Maybe the San Diego Chargers would like to play all their home games this season and for the foreseeable future in Oakland. Heck, the Oakland Chargers?
San Diego won for the eighth time in its last nine attempts in Oakland Monday evening, scoring a 22-14 victory in the season and AFC West opener for both teams. After going 14-6 against the Raiders during the 2000s, the Chargers watched Oakland win three of the last four, before scoring a 38-26 win in last year’s season finale in Northern California.
This time around, the Chargers found Oakland (0-1) to be just as hospitable, as Raider miscues on special teams, along with five Nate Kaeding field goals, helped propel San Diego (1-0) to the win.
While it was certainly not the prettiest game to watch, Chargers fans had reason to smile when all was said and done. Remember, this is a franchise that caught tons of flack after last season for retaining head coach Norv Turner and general manager AJ Smith after an 8-8 campaign, a season that left San Diego out of the playoffs for the second straight year.
So, how did the Bolts do on this late summer evening in the Bay Area?
QB Philip Rivers did not have to be super effective on this night as it would turn out, that being despite missing starting running back Ryan Mathews (recovering from surgery for a broken clavicle). Rivers effectively managed the offense, connecting for one TD pass and 234 yards on the night on 16 completions. Most importantly, Rivers did not turn the ball over, something that haunted him and the Chargers a season ago (20 interceptions to set a career high in 2011). With Mathews out, San Diego’s running game was far from effective, with Curtis Brinkley and Eddie Royal rushing for a combined 24 yards. Former Dolphin Ronnie Brown, who was brought in during the offseason, was held to five yards on the ground. The Chargers will clearly need to get more out of their running game moving forward, either with or without Mathews, who could play this Sunday in the home opener versus Tennessee. San Diego spread the ball around through the air, with seven players getting touches. Malcom Floyd, who had caught San Diego’s lone TD pass, had 66 yards on four receptions. Although under duress at times, the offensive line did an all right job in protecting Rivers, as Rivers only suffered one sack.
San Diego’s defense had one of its better games in recent memory, as Oakland QB Carson Palmer had pressure on a number of occasions, suffering three sacks along the way. Not only was the Chargers’ ‘D’ effective for much of the night, but they played with a hunger on this evening, something that was not always evident in 2011. Kudos to Atari Bigby, Donald Butler and Eric Weddle, who each had seven tackles, while Shaun Phillips added a pair of sacks. In all, the ‘D’ held Oakland to six points if you throw out the Raiders’ lone TD with under a minute left in the game.
The Chargers were all over Oakland’s punting game, which suffered a serious injury when Pro Bowl long snapper Jon Condo was hit in the head by one of his teammates, leading to his exit for the night with possible concussion symptoms. As a result, the Raiders would go on with a new snapper to botch three punts, as Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler had to fend for his life. Meantime, Nate Kaeding showed off his form and why he is one of the best place kickers in the NFL (except when meeting the Jets in the playoffs). Kaeding hit on five field goals from 23, 28, 19, 41, and 45 yards out. Like the rest of the defense, the special teams unit played hungry and had some kick in their step.
Grade: A –
Overtime: Overall, a good way for the Chargers to start the new season. Ironically, San Diego ends the regular season on Dec. 30 at home versus Oakland. Raiders now lead the overall series 58-46-2. The next two San Diego games are at home versus Tennessee and Atlanta, respectively. Given Tennessee’s performance Sunday against New England, Chargers should be favored in Sunday’s contest. The Chargers will retire the number 55 in honor of the late Junior Seau before the game. Seau died back in May of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.