Raiders trounced in the trenches

The questions coming into the Raiders season surrounded the usual suspects. What would the quarterback play be like? Would the offensive line rebound from a down year? Would the defense begin turning it around? One thing is for sure – the line was decimated.

Have the Oakland Raiders set themselves up to fail by putting too much faith in an offensive line that is not up to the task?

That's the way it looked in a 27-0 loss to the San Diego Chargers to open the season on Monday Night Football.

Raiders guard Barry Sims summed up what the Chargers did to his team: "They came in here and pushed us around." Oakland's plan since training camp was to get back to basics. A revamped offensive line would provide the push for a power running game and wall off pass rushers for vertical, play-action passing from quarterback Aaron Brooks.

The Chargers laid waste to that plan of attack, choking off the run and then chasing Brooks to the bench in favor of Andrew Walter because coach Art Shell thought his quarterback had taken enough of a beating for one night.

Running back LaMont Jordan had just 20 yards on 10 carries and had a long gain of 4 yards. Oakland's 87-yard rushing total was deceiving because Justin Fargas gained 35 yards late in the game when the Chargers were safely in charge.

Brooks and Andrew Walter were sacked nine times, with Shawne Merriman getting three of them and using left tackle Robert Gallery as a swinging gate to the quarterback.

The day after the defeat, Shell was still at a loss to explain how his line allowed itself to be dominated.

"We didn't meet the challenge that was there," Shell said. "We didn't understand for whatever reason it's not just a game. It's bigger than that. You have to come out prepared for the speed, the tempo. It's much higher than it is during pre-season and practice. And our guys didn't understand that, for whatever reason. And we talked bout it, preached it to them all week long."

The Raiders had little in the way of explanation except the obvious.

"We got our asses kicked," left guard Barry Sims said. "In the second half, I don't know if we even gained any yards."

Only a late flurry of yardage got the Raiders to 129 yards of total offense _ their lowest output in the last three seasons in which they have compiled a 13-36 record.

Shell declined to single out a particular culprit along the line, although Gallery was the most conspicuous figure. He had a false start early in the game and never could get a handle on Merriman, who admittedly is one of the NFL's best pass rushers.

"All we can do is work on our mistakes and go from here," Gallery said. "We knew they were fast. It was just little things here and there. Little technique things, little scheme things. I'm sure we're going to be the worst line in the world tomorrow."

Oakland's problem was not all the work of the offensive line. It's insistence on a passing attack featuring five- and seven-step drops essentially put Chargers pass rushers in starting blocks. There was little in the way of short and intermediate passing routes or screen passes to take off some of the pressure.

A surprise start by center Jake Grove, out since Aug. 22 with a shoulder injury and who was listed as doubtful all week, did little to stem the tide.

"I thought we were ready to play. It kind of got away from us," Grove said. "We've got 15 more of these."


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