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Angry Pope

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Scene of a disaster

September 11th, 2006

OAKLAND _ Not much to be gleaned from the loser’s locker room Monday night other than the obvious admission fromthe Oakland Raiders that they had their behinds kicked up and down the field by a far superior team.

It was Chargers 27, Raiders 0, and it was every bit that one-sided.

No one was offering any excuses, which is a good thing because there weren’t any to be found.

The Raiders promised to run the ball and they couldn’t, gaining 87 yards on 20 carries. Even that total was somewhat artificial, with Aaron Brooks scrambling three times for 27 yards and Justin Fargas gaining 35 in five attempts when the game was out of reach.

The Raiders promised to strike deep and they couldn’t, with Randy Moss averaging 11.8 yards on four receptions and Brooks connecting on no gain longer than 21 yards.

The pass protection was abysmal, with the the Raiders giving up nine sacks.

Yet at least part of that blame goes to Brooks for holding the ball too long, and to Oakland’s scheme, which doesn’t seem to allow for short- and medium-range passes.

Defensively, the Raiders were atrocious against the run in the first half as San Diego ran to a 13-0 lead. Things got better for awhile in the third quarter, but that was at least partially due to San Diego’s decision to run the ball up the gut and protect first-year quarterback Philip Rivers with the Chargers stuck in poor field position.

Rivers threw sparingly but effectively, completing 8 of 11 for 108 yards and displaying excellent touch on his most important passes. He was not sacked.

Coach Art Shell wanted to see the film before getting into too much detail.

Better him than the rest of us.

_ Jerry McDonald
 
see the film? :eek: ---- you probably don't want to do that Art.
 
Final: Chargers 27, Raiders 0

September 11th, 2006

OAKLAND _ Oakland’s chances to avert the first home shutout since 1981 died on a 7-yard gain at the 3-yard line as the San Diego Chargers prevailed 27-0 at McAfee Coliseum.

The Raiders gained just 129 yards in total offense, averaging 2.7 yards per play. Aaron Brooks was 6-for-14 for 68 yards before getting the hook in favor of Andrew Walter, who was 2-for-5 for 28 yards.

Heading to the locker room . . .

_ Jerry McDonald
 
Angry Pope said:
Heading to the locker room . . .

_ Jerry McDonald
Why? Expecting something profound to be said? Sad.
 
ERIC GILMORE

Offensive line shoulders much of the blame

OAKLAND - You can call them the five sad sacks or the un-fab five.

Take your pick. Either name works for the Raiders offensive line after its Monday night debacle against the San Diego Chargers.

Yes, the Raiders had plenty of problems during their 27-0 season-opening loss.

But none was more glaring than their supersized problem along the offensive line, where tackles Robert Gallery and Langston Walker, guards Barry Sims and Paul McQuistan and center Jake Grove had a collective nightmare.

Raiders starting quarterback Aaron Brooks was sacked seven times before coach Art Shell, fearing for Brooks' safety, pulled him early in the fourth quarter. Backup Andrew Walter was nailed twice.

As for this fivesome's run blocking? Well, the Raiders rushed for 35 yards in the first half and 87 for the game. LaMont Jordan carried 10 times for 20 yards.

"You have to execute," Sims said. "We didn't do any execution besides shooting ourselves. They came in and pushed us around.

"There's only one way to go. That's up."

If the Raiders don't fix this problem soon, there's no telling when they'll win a game.

Because if their offensive line can't pass block, then the Raiders can't throw deep, which means their hope of reviving the old-school, vertical game is a pipe dream.

And if their offensive line can't run block, then the Raiders can't grind out yards, which means the Raiders' odds of re-establishing a power running game are longer than their odds of winning the Super Bowl.

In other words, their offense is dead until further notice.

"We knew they were fast," Gallery said. "It was just little things here and there. Little technique things, little scheme things.

"I'm sure we're going to be the worse line in the world tomorrow."

Actually, they played like the world's worst line Monday night for all the world to see in prime time.

The Raiders' offensive line had no answer for Chargers outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was a man among 300-plus-pound boys in silver and black.

If Merriman wasn't sacking Brooks, he was forcing him into the arms of his teammates or making him run for his life.

Merriman had three sacks. And yes, he was an equal opportunity sacker, switching between the left and right sides.

Let's give Merriman his due. He's a pass-rushing beast. He had 10 sacks last season during a spectacular rookie season. But in one night against the Raiders, Merriman matched nearly a third of his sack total for 2005.

So why didn't the Raiders double-team Merriman more often?

"It didn't matter if we doubled him because the other people were coming in, too," Shell said. "There were breakdowns up and down the line."

Asked if the Raiders could win with this group of linemen, Shell figuratively threw up his hands.

"That's what we have," Shell said. "We have to make them better.

"We just have to dig down, get them ready to go. That's who we have. These are the guys."

The more you watch this offensive line work, the more you appreciate what the Raiders had during their Super Bowl season in 2002.

Lincoln Kennedy was a rock at right tackle. Guards Frank Middleton and Mo Collins were two tons of blocking fun. OK, they could have mixed in a few more salads, but they kept Rich Gannon upright.

Center Barret Robbins, before his Super Bowl eve meltdown, was a force in the middle. Sims, the only holdover from that group, started at left tackle and had arguably his best year.

Granted, the current Raiders' offensive line, other than left guard Barry Sims, is still young. But most of them have been around long enough for us to wonder if they'll ever be up to the task.

The Raiders used the second overall pick in the 2004 draft for Gallery. So far, they aren't getting their money's worth. When you draft an offensive lineman that high, you expect to a get a Pro Bowl fixture for 10 years.

So either Gallery is underachieving or the Raiders' personnel people overestimated his potential. Either way, it's bad news for the Raiders.

The Raiders spent a second-round pick on Grove in 2004. In 2002, they drafted Walker in the second round. This year, they drafted McQuistan in the third.

The Raiders aren't ignoring the offensive line. But they might be making draft-day mistakes on offensive linemen.

More experience will help these youngsters, but Brooks might not survive long while they learn.

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

The alternative isn't pretty.
 
GARY PETERSON

Raiders opener looks all too familiar


OAKLAND - Art Shell is no dummy. He surely understood the challenges that await him in his second term as the Oakland Raiders head coach, even before Monday night.

He understands them better this morning.

Monday night was supposed to be a rebirth of sorts for the Raiders -- new season, new quarterback (Aaron Brooks), new/old head coach, renewed emphasis on the vertical passing game. The evening began with four F-16 Falcon jets screaming overhead during the last strains of the national anthem, on the fifth anniversary of the worst Sept. 11 the world has ever known.

It was emotional, cathartic, exhilarating. Right up to the point where San Diego's Nate Kaeding launched the opening kickoff. And then:

It was last year all over again.

The Raiders' first drive ended when a harried Brooks underthrew Randal Williams on third-and-11. The Chargers' first drive ended in a field goal.

The Raiders' second drive began with tackle Robert Gallery's false start penalty. Before it was over -- and it didn't take long -- the home fans were booing.

The Chargers' second drive ended with LaDanian Tomlinson's 1-yard touchdown vault.

The variations on the theme continued throughout the evening, which ended with the Raiders on the wrong end of a 27-0 score -- which looks closer than the evening felt. Suffice to say that San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer brings two innate gifts to his profession.

The first is the ability to beat the Raiders -- his teams are now 26-7 against the Men in Blank. Uh, make that Black.

The second is his ability, through ingeniously unimaginative play-calling, to take the air out of a perfectly good football game.

In other words, it would be unwise to take any comfort from the fact that Monday's game didn't evolve into a full-blown rout. You can bet Shell won't.

What he will see is what most of his successors/predecessors have seen over the past decade. Let's start with a popular favorite -- the killer penalty. In fairness, the Raiders have done worse than Monday's seven flags for 54 yards. The bad news is, they seem to have retained the knack for doing exactly the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time.

Gallery's false start, for example, put a crimp Oakland's second drive. Later in the first half, Kaeding missed a 42-yard field goal attempt -- but the Chargers got a second life when Nnamdi Asomugha was penalized for running into the kicker. Four plays later, Kaeding converted from 19 yards.

The offensive line was plainly pitiful. Brooks and Andrew Walter, who mopped up late, were sacked a combined nine times. It got so bad that the Raiders resorted to having Brooks throw back-to-back quick hitches to Moss -- before anything could go horribly wrong -- just to get the ball in their playmaker's hands.

Moss finished with four catches for 47 yards. See? Last year redux.

After the Chargers' first three drives, the Oakland defense was respectable. But as noted, Schottenheimer's game plan, specially tailored to nurse-maid quarterback Philip Rivers through his first NFL start, made that an easy assignment.

In short, it was the same old Raiders, taking the same old beating from the same old Chargers, to the same old satisfaction of Schottenheimer, resulting in the same old 0-1 start.

That doesn't mean things have to stay this way. But it likely gave Shell an even deeper appreciation of the task that lies ahead of him.

Perhaps he would be heartened by an opening game the Raiders played for another new coach eight years ago. They lost by 20 points to a Schottenheimer-coached team. They committed 15 penalties, allowed 10 sacks, fumbled seven times and missed two field goal attempts.

That game against the Kansas City Chiefs was no bowl of fruit. But the Jon Gruden era, it says here, turned out OK.

That ought to cheer up the boys for a second or two. Then it'll be back to the unfortunate situation at hand. To compete for a playoff position, the Raiders will have to compete within their division. We can deduce at this point that the Raiders don't match up well with the Chargers. They've lost five of six to Denver. They might be able to hang with Kansas City, depending on the severity of the concussion suffered Sunday by Chiefs quarterback Trent Green.

Beyond that, there isn't much happy news to report from Monday's rebirth, other than this:

If you loved last season, you may wind up buying this one a ring and taking it home to mother.
 
Brooks finds home after nomadic 2005
Quarterback suffered through a difficult year with the Saints last season



OAKLAND -- Quarterback Aaron Brooks said he looked forward to Monday night's game against the San Diego Chargers for several reasons.

First of all, it gave him his first opportunity to perform in a regular-season game as a member of the Raiders. Secondly, he got to play in a game broadcast on national television.

Most important, Brooks said, he got to play at a place he can call home. He hadn't been able to do that since the 2004 season, when the New Orleans Saints played in the Superdome.

Last season, Brooks played home games all over the place. San Antonio, Baton Rouge, La., and New York, of all places. But none in the Superdome, thanks to Hurricane Katrina and the damage it did to the Saints' home digs.

"Yeah, it was tough," Brooks said during training camp. "It was extremely difficult, frustrating, even. At times, irritable. It's something we all went through. We got through it. It's a new year. Hopefully, nothing like that happens again in the city, or in the country, anyway. I wouldn't wish that on nobody."

His house-warming party didn't go as well as he hoped. He got sacked seven times, completed only 6 of 14 passes for 68 yards and took part in eight offensive possessions that ended with punts during a 27-0 loss to the Chargers.

"It was just a tough night," Brooks said after the game. "We got to forget about this as quickly as possible. We got to look at the film and be very honest with ourselves."

Porter inactive

The Raiders cranked up the heat on disgruntled wide receiver Jerry Porter on Monday by making him inactive for the game. That is a designation commonly used for players injured or buried on the depth chart.

In this case, no doubt it's about coach Art Shell driving home the point that Porter or any other player who doesn't adhere to Shell's program will be dealt with in a severe manner.

"We had five receivers, and I decided we would go with the other four," Shell said after the game. "That's it."

Porter started 15 of 16 games last season and led the Raiders with 76 receptions. However, he got off on a bad foot with Shell when the two met during the offseason and parted only after Shell yelled at Porter and kicked him out of his office.

Porter sat in a game in which third-year player Johnnie Morant was active. That would be Morant as in the player with only one reception in two seasons.

Porter watched the game from the sideline in street clothes. He left the locker room before the media was allowed access after the game.

More Moss

Receiver Randy Moss criticized the Raiders on Friday for being a team with "crazy" things going on. On Sunday, in an interview with ESPN, Moss shed more light on the source of his discontent.

"Coach Art Shell just has a tight grasp on us, man, that, it's just we're walking on egg shells." Moss told ESPN. "It's funny, but, at the same time, as a grown man, it messes with your manhood a little bit. Knowing that you're a man, you're a certain age, and this man is treating you like kids or a boy or whatnot."

Interestingly, Shell said Friday that one of the benefits of playing for the Raiders is that they encourage outspokenness.

"You can't go crazy with it, but you're allowed to speak your mind," Shell said. "You're allowed to be a man."

Moss also tried to downplay his remarks by saying there isn't anything going on, that it's just players being players and griping about little things.

"We still have fun, don't get me wrong," Moss said. "I mean, we're trying to move in the right direction of trying to get this team back to where they used to be, back to bringing the silver and black to power."

Moss declined comment when asked after the game.

Extra points

Raiders center Jake Grove recovered well enough from a left shoulder injury he sustained late in training camp that he was able to start Monday. He held up fine healthwise, though he allowed one sack. ... The Raiders used rookie offensive lineman Kevin Boothe as an extra blocker on their opening series. He lined up between Grove and right guard Paul McQuistan. ... The Raiders lost to the Chargers in a season-opening game for the first time in franchise history (5-1). ... The Raiders got shut out at home in a regular-season game for the first time since the Denver Broncos blanked them Oct. 4, 1981, a span of 194 games.
 
Porter inactive against Chargers
LEADING RECEIVER ON '05 TEAM WATCHES IN STREET CLOTHES


Josh Dubow

Jerry Porter, the Raiders' leading receiver last season, was inactive for the season opener Monday night against the San Diego Chargers.

Porter's role on the team has greatly diminished after he clashed with new coach Art Shell over his off-season workout plans. Porter demanded a trade at the start of training camp, but the Raiders have declined to grant his wish.

Porter was slowed by a calf injury early in camp but was healthy for the final three exhibition games and was not listed on the team's injury report leading up to the game against San Diego. He was on the sideline in street clothes for this game.

``As far as Jerry Porter is concerned, I really don't know where he stands, what the organization has in store for him,'' starting receiver Randy Moss told Fox Sports Radio last week. ``So the only thing I can do is worry about the guys they're putting on the field.''

Porter led the Raiders last season with 76 catches and had 942 yards receiving and five touchdowns.

He had not been listed as a starter all of training camp, even after the Raiders traded starter Doug Gabriel to New England on Sept. 2.

Little-used Alvis Whitted started against the Chargers, just his 11th start in eight NFL seasons and first since the end of 2004. Ronald Curry was the team's third receiver. Johnnie Morant was the other receiver active for the game, but the Raiders rarely use four-receiver sets.

Porter, a second-round draft pick out of West Virginia in 2000, is in the second year of a five-year deal worth $20 million. He has 239 catches for 3,215 yards and 24 touchdowns in six seasons with the Raiders. He has never reached 1,000 yards receiving in a season, missing the mark narrowly with 998 yards in 2004 and 942 last season.

The other inactive players for the Raiders were offensive linemen Corey Hulsey and Brad Badger, tight ends John Madsen and James Adkisson, fullback John Paul Foschi and cornerback Duane Starks.

The inactive players for the Chargers were defensive back Cletis Gordon, fullback Andrew Pinnock, offensive lineman Leander Jordan, receiver Greg Carmarillo, tight ends Aaron Shea and Ryan Krause and defensive lineman Derreck Robinson.
 
Purdy: Out of gate, Brooks can't find his game

By Mark Purdy


Aaron Brooks needed to make a good first impression. Instead, Brooks did an impression of Vince Evans, Donald Hollas, Kerry Collins and . . . well, take your pick of the many other quarterbacks who could never get the Raiders over the hump.

Perhaps that impression will change as the season progresses. It had better. If the rest of the way is anything like Monday's opening 27-0 loss to San Diego, during which Brooks never moved the Raiders' offense inside the Chargers' 33-yard line, he is in for a long, long season of agony, desolation and dirty looks from touchy wide receivers. And that's even before the creatures from the Black Hole start in on him.

Forget about getting over any humps. On Monday with Brooks making his debut as starting quarterback, the Raiders couldn't even get over any low-rise speed bumps. Brooks was left spectacularly unprotected by his offensive line, was sacked seven times and completed 6 of 14 passes for 68 yards.

Brooks was finally pulled five minutes into the fourth quarter. Coach Art Shell said he wanted to prevent injury to Brooks. He also said Brooks would start Sunday's game at Baltimore.

``I expect he will,'' Shell said. ``He feels fine.''

Physically, that might be true. But this loss has the potential to inflict psychological wounds. For the first time since 1981, the Raiders were shut out in a home game.

``They were better than us,'' Brooks said of the Chargers. ``We have to admit that. . . . It's just one game. We've got to forget about this as quickly as possible.''

Problem is, forgetting an initial impression is never quick or easy. And so much was at stake for Brooks. Before signing with the Raiders, he spent last season with the New Orleans Saints, who became NFL orphans after Hurricane Katrina. As the distracted Saints flailed to a 3-13 record, Brooks had a miserable season. For the first time in his career, he threw more interceptions (17) than touchdown passes (13).

Monday was Brooks' chance for a fresh start. The last thing he expected was that his team would show up flat -- and be flattened.

``Not at all -- not in the season opener on a Monday night,'' Brooks said. ``I thought this would be a close game, hard-fought to the end.''

What a fantasy. The Chargers' defensive dominance was so complete, it was hard to get a fix on exactly how much blame should be laid at Brooks' feet -- which never had a chance to set up in the pocket. Against a defensive rush that shredded the Raiders' offensive line, the pocket kept collapsing around Brooks as he waited for his receivers to clear coverage.

An observer might wonder why the Raiders kept sending in those downfield pass plays, rather than some short stuff, or draw plays, or rollout passes.

A few quick hitches to Randy Moss worked during one stretch. However, Raiders left guard Barry Sims was not going to make excuses for the offensive line, which was simply beaten man-on-man all night.

``It was disappointing, embarrassing and any other adjective you want to put on it,'' Sims said. ``Especially against a division opponent, on a Monday night on national TV. Hopefully, it was a little too late for someone to watch on the East Coast.''

By the end of the third quarter, things had turned beyond ugly. After Brooks was sacked on consecutive downs -- the Chargers' sixth and seventh sacks of the game -- the crowd was booing Brooks and chanting for backup quarterback Andrew Walter.

They should have been chanting for a better game plan. Didn't the Raiders have some calls in the playbook where he could roll right or left away from the rush? Brooks wouldn't go there.

``No comment,'' Brooks said. ``If they were in, they weren't called.''

Brooks deserved a better fate. Although, to be honest, he never looked totally comfortable or totally in command. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers looked much better, despite a throwing motion straight out of East German shot-put school. Brooks had better form. Too bad he didn't have better blocking.

You can ask Walter about that, if you want. The second-year player from Arizona State replaced Brooks with 9:48 to play. On his first series, Walter was hit on first down as he threw an incompletion. On second down, he was chased out of bounds and had to throw the ball away. He didn't get off his first attempt at a third-down play because he took a delay-of-game penalty. When he did get the play off, he was sacked.

Brooks said he has confidence the offensive line will play better and when that happens, ``we're going to be all right.'' But it was difficult not to recall something Brooks told reporters last week.

``This team has been through a lot over the years,'' he said of the Raiders. ``And I don't know how well they handled adversity. It'll be a true test to see how well we do when we're not doing so well.''

Results of the first adversity test: Not a passing grade. Not even close.
 
Chargers 27, Raiders 0

ABSOLUTE ZERO
Domination shows much work remains for Shell


By Steve Corkran

The Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson, who shredded the Raiders' defense for 131 rushing yards, dives for a second-quarter touchdown. Watch an audio slideshow from the game.Things set up so well for the Raiders. Or so it seemed. Their season-opening game was at home, the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos lost Sunday, the San Diego Chargers strolled into town Monday night with an untested quarterback, and a sold-out crowd roared its approval.

This would be the beginning of a new era, the unveiling of the second coming of the Art Shell era. Power running, downfield passing, smash-mouth football at its finest, a return to what once made the Raiders a proud and dominant franchise.

Not so fast. The Raiders showed that they are a work in progress, far from a polished product, in a 27-0 loss against a Chargers team that did what the Raiders talked about during training camp.

``Perfect setup,'' Raiders running back LaMont Jordan said. ``We got a new coach, a new year, new attitude. Same result.''

Shell wanted his offense and defense to impose their will on the opponent. Instead, the Chargers dictated the action from start to finish.

The Chargers did so with a healthy dose of running back LaDainian Tomlinson, a dash of quarterback Philip Rivers in his first NFL start and a relentless defensive attack that yielded the Raiders' offense punchless.

``We didn't play well, as you could tell,'' Shell said. ``For whatever reason, we didn't meet the intensity level of the San Diego Chargers. No excuses. I guess I didn't do a good job getting us prepared to play. I'm very surprised by it.''

Tomlinson reached the 100-yard rushing mark midway through the second quarter and used the rest of the game to pad his stats and help the Chargers salt away the game clock. This from a player who didn't take a snap in the Chargers' four exhibition games.

Almost nothing went according to plan for the Raiders. Jordan wasn't a factor beyond the game-opening drive. Wide receiver Randy Moss didn't get a pass thrown his way until midway through the second quarter. The remade offensive line spent most of its time escorting Chargers defenders into quarterback Aaron Brooks' living quarters.

Special-teams standout Jarrod Cooper said this is a game best dealt with by purging it from memory as quickly as possible.

``I hope it kicked everybody in the gut and the face,'' Cooper said, ``because that was embarrassing. That was bad football.''

This was supposed to be a coming-out party for a team eager to shed its image as the league's losingest team the past three seasons. Instead, the Raiders learned that it takes more than a fresh coat of paint to affect the inner workings of a team that won only four games last season and 13 the past three seasons.

The Chargers led 13-0 by the time the Raiders' offense did anything. Brooks connected with Moss three times in a four-play span for 27 yards, and the Raiders had the ball at the Chargers' 33-yard line late in the second quarter.

It wasn't to be. The Chargers snuffed out the drive with sacks of Brooks sandwiched around a dropped pass by tight end Courtney Anderson.

That culminated a first half in which Oakland's four offensive possessions ended with Shane Lechler punting. The second half offered more of the same. Oakland punted the first nine times it had the ball.

There might come a time this season when few remember this game. However, this one carries huge significance in the short term.

Shell still doesn't know if Brooks is the long-term answer at quarterback. That much became evident when Shell inserted second-year player Andrew Walter early in the fourth quarter.

Shell said he removed Brooks to protect him from taking a further pounding. Brooks was sacked seven times, or one time more than the number of passes he completed.

Also, Shell's offensive line got thrashed so badly that it might take several weeks before it regains its confidence. And he has to deal with a pair of receivers -- Moss and Jerry Porter -- who already are challenging his authority.
 
The Ballist-o-meter

It's September 11, about 6:00 p.m., and the Raiders are undefeated. Of course, they haven't won a game, either. It's still preseason (for another 75 minutes anyway) and anything can happen.

The Raiders have some talent, and their attitude seems to be changing for the good under Art Shell. So it's entirely possible this team will rebound from three nightmarish seasons. The defense might continue to progress under Rob Ryan, LaMont Jordan might run for 1,500 yards and Brooks-to-Moss might become a feared combination.

Then again, things could go haywire once again. And if they do, several Raiders are candidates to go ballistic.

It's an old tradition in Oakland, and it has been upheld in recent years by Rich Gannon (who berated offensive coordinator Marc Trestman on the sidelines in Denver in 2003), Jerry Rice (who threw his helmet after his streak of consecutive games with a catch was snapped in 2004), Warren Sapp (who barked at anyone within earshot after Chargers tight end Antonio Gates had beaten the Raiders for another touchdown that season) and Ted Washington (who had to be restrained from going after teammate Tommy Kelly near the team bench last year), among others.

Here are the Raiders most likely to go apoplectic in 2006, with odds.

Jerry Porter (2-1): Porter tends to be sullen and withdrawn, not vocally fiery. He's also twisting in the wind right now after getting himself into Shell's doghouse. What if the Raiders deactivate Porter for several games or otherwise keep him on the bench? Think he might have something to say?

LaMont Jordan (3-1): The running back has never been one to hold back his feelings. Last year he complained about penalties and about Norv Turner's lack of trust in the running game. If the Raiders can't run in '06, Jordan may blow a gasket.

Warren Sapp (4-1): Sapp has played too long, with too much success, to tolerate mental errors and sloppy play. Part of his leadership role might be ripping someone head's off at the appropriate moment.

Randy Moss (4-1): Moss has been a great teammate since coming to Oakland in March 2004, and public outbursts have not been part of his dubious off-field resume. On the other hand, recent interviews prove that he is utterly unfiltered on those rare occasions when he speaks to the press.

Stuart Schweigert (8-1): Schweigert, the Raiders' free safety, is a genuinely nice guy and nothing like a troublemaker. He makes this list because he tends to get emotional and talkative after games. If the team is losing, he might let something slip.

Art Shell (100-1): It's hard to imagine the big coach losing his composure. He's usually as temperamental as one of those faces carved into Mount Rushmore. Then again, Marty Schottenheimer told us this week there's a dormant volcano somewhere inside Shell. I want to be there - but at a safe distance - when it finally erupts.
 
SHELL-SHOCKED
Sack-happy Chargers embarrass the inept Raiders


By Bill Soliday


OAKLAND — Don't look now but the bad old days are still hanging around the Oakland Raiders' necks like an albatross. In fact it is probably best to not look at all in the wake of Oakland's 27-0 opening-night loss to San Diego
Having expected at least a competitive contest, a discernible pall fell over the soldout McAfee Coliseum throng of 62,578 Monday night when it became clear this wouldn't ever turn into a contest.

The fans stuck around as long as Oakland was within two scores of the lead, but they might as well have been down by 40. But when San Diego scored the first of its two fourth-quarter touchdowns, fans began trickling out, having already booed one of the weakest offensive performances in club history.

The Raiders' new power running, long passing offense never materialized. The team gained just 129 yards for the game — and it was that bad.

"We did not run the ball," coach Art Shell said. "We did not compete."

Offensively, that was an understatement because the Raiders didn't protect their quarterbacks either. Never heralded as one of the defensive giants of the NFL, the Chargers pitched a shutout, sacking Raiders quarterbacks nine times in all for 54 yards in losses.

Shawne Merriman had three of the quarterback spills but five others got in on the act. This night the Chargers defense looked like something Jack might have met up with after climbing his beanstalk.

Either that or the Oakland Raiders offense is sicker than a mad cow.

"We got our asses kicked," guard Barry Sims said. "In the second half, I don't know if we even gained anyfrom Sports 1 yards."

Actually they did, but for the first 25 minutes of the half their net offense was minus 3 yards.

It was fairly typical. On this night, the Chargers put the Raiders down, slapped them in the face and in the heart as well, dominating play from the beginning.

The slap in the face occurred in the first half by which time the Chargers took a 13-0 lead. Facing a fourth-and-goal at the Raiders 1, San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer waited until the first quarter clock ran down, went to the opposite side of the field and let LaDainian Tomlinson run for the touchdown — clearly in the face of the Black Hole.

In fact, virtually every time the Chargers recorded a sack, they turned to the Black Hole and performed a variety of victory dances — dances that looked more like an extended middle finger than something you'd see at the ballet.

It marked the first home shutout for the Raiders in 25 years and only the second in their 46-year history. The prior was a 17-0 defeat to Denver in 1981.

With just under 10 minutes to play, Shell tried to jumpstart his offense by inserting Andrew Walter at quarterback for Aaron Brooks. But Brooks wasn't the problem ... and Walter wasn't the answer.

"You can't get the ball to your receivers when you're getting hit every other play," Sims said.

Though he had every right, Brooks refused to blame his offensive line or complain when he was removed by Shell.

"There no use in putting up a fuss," he said. "We just got outplayed, any way you look at it. It was a tough night. We have a short week now, and we have to forget about this, go back to work and be honest with ourselves."

The next chore for the Raiders is a road game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Coincidentally, the Ravens won their Sunday opener over Tampa Bay by the same 27-0 score.

At least hypothetically, the Raiders were still in the game through three quarters, within two scores at 13-0. Their horrible start defensively against Tomlinson had been rectified by inserting Terdell Sands in the middle of the line to clog up Tomlinson's running lanes after he had gained 101 yards in the first half.

But eventually, that caved too as the glaring impotence of the offense made it clear nothing was going to work on this night.

The Chargers didn't disappoint from the very start. They occupied first-game starter Phillip Rivers with one task: hand it to Tomlinson. He carried seven times for 31 yards, caught a pass for 10 and on their opening possession, the Chargers traversed 51 yards to a Nate Kaeding field goal of 47 yards.

When the Raiders went three plays and out, the Chargers struck again. From his 34, Tomlinson went through a gaping hole at right tackle and sprinted 58 yards. Nnamdi Asomugha knocked him out of bounds at the Raider 8.

Schottenheimer's slap in the face to the Black Hole followed as Tomlinson made it 10-0 by diving over the top for the touchdown.

And the bad didn't stop there.

After a pair of Brooks sacks and a Raiders punt, Rivers joined the embarrass-the-Raiders parade. He completed passes of 18 yards to Keenan McCardell and 22 to Antonio Gates.

The Raiders proceeded to cooperate. When Kaeding missed a 42-yard field goal, the Chargers got life because Raider Stanford Routt ran into the kicker, prompting a first down. When Kaeding tried again, 13 yards closer, it went through and San Diego led 13-0 with 5:36 left in the half.

That the Raiders were only down by 13 at the half was a blessing. That the team was booed off the field at the break was not.

Nor was it a blessing that the Raiders had to kick off to start the second half. And yet, for four consecutive series with Sands in the middle to jam things up, the Chargers went nowhere as Tomlinson gained just 19 yards on nine carries.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, their offense was even less effective with only one first down in the third quarter — a 20-yard completion to Randy Moss that was all but nullified by a 15-yard taunting penalty against Moss, who threw the ball at a Charger.

And when Rivers tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Gates five minutes into the fourth quarter to make it 20-0, the boos died down ... because the boo-birds were leaving the stadium in droves.

In an effort to muster any kind of offense, Shell went to Walter at quarterback. That didn't work either.

When a handoff between Walter and LaMont Jordan fell to the ground, the fumble was recovered by Marcus Harris of San Diego at the Raiders 9. Three plays later, Neal put the exclamation mark on the routwith a 1-yard TD run.
 
"We knew they were fast," Gallery said. "It was just little things here and there. Little technique things, little scheme things.

"I'm sure we're going to be the worse line in the world tomorrow."

Where is the passion?

Maybe it's just me, but this guy seems WAY to nonchalant about his performances.
 
Raiders a Silver and Black heap of scrap metal

Carl Steward


OAKLAND — If that's a sneak preview, brace for another long, humbling, possibly humiliating season.

The Oakland Raiders made their 2006 debut Monday night under their old offensive line Hall of Fame coach and promptly saw their lines blown up and blown away in a 27-0 smackdown by the San Diego Chargers at McAfee Coliseum, only the second home shutout in Raiders history.

It was genuinely awful, too, not to mention sobering. If you can't play in the trenches in the NFL, you might as well mail it in. You're toast. And sadly, the mismatches up front were all too obvious in this most ominous opener. The Raiders were gashed repeatedly before a hopeful home crowd that quickly turned morose as LaDainian Tomlinson and Shawne Merriman took turns terrorizing Oakland's faulty fronts.

The only matter for debate is which line played worse, but you'd probably have to go with the overwhelmed wretches on the offensive side. Aaron Brooks spent much of his first official start with the Raiders either getting buried or running for his life. Holes for LaMont Jordan, meanwhile, were pretty much nonexistent.

Admittedly, the Chargers have built themselves a pretty formidable defense over the past few years, and it looked darned good in this prime-time performance with nine sacks and a road goose egg. But wasn't one of Shell's first dictates that the Raiders would set a bullish tone, start running downhill and then be able to protect the quarterback as a result?

Not in this game. Not even close. Not even in the neighborhood. The Raiders had no blocking answers for Merriman and his cohorts as they poured in en masse into the Oakland backfield throughout the evening. Forget throwing downfield to Randy Moss. Brooks barely had time to throw sideline routes to the team's most potent offensive weapon.

The Raiders only crossed midfield twice in the first 31/2 quarters and both times finished the drive back in their own territory. They never even sniffed the red zone when it mattered. Brooks finally gave way to second-year would-be savior Andrew Walter in the fourth quarter, but he met the same turf-eating fate.

It's not the quarterbacks, folks. It's those guys trying and failing to block for them.

OK, it's just one game. It can't get any worse than this, can it? Well, the Raiders go to Baltimore next week, and the Ravens shut out Tampa Bay 27-0 Sunday. Gulp. Suddenly, 0-2 out of the chute is looking like a real possibility.

But to heck with the record. That's a moot issue if the trench units continue to be this tepid and terrible. Shell, Jackie Slater and Irv Eatman have a ton of work to do with this young offensive line group if this team expects to get anywhere this season. Goodness, it doesn't get any better than Monday night, they might consider suiting up.

Merriman basically took Raiders left tackle Robert Gallery to the woodshed, and perhaps the most disturbing aspect of that is Merriman is just in his second season while Gallery is starting his third. That tends to put a dent in the old Gallery learning-curve notion.

As for the defense, well, all you really need to know is that Tomlinson ran for 101 yards in the first half, including a 58-yard burst that effectively took all the early electricity out of the Coliseum.

Part of it was Tomlinson's typically brilliant running, but the hole created on the long run was a veritable freeway. It got a bit better when the Raiders got Terdell Sands in the game on a regular basis, and Oakland can thank Marty Schottenheimer for making it easier for much of the third quarter when he was content to run it up the gut en route to extending his personal record against the Raiders to 26-7.

Oh, the Chargers did finally get bored with all the straight-ahead and let quarterback Philip Rivers throw a couple of passes downfield. The first was a 38-yard hookup with Eric Parker, the second a 4-yard flip to Antonio Gates. Imagine how bad it might have been if San Diego had really decided to pass a little.

Whatever the Chargers' methodology, this is getting old for the Raider Nation. San Diego has now beaten Oakland six straight times. Last time that happened? The years 1960-62, before Al Davis arrived on the premises. At this point, good bet the Bolts will make it a record seven later in the season if Shell and Co. can't come up with some heavyweight answers.
 
Shell gambles on Grove at center

By Jerry McDonald


OAKLAND — Oakland Raiders coach Art Shell decided to throw caution to the wind Monday night and start Jake Grove at center.

Grove's presence, however, did not spark anything approaching a dominating performance by the offensive line as the Raiders fell 27-0 to the San Diego Chargers at McAfee Coliseum.

Grove, sidelined with a shoulder injury since Aug.22, was listed as doubtful all week even as he got in some daily work with the first team. According to NFL injury terminology, "doubtful" means the player has a 25 percent chance of playing in the game.

Shell, although he acknowledged Grove was improving, still seemed inclined during the week to leave him on the bench, saying he would probably err on the side of caution.

Corey Hulsey, who has been exclusively at guard in his previous four NFL seasons, leapfrogged second-string center Adam Treu to start preseason games against Detroit and Seattle, while Grove was rehabbing.

The Raiders entered the game concerned about how best to deal with Chargers nose tackle Jamal Williams, who at 6-foot-4 and 348 pounds, specializes in disrupting the sort of power running game the Raiders plan to run in 2006.

PORTER SITS: When Oakland's wide receivers took the field for warm-ups, Jerry Porter, wearing a baseball-style cap, sweats and a black jacket, could do no more than watch.

Porter was designated among the Raiders inactive players, meaning he has essentially fallen to No.5 on the depth chart behind Randy Moss, Alvis Whitted, Ronald Curry and Johnnie Morant.

Porter, Oakland's leading receiver last season with 76 receptions for 942 yards, has been living in exile since getting into an argument with Shell over his off-season training program and then publicly demanding a trade.

Porter had played in 32 consecutive games since missing the 2003 finale against San Diego, a season in which he played in just nine games after suffering a hernia.

Over the past two seasons, Porter has 140 receptions for 1,940 yards and 14 touchdowns. Whitted, a career reserve with Jacksonville and Oakland, has 47 career receptions for 741 yards and six touchdowns in 108 games since 1998.

PURDUE CONNECTION: Raiders free safety Stuart Schweigert doesn't see much of a dropoff on the San Diego defense with Shaun Phillips replacing Steve Foley at outside linebacker.

It looked as if Schweigert was right when Phillips dumped Aaron Brooks for a drive-killing sack in the second quarter. He was credited for half a sack, along with defensive end Luis Castillo.

Phillips became the starter when Foley was shot by an off-duty police officer following a traffic stop. The injuries, although not life-threatening, ended Foley's season.

Phillips and Schweigert were teammates at Purdue. In three seasons, Phillips, 6-3, 262 pounds, started 49 straight games as a defensive end and left Purdue with a school record 33.5 sacks.

Schweigert, the beneficiary of Phillips' pass rush, was Purdue's all-time leader in interceptions with 17.

The two remain friends and speak often on the phone, Schweigert said.

"The circumstances of how he got the position were unfortunate, but I know he's been wanting to break into the starting lineup," Schweigert said. "He's going to take advantage of it, definitely."

While not as savvy as Foley as an all-round linebacker, Schweigert believes Phillips gives the Chargers an impressive rusher coming from the opposite side of Shawne Merriman.

"He gets off the ball better than anyone I've ever seen — and that includes the NFL," Schweigert said. "He can create some havoc in the backfield with his pressure."

MOSS AGAIN: Moss, in a Sunday conversation on ESPN, repeated some of the complaints he had about the Raiders organization, although his tone was more positive.

"There's nothing really going on, don't get me wrong," Moss said. "It's like I saw, it might be small things like food, or full pads, small stuff like that. And that's why players bicker about stuff like 'we've been out for two days in pads, to tell him we don't need 'em on.' It's nothing big."

REMEMBERING 9/11: The pre-game festivities included a fly-over from the 144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard, performed by four F-16 Fighting Falcons.

There was also a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Two spontaneous moments, furnished by the sellout crowd, stood out. When the sound continued to cut out on David Casper's rendition of America the Beautiful, the crowd joined in and helped finish the song.

Then, as the Maynard Triplets walked to the field for the national anthem, the crowd broke into a chant of "USA, USA, USA!"


EXTRA POINTS: Designated as captains for the season opener were Moss, DE Derrick Burgess and SS Jarrod Cooper. ... Other Raiders inactives were CB Duane Starks, FB John Paul Foschi, G Brad Badger, TE John Madsen and TE James Adkisson. Marques Tuiasosopo was designated as the Raiders third quarterback. Inactives for San Diego were CB Cletis Gordon, FB Andrew Pinnock, T Leander Jordan, WR Greg Camarillo, TE Aaron Shea, TE Ryan Krause and DE Derreck Robinson. The Chargers carried only two quarterbacks.
 
Raiders offense shows little sign of life

By Jerry McDonald


OAKLAND — Is Aaron Brooks out as starting quarterback of the Oakland Raiders?

And if he is, will it matter?

The worst fears of Raiders fans were realized in a 27-0 loss to the San Diego Chargers Monday night at McAfee Coliseum.

The Chargers, who could well have one of the top defenses in the NFL, took the Raiders throwback offense and threw it right back in their face. Brooks was 6-for-14 for 68 yards and was sacked seven times before giving way to Andrew Walter with 9:48 left and Oakland trailing 20-0.

San Diego showed no respect for Oakland's ability to move the ball, essentially sitting on a 13-0 lead in the third quarter. With quarterback Philip Rivers in his first start, San Diego did little more than run LaDainian Tomlinson into the line when faced with consecutive possessions starting at the 20-, 10-, 7- and 7-yard lines in the third quarter.

The Raiders forced punts each time, but could not capitalize on the swings in field position.

While Chargers outside linebacker Shawne Merriman was as good as advertised and gave left tackle Robert Gallery a going-over, Brooks didn't help matters by holding onto the ball too long and putting himself in position to be sacked.

Oakland never seemed to adjust offensively, going to more intermediate and short routes that would have given Brooks a better chance at completing passes.

The power running game the Raiders had advertised had even less success than usual against a San Diego defense that in recent years has slammed
the door shut on Oakland running plays.

Before Brooks left the game, he was Oakland's leading rusher with 27 yards on three scrambles. LaMont Jordan, who had 91 yards on 27 carries against San Diego last season, was even less effective Monday night. Jordan lost a fumble at the Oakland 9-yard line to set up Michael Turner's 1-yard run and a 27-0 lead. He finished with 20 yards on 10 carries with a long gain of 4 yards.

Going into training camp, coach Art Shell and offensive coordinator Tom Walsh talked of restoring the Raiders offense to its 1970s form. They'd run the ball between the tackles and attempt to strike deep.

None of it happened in Week 1, with an equally formidable defense coming in Week 2 in Baltimore.

The game ended with Walter completing a 7-yard pass to Randal Williams at the San Diego 4-yard line, cementing the first Raiders home shutout in 194 games.

Oakland finished with 129 yards of total offense, including 20 rushes for 97 yards.

Walter didn't fare much better than Brooks, completing 2 of 5 passes for 28 yards.

The Raiders averaged 2.7 yards per play and had just nine first downs.
 
Raiders report card

• RUNNING OFFENSE: LaMont Jordan got off to a slow start and never got untracked. He became an afterthought once the Raiders fell behind by 13 in the first half. The blocking was far from adequate. Grade: D

• PASSING OFFENSE: Quarterback Aaron Brooks spent most of the night running for his life, or at least from a swarm of Chargers defenders. When he did have time to throw, it wasn't the preferred deep variety or for much success. Grade: F

• RUNNING DEFENSE: Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson ran through, around, past and over the Raiders defense, seemingly at will. He surpassed 100 yards by the second quarter and scored his team's lone first-half touchdown. Grade: D-

• PASSING DEFENSE: Chargers receivers got open when they needed to and made more plays than their counterparts. Much like last season, the Raiders secondary failed to make any game-altering plays. Grade: D+

• SPECIAL TEAMS: Chris Carr shined on kick returns, as usual. Nnamdi Asomugha got called for running into the kicker, which turned a missed field goal attempt into a Chargers first down. Grade: C

• COACHING: San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer got his players to do what Oakland coach Art Shell hoped his players would do. Grade: F

-- Steve Corkran
 
Raiders show nothing has changed for better

By Marcos Bretón


Here is how stupid I am: I actually thought the Raiders could win Monday night's season opener on national television against the San Diego Chargers.

Monday, I actually said on live radio they would win "by a field goal."

What a maroon. What a complete idiot to actually believe Raiders hype and think this franchise had changed.

Why would any of us believe such a thing after a stereotypical Raiders effort on national television -- a night on which stupid penalties, offensive incompetence and dubious Raiders personnel decisions metastasized like cancer cells to kill any hope of fresh Raiders blood.

Yes, the diseases afflicting the Raiders remain uncured and were present even before Monday's game started, when the team deactivated talented yet emotionally immature wide receiver Jerry Porter.

Agreed. Porter is a self-centered jerk, and the idea of scrapping a malcontent makes perfect sense for a high school or small-college coach trying to build character on a squad watched only by parents and friends.

But this is the NFL. Raiders fans in garish costumes -- the NFL's version of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" -- blow a week's wages on inflated prices for tickets, Darth Vader helmets and spiked shoulder pads.

Either you're putting your best team on the field for those paying customers -- and the supposed goal of winning -- or you're making decisions out of spite. Either you play Porter or you replace him with someone good.

Alvis Whitted? Definitely not good. And did you notice how the Chargers barely bothered to cover him while loading up on Randy Moss, the superstar wide receiver gone bust in Oakland?

What's that, you say? Didn't the 49ers get rid of bad blood like Kevan Barlow and get cheered for it? Yeah, but Frank Gore had made Barlow superfluous, anyway, so who cared?

And where was Doug Gabriel to help Moss? Traded for reasons still unexplained by a Raiders team that will not make Mike Lombardi, its senior personnel executive, available to the media.

Trust me. Other teams in the NFL -- and in other sports -- don't operate this way. Moss was right when he said "something fishy" is going on within this team.

The Raiders smelled like dead tuna in a 27-0 drubbing that wasted three hours of our lives.

Where to start?

With an offensive line that was so inept it was literally frightening to watch pitiable Raiders quarterbacks Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter on doomed pass plays.

What can one say about the likes of Raiders left guard Barry Sims and left tackle Robert Gallery?

They were so bad, so porous in their protection of Brooks and Walter that you wonder how deeply wounded Raiders coach Art Shell must have been while helplessly watching from the sidelines.

There was Shell, the Hall of Fame offensive lineman, sternly enduring the sight of offensive linemen under his charge completely unable to stop Chargers rushers such as Shawne Merriman, who tattooed his No. 56 on Brooks' solar plexus too often to count.

Then Merriman would leap to his feet and kick his legs backward -- like a big ol' dog sweeping away his droppings after completing his dirty business.

Somewhere, Lyle Alzado was spinning in his grave at such disrespect to the old Raiders legacy.

The new Raiders legacy would not be complete without costly penalties that stalled promising drives, such as the taunting call on Moss, or put more Chargers points on the board, such as the roughing call on Nnamdi Asomugha for crashing into Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding.

Then, with seven seconds left and the Raiders as close to the goal line as they had been all night, they went for a touchdown in a desperate effort to avoid a shutout before a nearly empty stadium. And failed as the final gun sounded.

Same old story, same old franchise.
 
Oakland just can't get a grip on Tomlinson

By Jim Jenkins


When he coached the Kansas City Chiefs, Marty Schottenheimer used to terrorize the Raiders with Marcus Allen.

Now that Schottenheimer is piloting the San Diego Chargers, he does it with LaDainian Tomlinson.

No one in the NFL runs the ball any better against the Raiders than the man they call "L.T."

Monday night, be it bursts up the middle or a 58-yard dash outside right tackle, setting up Tomlinson's own touchdown plunge to open the second quarter, the Chargers' 5-foot-11, 220-pound dynamo had no problem racking up another triple-digit rushing total against a defense he delights in abusing.

With 101 yards by halftime on 16 carries, Tomlinson now has six 100-yard-plus games against the Raiders, the most against any opponent.

Five of those six games, capped by Monday's 131-yard total on 31 carries, have been in Oakland. The other effort was a 243-yard performance, a personal high, in San Diego to cap the 2003 regular season. Only once in those six games did the Chargers not win.

What's worse is Tomlinson's overall effect against the Raiders. In 11 regular-season games against the Raiders, Tomlinson has rushed for 1,346 yards and 10 touchdowns, caught 45 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns and thrown two touchdown passes.

During Monday's victory, and without taking so much as a handoff during exhibition play for the second consecutive year, Tomlinson recorded his fourth 100-yard rushing game in a season opener.

"Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it," said Schottenheimer of saving Tomlinson for the games that count.

"You're talking about the best running back in the league, no comparison," said Chargers left guard Kris Dielman. "He doesn't have to play the preseason, and nobody worries about it, because of how hard he works in practice."

"I never handed off to him until tonight and once in a game last year (as a backup quarterback)," said Philip Rivers, making his first regular-season start. "But the timing was there tonight. He made some great runs again. He just didn't miss a beat.

"Coach (Schottenheimer) wanted a physical game tonight, and he got it. For an offense that didn't throw that much (8 of 11 passing for 108 yards), taking control of the line of scrimmage, to have a punishing attack and be the aggressor all night, was something we felt we had to do."

Over in the Raiders' locker room, veteran defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who already has seen too much of Tomlinson in a little more than two seasons with Oakland, said: "We've got to stop the run. We don't, and it's going to be a long season."
 
Porter sits out opening night

By Jim Jenkins and Jason Jones

OAKLAND -- Coach Art Shell insists Jerry Porter isn't in his doghouse. The Raiders' inactive list released before Monday night's game suggests otherwise.

In something of a surprise, Porter, who wasn't on Oakland's injury report and was its leading receiver last season, was deactivated for the prime-time matchup with San Diego. It was the first time in the seven-year pro's career he hadn't suited up for a game.

Rather than trotting on the field with his teammates before kickoff, Porter wound up on the sideline in a Raiders T-shirt, cap and sweats, spending much of his time talking with other deactivated players, including those from the practice squad.

Porter has been a regular when healthy since 2002 and had a team-high 76 catches for 942 yards and five touchdowns in 14 starts last year. But the 2000 second-round draft pick from West Virginia clashed with Shell shortly after Shell was rehired as coach in a dispute over offseason conditioning.

Porter then went public with a trade request at the start of training camp in July, but owner Al Davis said any deal would have to include Porter paying back a portion of his signing bonus.

Porter missed most of the first two weeks of training camp with a strained calf and lost his starting job to Doug Gabriel. Gabriel, however, was traded Sept. 2 to New England. The assumption was Gabriel's departure would give Porter, relegated to working with the third-team offense in some practice sessions, an opportunity to play more.

But the Raiders named career backup Alvis Whitted as their other starting receiver opposite Randy Moss, with Ronald Curry and Johnnie Morant listed as the No. 3 and No. 4 receivers for the game.


Unexpected return

Raiders starting center Jake Grove, once feared to be lost for the season with a shoulder injury, was in the starting lineup.

Grove strained his shoulder blocking during practice on Aug. 22, the second-to-last day of training camp in Napa. At the time, Shell said there was concern the 2004 second-round pick from Virginia Tech might miss the season.

Grove, however, began practicing after the Raiders' preseason finale Aug. 31. Grove subsequently told Shell his shoulder was no longer a problem, but the coach indicated he might hold him out of Monday's game anyway as a precaution.

Saturday, Shell hinted he might change his mind. If Grove hadn't started, backup Corey Hulsey would have been his replacement.


Start pushed back

The game, which was supposed to have started at 7:15 p.m., was pushed back to 7:25 because the opener of the ESPN Monday-night doubleheader between the host Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings ran late.

Had the Vikings not eked out a win in the closing minutes and there had been overtime, ESPN had the option of beginning the Raiders-Chargers telecast on its sister sports network, ESPN2.


Prime-time links

Coincidentally, ESPN's regular-season Monday-night debut provided Raiders fans with connections to all three of their Super Bowl victories. Joe Theismann was the lead announcer for the Minnesota-Washington game.

Minnesota lost to the Raiders in Super Bowl XI (1976 season). Washington lost to the Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII (1983). The Redskins' coach then and now is Joe Gibbs. Theismann was the losing quarterback in that game. Doing commentary in ESPN's booth for the San Diego-Oakland game were Ron Jaworski and Dick Vermeil, the losing quarterback and coach in the Raiders' Super Bowl XV victory (1980).
 
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