OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The San Diego Chargers know quite well how shoddy special teams can doom a team. They were happy to be on the receiving end of kicking woes for a change.
Nate Kaeding kicked five field goals in his first game back from a torn knee ligament and the Chargers capitalized on three botched punts following an injury to Oakland's long snapper to beat the Raiders 22-14 Monday night.
"A couple years back, we had some serious issues on our special teams," Kaeding said. "Pretty much everything. Kicks returned, punts blocked, that sort of thing. I can imagine you're going to see 31 other teams working a lot of backup long snappers come Wednesday. It's something a lot of teams honestly don't do a lot of. It's just one play away from someone having to go in there and get it done. It was unfortunate for them, obviously."
It was just two years ago that the Chargers allowed three kickoff returns for touchdowns, a punt return for a TD and had five punts blocked, ultimately costing them an AFC West title.
This time they got three field goals off the Raiders' punting problems to win the season opener.
"We've been in that situation. It makes it more complicated, it makes it tougher and we were able to take advantage of it," coach Norv Turner said.
Philip Rivers threw for 231 yards and a 6-yard touchdown to Malcom Floyd in a turnover-free game as San Diego won despite starting undrafted rookie Mike Harris at left tackle and missing starting running back Ryan Mathews and receiver Vincent Brown to injuries.
San Diego protected Harris by throwing short often with 16 of Rivers' 24 completions going to running backs and tight ends. Rivers was sacked just once and did not turn the ball over after having 20 interceptions a year ago.
"I've always tried to take care of the football and be smart, but you have to be able to manage the situation," Rivers said. "The situation today was our defense was playing good, our special teams is getting the ball. ... If you go back since I've been playing here and we don't turn the ball over, it's 90-something percent we win. That was the key for the offense tonight."
Oakland had its own problems with injuries. The absence of deep-threat receivers Denarius Moore (hamstring) and Jacoby Ford (left foot) left Carson Palmer mostly throwing underneath to Darren McFadden, who caught a career-high 13 passes. A head injury to Pro Bowl long snapper Jon Condo in the second quarter proved to be even more significant when backup long snapper Travis Goethel had to fill in.
Early in the third quarter, the Raiders lined up to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the San Diego 48. But after a penalty for 12 men in the huddle, Oakland decided to punt. Goethel, who last snapped in high school, rolled one back to Lechler, who was tackled for a loss, giving San Diego the ball at the Raiders 39. That set up a 28-yard field goal by Kaeding.