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Graney: Not even Raiders faithful could save horrid start

LAS VEGAS SOUTHWEST, Calif. — That’s what this was, after all. A home game for the Raiders some 287 miles from their real home. Came all this way to stink up the joint.

The final score from SoFi Stadium in Inglewood — a 28-14 win by the Chargers — doesn’t do the Raiders’ first-half ineptitude justice.

The 3-0 start to a season went down in a heap of an offense that was, well, offensive. It was also seen by a nation of fans via “Monday Night Football.” Talk about playing your absolute worst to start a game when everyone’s watching. podcast

How many do you suppose gave up and opted for a different sort of horror on Netflix?

“You can’t take that many punches in the first round,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said of yet another slow start by his team. “It was ridiculous. They got on us and after us in all three phases. That was ridiculous.”

Not even the partisan crowd could will the Raiders to play better. Or even half-way decent over an opening 30 minutes in which they fell down 21-0.

Lightning strikes

The evening began with both teams returning to their respective locker rooms for a 35-minute pregame weather delay due to lightning in the area. Crazy. Only one of them decided to come back once allowed.

A fair estimate put the crowd at a 70-30 split in favor of Raiders fans. You didn’t need to see the thousands of silver-and-black faithful partying in the vast SoFi parking lots hours before kickoff to understand which team would benefit from well-timed noise.

There was also this: As the teams entered for warmups, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was greeted with far more boos than cheers. The opposite was true for his counterpart, Derek Carr.

But none of it made a difference for a Raiders offense that managed just one first down and 51 yards over the first half. They had no yards or first downs following one quarter.

I mean, it was woeful.

“It’s better to (lose) now than later,” Carr said. “Hopefully, it wakes us up a little bit. We don’t start games well enough. You never want to lose but it’s hard to win in this league. We’ll see them again.”

The Chargers are good. In some ways, excellent. They will have much to say about how the AFC West division is decided. But they were absolutely aided by the fact that what has been a bad offensive line for the Raiders early this season was even worse Monday night.

Things will either get fixed up front or such struggles could continue as the season moves forward. And when it comes to playing these Chargers a second time and Kansas City twice and Dallas and others, you can’t win shootouts when you can’t block air.

This puts Monday’s debacle in perspective:

The Raiders trailed 21-14 in the fourth quarter and were driving with 11:23 remaining to — amazingly — possibly tie things up. They faced third-and-3 from the Chargers’ 28 and called timeout.

And then Carr immediately took a 6-yard sack.

And then place-kicker Daniel Carlson missed a 52-yard field goal.

And then the place went weirdly silent.

Thunder roars

“It’s always great to see the Raiders fans,” Gruden said. “I’m just sorry we let them down. I was proud of our guys for getting up and fighting and giving us a chance in the fourth quarter.”

That wasn’t the issue. The first two were.

Ridiculous, is right. His word. An appropriate one.

It was an hour after the final seconds ticked away — the Chargers and Raiders now tied with Denver at 3-1 atop the division — when thunder roared in the area surrounding Hollywood Park.

It was far more intimidating than anything the visiting — I mean home — team offered before halftime.

Which was plenty enough to guarantee its first loss.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.