The San Diego Chargers got a good game from quarterback Philip Rivers. The Oakland Raiders got a good lesson in the importance of a competent long snapper.
In the Chargers’ 22-14 victory over the Raiders on Monday night in Oakland, Rivers (who completed 24 of 33 passes for 231 yards) was accurate and efficient and everything San Diego needed him to be. But Rivers wasn’t the biggest story coming out of the game.
No, the biggest story was just how disastrous the Raiders’ special teams became after long snapper Jon Condo left the game with a concussion. Most fans only notice long snappers when they screw up, and sure enough, everyone noticed that Condo had left the game because Raiders linebacker Travis Goethel kept screwing up when he was pressed into service as the backup long snapper. Twice Goethel sent such bad snaps back to punter Shane Lechler that Lechler was unable to get the punt off at all, and on another occasion the Chargers blocked the punt when Goethel got off a shaky snap to Lechler.
You’d better believe that every head coach and special teams coordinator in the NFL is going to give practice reps this week to the backup long snapper, because the Raiders demonstrated just how important that position can be. This was a debacle.
Of course, the Raiders’ offense deserves some of the blame for the fact that Oakland had to punt so often. Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer threw short passes almost exclusively, was under constant pressure from Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips, and wasn’t able to engineer any sustained drives until finally leading the Raiders into the end zone with less than a minute left in the game. Raiders running back Darren McFadden was Oakland’s biggest receiving threat but couldn’t get much going on the ground. The Raiders have speed on offense, but that speed didn’t translate into many big plays.
The Chargers’ running game is a mess without Ryan Mathews, but the combination of Rivers consistently finding open receivers in the Raiders’ secondary and Nate Kaeding going 5-for-5 on field goals in his return from missing last year with a torn ACL was enough. Special teams were Oakland’s biggest problem on Monday night, but the Raiders also have problems on offense and defense, and those may be harder problems to fix.