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Kaeding's five field goals propel Chargers past Raiders

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND -- Last year in the opener against Minnesota, San Diego Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding suffered a season-ending injury to his left knee.

He enjoyed his 2012 opener a lot more.

Kaeding made all five of his field-goal attempts Monday night, lifting the Chargers to a season-opening 22-14 victory over Oakland that ruined Raiders rookie coach Dennis Allen's debut.

"It's certainly special for me" Kaeding said. "I battled back an entire year, 364 days (ago), tomorrow, is when I did it last year. It's special. And to come back right out of the gate to knock a bunch of field goals through and kick the ball off well, it's a special win."

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers passed for 231 yards and one touchdown, a 6-yard strike to wide receiver Malcom Floyd in the second quarter.

While Kaeding was drilling field goal after field goal, the Raiders were imploding on special teams after long snapper Jon Condo suffered a head injury early in the second quarter, knocking him out of the game.

The Chargers took advantage of two special teams gaffes by Oakland to extend their 10-6 halftime lead to 16-6 in the third quarter on two Kaeding field goals.

Backup long snapper Travis Goethel -- a middle linebacker by trade -- had a nightmare game.

Goethel bounced his first punt snap, and the Chargers smothered Raiders punter Shane Lechler at the Oakland 39-yard line. That set up a 28-yard Kaeding field goal, making it 13-6 with 6:01 left in the third.

Later in the third, Goethel made a good snap to Lechler, but tight end Dante Rosario raced through a huge gap up the middle to his right and blocked Lechler's punt. Chargers safety Corey Lynch recovered at the Raiders' 8, setting up Kaeding's 19-yard field goal, putting San Diego ahead 16-6 with 2:31 left in the third.

"My hat's off to him just for doing it," Lechler said of Goethel. "That ain't easy. He went out and did his best. That's all you can ask from a guy to get put in a situation like that.

"Condo's so good on counting scheme and recognizing what's coming and alerting a lot of people. (Goethel) just gets put in a spot where he's never been there before. It could have been a miscount, could have been anything."

Kaeding's 41-yard field goal put San Diego ahead 19-6 with 12:48 left to play.

"A year ago he was laying on the ground with a major knee injury," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "He's the best kicker I've ever been around."

Early in the fourth, Goethel rolled a snap to Lechler, and the Chargers took over at the Oakland 43. That set up Kaeding's fifth field goal of the night, a 45-yarder, putting San Diego up 22-14.

"It was just mechanics of snapping," Goethel said. "If you don't snap that often, if you don't snap in a game since high school, it's a little different."

The Raiders cut the gap to 22-14 when Carson Palmer hit rookie wide receiver Rod Streater on a 3-yard touchdown pass, and the two connected again on the two-point try with 54 seconds left. However, San Diego recovered the onside kick.

"We got to eliminate the self-inflicted wounds," Allen said. "That's the thing that has hurt us in the preseason, and obviously it hurt us tonight."

Palmer, who was missing injured wide receivers Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford, completed 32 of 46 passes for 297 yards and one touchdown. Running back Darren McFadden caught 13 passes for 86 yards, setting a Raiders single-game record for catches by a running back. He finished one shy of tying wide receiver Tim Brown's franchise record of 14 catches, set in 1997 against Jacksonville.

"You never know what to expect," McFadden said. "We roll with the flow of the game."

Floyd caught four passes for 62 yards and a touchdown, while linebacker Shaun Phillips had two sacks for the Chargers.

The Chargers built a 10-6 halftime lead on the strength of Kaeding's 23-yard field goal and Rivers' TD pass to Floyd.

The Raiders had a pair of first-half field goals from Sebastian Janikowski. The first was from 51 yards out, putting Oakland up 3-0 with 4:56 left in the first quarter, and the second was a 19-yarder with four seconds left in the half.

After the Raiders and Chargers swapped field goals in the first quarter, Rivers orchestrated a 13-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that took just over eight minutes in the second. The drive looked dead early when Rivers threw incomplete to Antonio Gates on third-and-3 from the Chargers' 36, but Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly was flagged for jumping offside.

Three plays later, Rivers hit Gates for 10 yards, and then he found fullback Le'Ron McClain for 8. On third-and-five from the Oakland 24, Rivers connected with Gates for 17 more yards. Then on third-and-6, Floyd broke open over the middle in the end zone, ahead of Raiders safety Matt Giordano, and Rivers hit him with a strike.

That put the Chargers up 10-3 with 3:10 left in the half, and they were on their way to a victory.

"It's huge," Rivers said. "In the first game, there's always so much build-up, so much preparation, so much, in a way, anxiety. It's huge. We talked all offseason about winning division games."

The Raiders drove inside the Chargers' 2 late in the first half, as Palmer and McFadden played catch, but they had to settle for a field goal.

NOTES: Moore (hamstring) and Ford (foot) were inactive for Monday night's game. Ford is also Oakland's No. 1 kick and punt returner. Moore practiced Thursday for the first time since Aug. 4. ... Streater, an undrafted rookie from Temple, started in place of Moore in his NFL debut. ... Center Alex Parsons, who spent the past two years on Oakland's practice squad, started in his NFL debut. He played ahead of Stefen Wisniewski, who missed most of training camp with a calf injury. ... Chargers starting running back Ryan Mathews was out with a broken collarbone, while starting left tackle Jared Gaither missed the game with a back injury. Ronnie Brown started for Mathews, and rookie Mike Harris replaced Gaither.

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