It bore no similarity to the Monday night season-opening debacles in 2006 and 2008, games where the Raiders had cashed it in by halftime and sent a clear signal they had no intention of being a player in the AFC West.

This one felt a lot worse than that.

When the Raiders lost to the Chargers in Week 14 last season, the locker room sounded like an Evening at the Improv, with Nnamdi Asomugha having to talk over the cackling of some of his teammates following a 34-7 loss.

This was no laughing matter.

``They're very hurt,'' Raiders coach Tom Cable said following a 24-20 loss to the San Diego Chargers at a sold-out Coliseum.``I've been a Raider since 2007 and I felt like that was the first time in the locker room after a loss where it really got us in the gut, and that's a good thing.

``That's the way you're supposed to feel about this game. So I'm proud of them. Very proud of them.''

Coming as it did with the 27-0 loss to San Diego under Art Shell and last year's 41-14 loss under Lane Kiffin as baggage, this was a loss that hurt so good.

History tells us the Raiders may never recover from this, but visual evidence and the first three-and-a-half quarters suggest the familiar crash and burn of the last six years is far from a foregone conclusion.

Philip Rivers sliced through the Raiders defense in the fourth quarter, completing 10 of 12 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown in directing two scoring drives, the final one covering 89 yards in nine plays, and ending with Darren Sproles' 5-yard run with 18 seconds left.

That it came following a 57-yard bolt of lightning on fourth-and-14 from JaMarcus Russell to rookie Louis Murphy with 2:34 left made it sting all that much more.

If there's something to take from the 12th consecutive loss to San Diego, it's that the Raiders were the superior team most of the night against the prohibitive division favorites, a team many feel is Super Bowl material.

Keep in mind the next two opponents, Kansas City and Denver, afford an opportunity for a 2-1 record based on their opening week performances weighed against what the Raiders did against the Chargers.

So Cable did the only sensible thing in the aftermath, and summoned up all the positive vibes he could.

``I'm very excited at what this team has come to, excited where we're headed, and I can't wait to get back to work and get ready for Kansas City,'' Cable said.

For the last few years, the myth of the Raiders was that they were this massive arsenal of talent simply awaiting the right direction to be unleashed.

It looked Monday night like the talent has finally reached its mythic proportion, with the pain coming from the realization they had been the better team and let it slip away.

There were flashes of the running game Cable promised, and the downfield strike from Russell for the lost lead. Richard Seymour played more than anyone expected and immediately gave the Raiders some front-seven credibility with two sacks and two hurries.

It's not as if a 2011 first-round draft pick was going to help them Monday night.

Oakland was the victim of one of those letter-of-the-law technicalities that always seems to find the Raiders like a bird dropping zeroes in on a new car.

This one came in the form of a 15-yard Russell-to-Murphy pass for an apparent touchdown. Murphy jumped, caught the ball, one foot came down, two feet, and then his rear-end, with the ball coming loose at the last instant.

You can read the explanation on my "Inside the Raiders blog," and it's as non-sensical as the Tuck Rule.

Sorry, no touchdown.

The Raiders rebounded from the questionable call, a lost lead, and for much of the night looked like the better team.

Then they let it all get away, with San Diego gaining 166 yards on its last 19 plays after getting 151 on its first 43.

It wasn't entirely the fault of the defense. Cable and Co. have plenty to work on in a short week and contributed as much as the non-touchdown to their own demise.

Included in their path to pain:

  • Two first-half turnovers in San Diego territory, an interception by Quintin Jammer of Russell when the quarterback stared down a receiver, and a lost Darren McFadden fumble.

    The fumble set up a short-field 45-yard, seven-play drive enabling San Diego to tie the score 7-7.

  • A running game which looked terrific early and then went dormant, with McFadden gaining 51 yards on his first eight carries and 17 yards on his last eight.

  • Kickoff returns surrendered to Sproles of 66 and 59 yards, the second of which helped set up Nate Kaeding for a 47-yard field goal as time ran out in the first half.

  • A passing attack that saw Russell complete 12 of 30 passes for 208 yards, going 6-for-6 on passes to Zach Miller (for 96 yards) but 6 of 24 to everyone else. Other than the long touchdown to Murphy and the overturned touchdown, the wideouts were non-existent.

    All would have been forgotten if the Raiders had just one play left in their defense.

    ``We had them and they drove it right down on us,'' Seymour said. ``As a defense, we can't win games like that, but I'm encouraged by what I see.''

    Staff writer Jerry McDonald can be reached at jmcdonald@bayareanewsgroup.com.