In his first NFL start Monday night, Rivers didn't do much more
than hand the ball off and watch his defense dominate. He didn't
have to: Tomlinson carried 31 times for 131 yards and one touchdown
and the Chargers handed Oakland its second home shutout in a 27-0
victory over the Raiders on Monday night.
"It was exciting," Rivers said. "I've been waiting for this
day for a long time. ... I've said before, I don't care if I have
to hand it off 50 times or throw it 50 times, as long as we win."
With much of the focus on Rivers as he replaces Drew Brees,
Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer put the game in the hands of
Tomlinson and his defense, spoiling Art Shell's first game back as
"I was shocked," Shell said. "We didn't play well, as you
could tell. We didn't have the intensity level that the San Diego
Chargers did. I didn't get us prepared for this game."
San Diego beat the Raiders for the sixth straight time and shut
them out for the first time in their last 90 regular-season
meetings. When the Chargers won 44-0 in 1961, Al Davis was still an
assistant with San Diego.
Tomlinson showed little sign of rust after sitting out the
entire preseason, topping 100 yards rushing in the second quarter.
He has 837 yards rushing in his last six meetings with Oakland.
"When you have a young quarterback, you run the football a
lot," Tomlinson said. "You don't ever want to put a young
quarterback in a situation to make a turnover unless you have to.
We played conservative and our defense was playing well so we had
to ride our defense."
Rivers, who spent his first two seasons as a backup, went
8-for-11 for 108 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to
Antonio Gates in the fourth quarter that made it 20-0.
The Chargers ran the ball on 48 of 59 plays, and Rivers threw
only two passes to wide receivers.
"That was dictated by the score," Schottenheimer said. "If I
had Dan Marino, I would have done the same thing. Everything he was
asked to do, he did in a winning fashion."
The Chargers' win capped an opening weekend in the NFL in which
11 games were won by visiting teams, the most on opening weekend
since 1983, when 12 teams did it. The Raiders joined Green Bay and
Tampa Bay as home teams who failed to score in their openers as
they had no answer for Merriman and the Chargers defense.
Merriman, last year's top defensive rookie, had three of San
Diego's nine sacks and the Chargers held the Raiders to 129 yards
in Brooks' first game as quarterback. Brooks, who went 6-for-14 for
68 yards, was replaced in the fourth quarter by Andrew Walter.
"It was just a tough outing. They played better than us,"
Brooks said. "We're going to get better."
Shell was brought back to Oakland to turn the Raiders around
after the worst three-year stretch in Davis' more than four decades
with the franchise. But after one game it looked like the same old
Raiders, who won 13 games the last three seasons.
The Raiders was shut out for the first time since a 30-0 loss to
Kansas City on Dec. 7, 1997, and they hadn't been blanked at home
since losing 17-0 to Denver on Oct. 4, 1981.
"They were getting kind of frustrated because we weren't giving
the quarterback enough time," Merriman said. "They didn't have as
much time to throw the ball as they wanted to. We made Aaron Brooks
make decisions that he didn't want to make."
The Chargers ran the ball eight of nine times on the opening
drive, with the only pass going to Tomlinson, as the Chargers moved
51 yards to set up Nate Kaeding's 47-yard field goal.
Tomlinson ran 58 yards on the first play of the second drive and
capped it with a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal.
Rivers didn't throw a ball to a receiver until the third drive,
when he connected with Keenan McCardell on an 18-yard pass on
third-and-8. Kaeding missed wide on a 42-yard field goal attempt,
but Nnamdi Asomugha was called for running into the kicker and
Kaeding made good on his second chance from 29 yards to make it
The Raiders offense was booed by the sellout crowd just 12
minutes into the season. The revamped offensive line failed to
create any running lanes for LaMont Jordan, who had 20 yards on 10
carries, or to protect Brooks.
Last year's leading receiver for Oakland, Jerry Porter, was
inactive for the game as his standing on the team has dropped after
demanding a trade at the start of training camp. He joked on the
sidelines as the Raiders struggled to move the ball.
Brooks didn't even attempt a pass to Randy Moss until about 5
minutes left in the half. Moss had four catches for 47 yards.
Schottenheimer improved to 26-7 in his career against the
Raiders. His 187 career wins are one more than Chuck Knox for
seventh all-time. ... San Diego DL Igor Olshansky left in the first
quarter with a sprained right knee. ... Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
was on hand for the game between California rivals.
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