Sports

Raiders fall flat in fourth

OAKLAND -- With the game on the line, it was time for the real Raiders to stand up.

They had shown two sides midway through the fourth quarter.

There were the familiar Raiders, who trailed 10-0 at halftime.

Then there were the improved Raiders, who led 21-20 with 7:49 left in the regular-season opener, their ever-confident defense about to take the field and put the hammer down on the Detroit Lions.

Instead, that hammer fell on the Raiders' collective feet.

The mistakes that dogged the Raiders last year were issues again Sunday in their 36-21 loss to the Lions at McAfee Coliseum. Turnovers. Blown assignments. Falling apart down the stretch. Yep, all there from last season.

"Pretty much you open up the book from last year, and you open up the book from this first game, you're probably going to be reading the same thing," Oakland running back LaMont Jordan said.

That the Raiders stunk on offense to start the game was no shock coming off a season that produced 12 offensive touchdowns. The surprise was a three-series stretch in the second half that led to three consecutive touchdowns and the lead behind quarterback Josh McCown, who was booed much of the game as fans chanted for Daunte Culpepper, the heralded backup and a three-time Pro Bowl player.

But in the end, the Raiders played as they have the past four seasons.

McCown fell in line with those Raiders with two critical turnovers that ended the Raiders' chances of winning a regular-season opener for the first time since 2002.

"It was right there," rookie head coach Lane Kiffin said. "We fought back, took the lead and we didn't finish."

The Lions, led by quarterback Jon Kitna, on the next drive quelled the exuberance the Raiders got from holding a lead.

The Raiders' blown coverage combined with no pass rush aided Kitna, who found Shaun McDonald open in the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown and a 26-21 lead after a failed two-point conversion.

Then the Raiders reverted to last year's self-destructive tendencies.

On the Raiders' next series, McCown threw an interception to Lions defensive end Dewayne White, who had dropped back in coverage. Detroit came back and got a field goal.

The series after that, McCown was sacked by White and fumbled. Tight end Zach Miller recovered the ball but fumbled, and White recovered it.

It was a tough way to end the day for McCown, who Kiffin said played "really well."

McCown, whom Kiffin said would continue to start, completed 30 of 40 passes for 313 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against his old team. His good friend, Kitna, went 27 of 36 passing for 289 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Kitna had his way with last year's top-ranked pass defense most of the afternoon. The Raiders gave up 36 points after allowing more than 30 only once last season.

"They changed it up a little bit, which we expected," cornerback Fabian Washington said of the Lions' offense. "As defensive players, we've got to adjust to that."

And without a win, the Raiders are forced to take positives from a defeat. Sunday's lesson was in not giving up.

"Those attributes, those traits that we demonstrated in this game -- battling through some tough holes and getting back -- are going to pay dividends later," McCown said.

"I think those are important things that make good teams. We just came up short today."

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