Third time is no charm

Other than avoiding the team record for shutouts in a season, it doesn't appear the Oakland Raiders have much to play for over the final two weeks of the season.

Taking dead aim on a porous St. Louis Rams defense that seemed as if it would be the antidote to their offensive ills, the Raiders instead lost 20-0 Sunday at McAfee Coliseum.

It was the third time this season the Raiders were shut out, falling 27-0 to the San Diego Chargers in Week 1 and 16-0 to the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 6.

It's the first time the Raiders have endured three shutouts in a season since losing three straight times by shutout in 1981, their last year in Oakland before moving to Los Angeles.

St. Louis entered with the 23rd ranked defense overall and was No. 31 against the run, having given up 154.8 yards per game and individual 100-yard performances in nine different games.

The Raiders promised to exploit that weakness, but in the end abandoned the run once they fell behind 13-0 early in the third quarter. By game's end, Oakland had just 57 yards on 18 carries.

Looking for a spark to begin the fourth quarter, coach Art Shell removed starting quarterback Aaron Brooks in favor of Andrew Walter, who started seven games after Brooks suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Week 2.

Walter did the same thing Brooks did -- and what has been commonplace for the Raiders the past few weeks -- move somewhere in the vicinity of the opposing end zone, then go up in flames.

The Raiders ended possessions at the St. Louis 13, the St. Louis 34 and, finally at the St. Louis 7. They lost the ball the first time on a Zack Crockett fumble, turned it over on downs the second time. Fittingly, they ended the game at the seven, unable to avert the shutout when they couldn't get a final play off before the clock expired.

"It's not good, but there's always hope," Shell said. "You move the ball for maybe six plays in a row, then all of a sudden something pushes you back. Too many times that happens to us, and we're just not good enough to do those kinds of things."

The Raiders lost two fumbles and had three interceptions, with the Rams not turning it over.

Walter finished 14 of 20 for 131 yards and two interceptions, with Brooks going 11-for-19 for 98 yards and one interception. Shell said he would decide this week who would be Oakland's starting quarterback for the final two games against Kansas City and the New York Giants.

The Rams played it safe on offense against the Raiders' top-ranked pass defense, with quarterback Marc Bulger completing 11 of 22 passes for 137 yards. They were persistent with the run, with running back Steven Jackson rushing for 127 yards on 31 carries and scoring on runs of 4 and 9 yards.

Still, Oakland's defense performed fairly well, giving up only 260 total yards. On the Rams' two longest drives, marches of 85 and 72 yards in the first half, they were forced to settle for field goals of 24 and 34 yards by Jeff Wilkins.

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