Raider Hopes Go Rolling Away, 21-13 : Pro football: Charger linebacker makes big plays in second half as L.A. offense comes up short again.


Maybe it's time to make a run for the owner's manual when 12 points is enough to beat the San Francisco 49ers but not the San Diego Chargers.

Maybe it's time to size up the locker room when you can glance at the game summary after a loss and not blame quarterback Jay Schroeder.

Maybe it's time to take notice when a defense thinks surrendering a field goal is too much.

The Raider offense has been missing in action, but it seemed easier to stomach and disguise before Sunday, when the winless Chargers, the butt of a 100 jokes, defeated the Raiders, 21-13, before 42,787 at the Coliseum.

After six weeks, the Raiders haven't scored enough to win a game of ping-pong, having put forth efforts of 17, 16, 17, 16, 12 and 13. It's the reason they are 3-3 instead of sharing first place in the AFC West.

It's the reason the Raider locker room was filled with blank stares and few explanations beyond the obvious. "Twelve and 13 points are not enough to beat anyone in this league," Schroeder said. "You can't put the defense in those situations."

Yet the Raiders do, week after week. They surrendered three touchdowns, but will take blame for just two.

The last score came on a two-yard pass from quarterback John Friesz to Marion Butts with 11:53 left after a Roger Craig fumble prompted a 53-yard return by linebacker Henry Rolling and set the Chargers up at the Raider 13.

What more could a defense do? San Diego started its first three drives at the Raider 41, the Raider 49 and its own 37 and came away with nothing.

Before the end of the half, it took the Chargers six tries to score from inside the Raiders' six-yard-line, finally succeeding on a one-yard run by Butts on fourth down to go ahead, 14-10.

In an admirable show of support, there would be no public grumbling among Raider defenders about their beleaguered offense, borrowing from the thought that they should all hang together or surely all hang separately.

"People can say what they want, that the offense doesn't score points," nose tackle Bob Golic said. "That's a crock. This is a team and our job is to not allow them to score points."

Greg Townsend thinks the defense should pitch a shutout every week. "That is realistic, yes," he said.

While the defense takes bullet after bullet for the benefit of all, an offense blessed with a strong-armed quarterback and track stars for receivers continues to take it one yard at a time.

The Raiders' conservative offensive theory, which relies on ball control and no mistakes, collapsed in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game under a siege of strange bounces and bobbles.

The Raiders cut the lead to 14-13 in the third quarter on a 34-yard field goal by Jeff Jaeger, one of two he had Sunday. They were driving toward the go-ahead score, sitting first and 10 on the Charger 33, when Craig ran into the line. San Diego's Joe Phillips forced the ball loose with a hit. The ball squirted free to Rolling, who scooped it up on one hop and raced 53 yards to the Raider 13. Four plays later, Friesz found Butts in the right flat and the Chargers' lead was 21-13.

For Craig watchers, it brought back memories of his critical fumble in last year's NFC title game. This time, though, Craig felt wronged. "I thought I was down," he said. "They didn't blow the whistle. I was down."

The Raiders still had 12 minutes to get back in the game and set out on that course. But on third and six at the San Diego 43, a Schroeder pass bounced off Mervyn Fernandez's knee and was intercepted by Rolling, killing the drive.

The Raiders got the ball back with 3:08 left, but this time a Schroeder pass deflected off Tim Brown and into the arms of San Diego corner Gill Byrd.

Brown thought he should have caught the ball.

"Of course," he said. "Any time you touch it you're supposed to catch it. That's the way I look it."

Both of Schroeder's interceptions should have been completions to his own receivers. Schroeder absorbs most of the Coliseum jeering, but Sunday's was a collective setback.

Schroeder, for what little he's asked to do, was efficient, completing 15 of 23 passes for 184 yards. But he took no solace.

"I don't care if I throw 100 interceptions a year if we win," he said. "My job is not to turn the ball over. I've got to find some way to prevent it, some way, somehow."

Schroeder doesn't know where or when his offense will show up.

He hopes it's soon.

"We didn't make a play to make anyone excited today," he said.

Frankly, the Raiders have grown tired of making a hero of their kicker, Jaeger, who kicked field goals of 39 and 34 yards and has made 14 of 15.

"We keep going down there, and we keep getting three (points)," Coach Art Shell said. "That's not good enough right now."

The road gets tougher. Next week, it's on to Seattle and the Kingdome, the House of Noise. The Raiders need their offense to make the trip.

"The defense is carrying us," guard Steve Wisniewski said. "But there's no need to panic."

Well, maybe just a little.

Raider Notes

The Raiders have not scored a rushing touchdown this season. . . . Sunday's crowd of 42,787 was nearly 50,000 fewer than last week's sellout against the San Francisco 49ers.

* AT LAST, VICTORY: At least the Charger critics can't ask, "Why can't you win a game?" anymore. C6

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