Raiders come up short to Chargers

The Raiders lost to San Diego for the 12th straight time on Monday night but this wasn't like any of the previous 11. Oakland had the Chargers on the ropes ready for a knockout punch that never game. Find out what happened and catch all the news and notes from the game in S&BI's roundup.

For three-plus quarters the Raiders did exactly what they wanted to against the Chargers. They ran the ball at will, using an impressive 1-2 punch of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, and got just enough from the passing game to keep the offense going most of the game.

Defensively, Oakland controlled the line of scrimmage, completely controlled running back LaDainian Tomlinson and, buoyed by the presence of new arrival Richard Seymour, played arguably its best game in seven years.

The final score _ 24-20 in San Diego's favor _ certainly didn't show it and will be all that anyone talks about on Monday, but the bottom line is this was a game by the Raiders few people expected to see.

Need proof?

Step inside Oakland's locker room, where the players were visibly angered. There was no laughing, like after the loss to San Diego last season. One player said in the past that his some of his teammates would have been showered and long gone after a game like this, but they lingered around after this one, letting the loss hit them squarely where it counts.

"And that is a good thing, because I have been a Raider since 2007 and I feel like that is the first time in the locker room after a loss where it really got in your gut," head coach Tom Cable said. "That is a good thing. It sounds funny but that is the way you are supposed to feel about this game so I am proud of them. Very proud of my team."

Morale victories don't count for anything in the NFL, and the Monday morning standings will have the Raiders at 0-1 while the Chargers are 1-0. But San Diego, a clear-cut favorite by many to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this season, understands it was lucky to get out of town with a win.

"They aren't the same team," Chargers tight end Antonio Gates said. "They have guys that want to win and play hard. It was a battle. They always say this is a game of inches, and a few plays changed the game today. They played their hearts out."

Other news and notes from the game:

-- The running tandem of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush combined for 123 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown. Not dynamic numbers, but the duo was very effective – especially early – and set the groundwork for what the offense should look like all season.

-- Quarterback JaMarcus Russell went through a rough stretch midway through the game where he overthrew several open receivers, but the big man came through with a huge 57-yard touchdown to Louis Murphy late in the fourth quarter and made some real nice completions to tight end Zach Miller.

Russell left the game briefly after injuring his right shin during a quarterback keeper for a first down and was booed by the crowd when he came back on after sitting out a couple plays.

That's probably going to happen a lot, as the Raider Nation fan base has grown impatient with Russell's progress. But it says here Russell had a good game _ not great _ and will continue to improve the more he plays.

-- LaDainian Tomlinson has been the Raiders killer in the past but Oakland bottled him up at every turn and held him to 55 yards on 13 carries, his longest run being a 13-yarder. The Raiders allowed only 77 yards total on the ground but let Sproles hurt them with his receiving late in the game.

-- Speaking of the defense, there was a noticeable more physical toughness to the defense that has been sorely missing around these parts. Safety Tyvon Branch and cornerback Chris Johnson both delivered jarring hits in the first half, leveling San Diego players both times.

-- If you're looking for a scapegoat for the loss, look at Oakland's coverage units. As has been the case in the past, special teams suffered a letdown at the wrong time. Right after Oakland scored its first touchdown, the Chargers took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 66 yards.

-- First-round draft pick Darrius Heyward-Bey didn't make a single catch but dropped two passes, though one was erased by a penalty. With Chaz Schilens still out and Javon Walker on the inactive list, DHB got a rare start in his first NFL game but was shut out and had no impact on the game whatsoever.

-- The Raiders were only called for six penalties, a major step forward.

-- Safety Michael Huff got a lot of playing time and came up with one of his best games ever, recording an interception and a fumble recovery.

-- The Raiders ran a lot of nickel and dime formations, with Kirk Morrison leaving the field while Ricky Brown stayed. Brown and Morrison split time at middle linebacker in the game depending on what formation Oakland was in.


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