Hector Amezcua hamezcua@sacbee.com Raiders punter Shane Lechler (9) scrambles for the ball after an errant hike by emergency long snapper Travis Goethel in the fourth quarter. Goethel bounced two snaps that led to Lechler being tackled, giving San Diego the ball in Oakland territory. Lechler also had a punt blocked, the first time that had happened since 2006.

Off to a blundering start: Oakland offense stagnates; replacement snapper flops

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013 - 1:15 pm

OAKLAND -- The scene was set for an unveiling, an introduction of the new Oakland Raiders before a buzzing home stadium and a national TV audience. Then came the short-circuit.

First the microphone of rapper Ice Cube, brought in to roil the crowd at O.co Coliseum, already itching for their first real look at the makeover performed by general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen.

And then the Raiders' offense, stagnant for much of the second half and kept out of the end zone until the final minute by the San Diego Chargers. Mix in an injury to long snapper Jon Condo that crippled the punting game, and the Raiders stumbled out of the gate in a 22-14 loss.

A glimmer remained when the Raiders drove 80 yards on 12 plays, with Carson Palmer finding rookie receiver Rod Streater for a 2-yard touchdown and a two-point conversion that made it a one-possession game with 57 seconds remaining. But it was snuffed out when the Chargers recovered Sebastian Janikowski's onside kick.

Maybe no position in sports requires such specialized yet anonymous perfection as football long snapper, which is why he's only noticed when he messes up. Condo exited early in the second quarter with a head injury suffered on punt coverage, requiring backup linebacker Travis Goethel to step in as the emergency snapper.

Goethel took a few practice snaps on the sideline with the Raiders driving late in the second quarter, then aced his first test on a Sebastian Janikowski 19-yard field goal that sent the Raiders into halftime down 10-6.

But it went downhill from there. With the Raiders punting from their own 47 early in the third quarter, Goethel's snap bounced several times before it reaches Shane Lechler, who picked it up for a loss of eight. That led to a 28-yard field goal by the Chargers' Nate Kaeding, his second of five on the evening.

After the Raiders went three-and-out on their next drive, Lechler had his punt blocked by Dante Rosario, who had come through the line untouched. It was the first Lechler punt blocked since Oct. 8, 2006. And it, too, led to a Kaeding field goal after the Chargers recovered at the Raiders' 8.

A third snap bounced to Lechler in the fourth quarter, giving the Chargers another short field. And though the Raiders' defense, which allowed just 258 yards, again managed to keep a San Diego offense missing running back Ryan Mathews out of the end zone, Kaeding came on to pad the lead.

It was enough with the Raiders' offense going nowhere when Darren McFadden wasn't. With receivers Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford both out, and rookie Juron Criner not getting into the game, the Raiders leaned heavily on McFadden in both the run and the pass game, and the Chargers made a point of taking away the former.

The Raiders, hoping for a vaunted rushing attack with McFadden healthy, gained 45 yards on the ground. By halftime, McFadden had set a personal high for catches in a game (8) and he set a new one for catches by a Raiders running back (13).

The offense did move the ball in the first half, gaining 204 yards, but had two drives stalls due to mistakes. Streater fumbled on his first NFL catch on the Raiders' opening drive, which had reached into Chargers territory. A reverse play on their third drive went for a loss of 25 yards after Marcel Reece's pitch bounced off Taiwan Jones' facemask.

It took 14 minutes for the Raiders, who last season set league records for penalties and penalty yardage, to commit their first of Monday night. But they committed several costly ones on the Chargers' lone first-half touchdown drive, including two offsides penalties on tackle Tommy Kelly that gave the Chargers first downs.

Both came in third-and-short situations, denying the Raiders' defense a shot at stopping the Chargers in their own territory. Instead they prolonged what became a 13-play, 90-yard drive that ate up 8:06 on the clock and resulted in a 6-yard scoring pass from Rivers to receiver Malcom Floyd, who had slipped behind safety Matt Giordano.

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Read more articles by Matt Kawahara



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