OAKLAND -- After a moment of silence for three fallen citizens, the Raider Nation stood as one in its crowded house and brought the noise.
The NFL season was under way in Oakland and "Monday Night Football" fever ran through every section of all three levels of the O.co Coliseum, the entire lower bowl transforming into a super-size Black Hole, with everyone in Raiders colors standing and screaming and scowling and gesturing.
They wanted a blowout of the hated San Diego Chargers.
They got an overdose of ghastly mistakes from the crew in Silver and Black, who took a 22-14 defeat, spoiling the debut of the next-generation Raiders.
The raucous cheers of the first quarter turned to jeers of frustration as the game lumbered through the third quarter and into the fourth.
The Raiders' purpose, as outlined by new owner Mark Davis and general manager Reggie McKenzie, is to usher in "a new era of excellence." It's a nod to the phrase "commitment to excellence," which was practically trademarked by Al Davis, the late former owner.
But reality kept intruding.
Oakland's passing game sagged and sputtered.
The Raiders would fumble, choking off the offense. They'd get flagged for a penalty, sapping the effort of the defense.
"Got to eliminate the self-inflicted wounds," rookie head coach Dennis Allen said. "That's the thing that hurt us in the preseason and obviously hurt us tonight."
And yet, the Raiders did not really allow San Diego to control the game. The outgained (321-258) Chargers were mostly ordinary, plodding and unimpressive. But that was enough to trump Oakland's ineptitude.
Though the Raiders came out fast, they quickly went flat. Offensive drives limped and died. Flashes of quality, generally provided by running back Darren McFadden, were followed by blunders that would embarrass any coach and derail the ambition of any team.
Oakland's first drive went 56 yards, well into the range of kicker Sebastian Janikowski, but was short-circuited by a Rod Streater fumble. This gave the ball to the Chargers and, moreover, seemed to deflate the Raiders.
San Diego's lone touchdown, in the second quarter, came on an eight-minute drive greatly aided by the errors of veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. He was penalized twice, both times on third-down situations, both times giving San Diego a first down.
If this sounds familiar, it's because it is. Such
He has, it seems, a gargantuan task.
The new Raiders are out to engage a fan base weary from years of unsatisfying seasons, some of which were simply atrocious. Most of the failures were blamed on Al Davis, and much of that blame was richly deserved.
But Al is gone and Game 1 of the first Raiders season since the 1960s to start without him surveying the proceedings offered little about which anyone could be optimistic.
Special teams were mostly awful, as they were for much of the exhibition season. Rarely are assistant coaches dismissed during a season, but special teams coordinator Steve Hoffman is digging quite a hole. This was the most difficult game of Lechler's 13-year career, punctuated by a fumbled snap in the fourth quarter -- and not all of the errors could be attributed to losing veteran long snapper Jon Condo in the first half.
Quarterback Carson Palmer was pedestrian, less than the sum of his numbers (32 for 46, 297 yards), though he was working mostly with second-tier receivers. There was a lot of Streater, a good deal of Derek Hagan (picked up just last week) and just a dash of Darrius Heyward-Bey.
The offense desperately missed Denarius Moore, the club's best wideout, and Jacoby Ford, its most explosive player not named McFadden.
The defense, meanwhile, labored earnestly and played an acceptably. This unit, especially the front seven, acquitted itself well.
"Our defense definitely played tremendous football," fullback Marcel Reece said. "My hat's off to them. We owe 'em one."
Surely the brain trust, McKenzie and Allen, now has a glut of material to dissect and critique. Not many players will be spared and not many deserve to be.
Though the moment of silence for former NFL owner Art Modell, fallen highway patrol officer Kenyon Youngstrom and former Raider Tom Keating was a nice touch, the game itself was a dud.
Few folks, from G.M. through coaches and players, will like what they did and everyone surely will hate what they saw.
Fans filling the Coliseum, 61,896 strong, hoping for victory but sitting through misery, surely feel the same way.