Nate Kaeding kicks a 41-yard field goal against the Oakland Raiders during their season opener.
Nate Kaeding played his first game in 365 days on Monday night. The most accurate kicker in NFL history had zero rust to knock off.
Kaeding, one year removed from a torn ACL, made all 5 of his field goal attempts to help the Chargers beat the Raiders 22-14 on Monday night.
While the Chargers special teams were perfect, the Raiders special teams were atrocious. I mean, amazingly bad.
All-Pro punter Shane Lechler got two punts off and had a third blocked. He would have tried two more but the snaps never got to him.
Oakland long snapper Jon Condo, who has been to the Pro Bowl, got hurt in the 2nd quarter so Travis Goethel filled in. His first snap never got off the ground.
The ball literally rolled back to Lechler, who just had to pick it up and take a pounding. Things did not get better from there.
Goethel's second snap got back with no issues, but the Raiders forgot to block Dante Rosario, who was in Lechler's face so fast he almost could have grabbed the ball before it reached Lechler's foot.
For Goethel, the third time was not the charm. He stuck another one on the ground, a snap so bad Lechler never even got control of it.
All those punts came courtesy of a Chargers defense that is obviously much improved from the 2011 version. Rookie Melvin Ingram forced a fumble and harassed Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer several times. Fellow outside linebacker Shaun Phillips had a pair of sacks.
Oakland got its only touchdown with 54 seconds to play in the game, and only after their drive was kept alive by some careless Chargers penalties.
Overall, the Bolts defense was much better than its offense. San Diego got in the red zone 5 times, but only scored one touchdown (Philip Rivers hit Malcom Floyd for a 6-yard score in the 2nd quarter). An offense with all the weapons the Chargers have simply must do better than that.
It probably will when running back Ryan Mathews returns. San Diego ran the ball 20 times for a paltry 32 yards. Ronnie Brown carried 5 times for 5 yards. Heck, wide receiver Eddie Royal was their leading rusher and he only had 12 yards.
Some balance on offense will certainly open up more opportunities inside the 20.
Another positive was the offensive line. Philip Rivers was sacked only once, on the third play of the game. Once he settled in, undrafted rookie left tackle Mike Harris played a very good game in his NFL debut. The Bolts did not commit a turnover.
In the end, a win is a win, especially against a division opponent on the road. The Chargers play their home opener Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.