Published September 11, 2012
OAKLAND, Calif. – Travis Goethel walked off the field following his final, shaky snap and carved out a spot to stand alone on the Raiders sideline. Punter Shane Lechler patted him on the head, then slammed his own helmet in disgust.
New coach Dennis Allen surely prepared for just about every scenario ahead of his first regular-season game. Clearly, backup long snapper wasn't one of them.
Goethel botched three snaps that led to scores after Pro Bowl selection Jon Condo left with a head injury, and the Raiders lost 22-14 to the San Diego Chargers on Monday night.
"Trust me," Goethel said. "I wish it never happened."
Goethel, a backup linebacker who mostly plays on special teams, hadn't snapped a ball in a meaningful game since playing at Vista High School in Southern California. He had never snapped on dirt, either, which he had to do with the Oakland Athletics also playing games at the Coliseum, the only stadium still shared by NFL and Major League Baseball teams.
"My hat's off to him just for doing it," Lechler said. "That (stuff) ain't easy. You know, he went out and did his best. That's all you ask from a guy to get put in a situation like that."
Philip Rivers and the Chargers constantly capitalized on Oakland's mistakes.
Rivers threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Malcom Floyd and Nate Kaeding kicked five field goals to spoil Allen's debut as Oakland coach. 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 Condo left in the second quarter.
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.
Oakland had its own problems with injuries.
The absence of deep-threat receivers Denarius Moore (hamstring) and Jacoby Ford (left foot) left Carson Palmer mostly throwing underneath to Darren McFadden, who caught a career-high 13 passes. But the head injury to Condo proved to be even more significant when Goethel had to fill in.
Even worse, Goethel never practiced on the sideline after his first botched snap.
"You didn't know what you were going to get from one play to the next," Allen said. "We're going to have to have a plan for that going forward. We have to make sure that doesn't happen again."
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's snap rolled 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.
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.
"It was just mechanics of snapping," Goethel said. "If you don't snap that often, if you don't snap in a game since high school, it's a little different."
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 Meacham 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 have San Diego a first down, including two offside penalties by Tommy Kelly on third down. Rivers capped the drive by escaping pressure and finding an open Floyd for a 6-yard score.
The Raiders, who set an NFL record with 163 penalties last season and gave opponents 58 first downs by penalties, had six penalties for 35 yards.
"We got to eliminate the self-inflicted wounds," Allen said. "That's the thing that has hurt us in the preseason and obviously it hurt us tonight. We have to find a way to get those things eliminated."
NOTES: Oakland CB Ron 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.
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