Chargers capitalize on Raiders' 3 botched punts to open with win
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers capitalized on mistakes instead of making them for a change.
Rivers threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Malcom Floyd and Nate Kaeding kicked five field goals to spoil Dennis Allen's debut as Oakland coach by beating the Raiders 22-14 on Monday night.
"I've always tried to take care of the football and be smart but you have to be able to manage the situation," Rivers said. "The situation today was our defense was playing good, our special teams is getting the ball. ... If you go back since I've been playing here and we don't turn the ball over, it's 90-something percent we win. That was the key for the offense tonight."
The Raiders were looking to start a new era on a positive note but were done in by an offense that couldn't score a touchdown until the final minute and three botched punts after an injury to Pro Bowl long snapper Jon Condo.
The Chargers did enough to win on a night they started undrafted rookie Mike Harris at left tackle and were missing starting running back Ryan Mathews and receiver Vincent Brown to injuries.
San Diego protected Harris by throwing short often with 16 of Rivers' 24 completions going to running backs and tight ends. Rivers threw for 231 yards, but was sacked just once and did not turn the ball over after having 20 interceptions a year ago.
"We were without a couple guys we rely fairly heavily on, and I thought he managed the game, he did a good job on the critical third downs, got us in and out of bad plays," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "I thought he was accurate passing. He did throw the ball away when we didn't have anything."
Oakland had its own problems with injuries. The absence of deep-threat receivers Denarius Moore (hamstring) and Jacoby Ford (left foot) left Carson Palmer throwing mostly underneath to Darren McFadden, who caught a career-high 13 passes. A head injury to Condo in the second quarter proved to be even more significant when backup long snapper Travis Goethel had to fill in.
Early in the third quarter, the Raiders lined up to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the San Diego 48. But after a penalty for 12 men in the huddle, Oakland decided to punt. Goethel, who last snapped in high school, rolled one back to Lechler, who was tackled for a loss, giving San Diego the ball at the Raiders 39. That set up a 28-yard field goal by Kaeding.
After Oakland was stopped on its next drive, Lechler set up closer to Goethel, whose snap made it back in the air. But Dante Rosario broke through for the first block against Lechler since 2006 -- a year before Condo joined the team. The Chargers once again had to settle for a short field goal and led 16-6 heading into the fourth quarter.
"It's pretty hard. It's hard snapping on the dirt, too. I've never snapped on the dirt before," Goethel said. "Trust me, I wish it never happened."
Goethel rolled another snap back early in the fourth quarter, once again giving San Diego the ball in Oakland territory, setting up Kaeding's career-high-tying fifth field goal to make it 22-6. Lechler consoled Goethel as they walked off the field.
"A lot of people would have walked away from that idea," Lechler said. "I know he feels terrible. But he shouldn't."
The Chargers know what the Raiders were going throwing, having been done in by horrid special teams two years ago when they allowed three kickoff returns for touchdowns, a punt return for a TD and had five punts blocked.
"I can imagine you're going to see 31 other teams working a lot of backup long snappers come Wednesday," Kaeding said. "It's something a lot of teams honestly don't do a lot of. It's just one play away from someone having to go in there and get it done. It was unfortunate for them, obviously."
Palmer finally got Oakland into the end zone with 54 seconds left on a 2-yard pass to rookie Rod Streater and the two connected for a 2-point conversion to make it 22-14. But San Diego recovered the onside kick and iced the game.
Palmer went 32-for-46 for 297 yards.
The Raiders had little trouble moving the ball in the first half but could not get into the end zone and trailed 10-6 at the break.
Oakland gained 204 yards but settled for field goals of 51 and 19 yards by Sebastian Janikowski. Another prime scoring drive ended when Streater fumbled at the San Diego 29.
The Chargers used two long passes by Rivers and penalties by Oakland on their two scoring drives. Robert Meachem beat Ron Bartell on a 46-yard deep ball to set up Kaeding's 23-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Rivers hit Floyd on a 23-yarder on a drive that was extended by three Oakland penalties that gave San Diego a first down, including two offside penalties by Tommy Kelly on third down. Rivers capped the drive by escaping pressure and finding Floyd for a TD.
The Raiders, who set an NFL record with 163 penalties last season, had six for 35 yards on Monday. ... Bartell left the game in the first half with a shoulder and elbow injury. ... McFadden's 13 catches set a record for a Raiders running back. ... San Diego has won eight of nine games in Oakland.