OAKLAND -- Positive. We should try to stay positive about the Raiders. So here goes:
Their defense wasn't preposterously awful in Monday night's opener.
Also, only three of their five punt attempts were botched horribly because of comically bad snaps. The others went off like clockwork. That's a 40 percent success rate!
Also, new head coach Dennis Allen looked fairly spiffy out there on the sideline in his white sun visor, even after the sun went down.
And that's about it.
Anyone out there have something else good to mention? Show of hands?
If only there were true happiness to report. The Raiders had to wait around through 15 other NFL games before they finally had a chance to show the satellite and cable television world they were new and improved.
Better make that simply "new." The "improved" part apparently will arrive at a date yet to be determined.
The Raiders' 22-14 loss to San Diego's Chargers was not as tense or taut as the final score makes it appear. The Raiders never really seemed a threat to win Monday's game. They trailed by 10 or more points through most of the second half and did not score a touchdown until 54 seconds were left in the game.
Before that, as a restless crowd dwindled in number, the Raiders offense kept stumbling and misfiring. And the Raiders punt team was just plain ridiculous as the team's defense did a game job of trying to hang in there. And by "there," we refer to the somewhat plausible land of non-embarrassment.
Time and again, the Raiders defense was given bad field position to defend and held the Chargers to field goals -- five of them on the evening -- rather than touchdowns. Also, for a change, the Raiders did have fewer penalties than their opponents.
That shouldn't be a shock. Allen, their rookie head coach, made his bones and his reputation as a detail-oriented New Orleans Saints secondary coach (2008-10) and a successful Denver Broncos defensive coordinator (2011). But in New Orleans, at least, Allen's defensive unit had some true offensive support.
These Raiders are not those Saints. That's obvious. But there were hopes for more than this. New offensive coordinator Greg Knapp had a sensible game plan. His best player is running back Darren McFadden. And so Knapp dialed up plays that allowed McFadden to touch the ball on 28 of the team's 52 snaps from scrimmage.
The Chargers, however, weren't stupid. They kept loading up the box and sending tacklers to McFadden in waves. When that happened, Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer could not make his other tools work. Rookie receiver Rod Streater ruined the opening drive by fumbling the ball. Other passes went too high or too wide, either because receivers were in the wrong spot or Palmer's arm sent the ball to the wrong place.
If you give the defense a "B" and the offense a "C" on this night, however, you'd have to give the special teams a "D minus." The punt team was especially heinous. After first-string long snapper Jon Condo left the game with a head injury during the second quarter, backup snapper Travis Goethel had a nightmare evening. In technical football terms, he was "atrocious."
One wobbler of a snap by Goethel led to a blocked punt. Two others didn't allow Shane Lechler to kick the ball. Two of the three misfired punt snaps came off the infield dirt skin from the baseball diamond, thanks to the Coliseum's configuration until the A's season ends. But that's still no excuse, for Goethel or anyone.
With the freshness that swept through the organization during the offseason, there was a natural tendency to believe the Raiders would enter the 2012 season in an upbeat mode. We should probably have known things would not go smoothly when, during the middle of Ice Cube's pregame rapping performance, his microphone cut out.
You couldn't blame Allen or new general manager Reggie McKenzie for that. And it's a cliché, but this was just one game. Things have to get better from here. Neither the Chargers nor Raiders are going to the Super Bowl. But it would be nice if, when these teams meet again on the final Sunday of the season in December, the long snapper actually completes every snap.
Contact Mark Purdy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5092.