ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) - For all of the positive signs that came out of the Oakland Raiders' season opener from the stout run defense to the bright flashes on offense to the resiliency after getting bad breaks, the results were painfully similar to those of the past six years.
The Raiders were unable to hold onto a pair of fourth-quarter leads and ended up losing their seventh straight opener since last going to the Super Bowl, falling 24-20 to the San Diego Chargers on Monday night.
"Let's face it. You feel good about playing that game last night the way we played it against that particular opponent," coach Tom Cable said Tuesday. "That's all fine and dandy, but at the end of the day we didn't get it done at the end, and that's the next step. I think we really tasted it. Certainly going into this thing our expectations are high and they should be, but now we have to learn how to close out and win those close games."
That's a far different tune then the one after some of those other opening losses, including last year's 41-14 Monday night debacle against Denver and a 27-0 loss to start the 2006 season against San Diego.
Those games led to losing seasons that were part of a six-year run in which the Raiders had an NFL-worst 24-72 record and became the first NFL team ever to lose at least 11 games in six straight seasons. The attitude after this game was much different.
"I feel like a lot more guys cared and put their heart in it," tight end Zach Miller said. "I think everyone felt like we should have won that game. It wasn't 'Oh, yeah, we're barely in it and we just didn't come through in the end.' We felt like we had that game."
The Raiders hung with the three-time AFC West champions, outplaying them for much of the night. But after holding San Diego's high-powered offense in check through three quarters, the Raiders had no answer for Philip Rivers in the fourth.
Over his last two drives, Rivers completed 10 of 12 passes for 142 yards, threw one touchdown and set up Darren Sproles' 5-yard game-winning run with 18 seconds left.
Cable lamented afterward playing a soft zone coverage late in the game, saying he would mix in some of the team's usual bump-and-run man coverage next time the Raiders tried to protect a late lead.
One offensive issue that needs to be addressed is the production of the wide receivers. Russell was 3 for 18 when throwing to his wideouts, with rookie Louis Murphy getting all the catches, including the 57-yarder on fourth-and-14 that gave the Raiders a 20-17 lead with 2:34 to play.
But instead of being the signature play of Russell's career, it became a footnote to yet another loss. Russell, the No. 1 overall pick in 2007, is now 5-12 as a starter in his career.
"We came up on the short end of the stick but there's a lot of good things that we can pull away from the game, even though we didn't win," Russell said. "Guys kept fighting and kept pushing to the end. ... We left a lot of plays out there and we let some things get away from us, but the best thing to do about that is we have a short week coming up and Kansas City will be on our mind."
First-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey was targeted four times, dropping one ball with three others being off target. There were two other incomplete passes to Heyward-Bey that didn't count because of penalties.
The decision to draft the speedy Heyward-Bey seventh overall ahead of more accomplished receivers like Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin was questioned on draft day. The skeptics will grow even louder with performances like that one.
"I thought I saw a real nervous uptight young man, a lot of big eyes," Cable said. "We'll expect him to be better next week. ... He has to learn how to handle this."
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