that one time is okay because it's hard to envision the backup long snapper getting many reps in practice. But to see him standing on the sidelines and not practicing is unacceptable. Especially when two more crucial mistakes (a blocked punt and second botched snap) were caused by his performance.
Those were nine points that truthfully may not have cost San Diego the game. Its defense went into a prevent shell up 16 points, which helped the Raiders offense drive down for their cosmetic touchdown. But it's frustrating because instead of the score being 13-6, it was 22-6 and we can never know for sure.
The next negative was Darren McFadden's inability to run the ball. It's only one week, but it's not too early to say this: McFadden and Greg Knapp just don't mix in the running game. Fifteen carries and 32 yards will have the Raiders in a lot of bad situations in 2012. Knapp's play calling was a bit vanilla, but when he did have the Chargers ready to bite on a reverse, Taiwan Jones got staggered by the football, losing 25 yards.
Losing Ron Bartell is a blow to the team, but not having Stefen Wisniewski seemed to affect the Raiders offense. Little Wiz needs to come back strong, because Alex Parsons was not able to get much push inside and bad blocking coordination led to a pair of sacks against Khalif Barnes, who should be on the hot seat right now.
Ultimately, the less mistake-prone team won last night. I'm not ready to say San Diego is better by any stretch. Raiders fans can take solace in one thing: Last year's AFC West champion lost its home opener on Monday Night football. Miami has been a Raiders bully the last couple of years, so next week's game is daunting. The hope is that Jon Condo (the heretofore anonymous Raiders long snapper), Stefen Wisniewski and Denarius Moore are able to return to action. By the looks of things, Oakland needs them all.
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