OAKLAND, Calif. (Sept. 11, 2006) -- LaDainian Tomlinson and Shawne Merriman made Philip Rivers' job easy.
In his first NFL start, Rivers didn't do much more than hand the ball off and watch his defense dominate. He didn't have to: Tomlinson carried 31 times for 131 yards and one touchdown and the Chargers handed Oakland its second home shutout in a 27-0 victory against the Raiders.
"It was exciting," Rivers said. "I've been waiting for this day for a long time. ... I've said before, I don't care if I have to hand it off 50 times or throw it 50 times, as long as we win."
With much of the focus on Rivers as he replaces Drew Brees, Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer put the game in the hands of Tomlinson and his defense, spoiling Art Shell's first game back as Raiders coach.
"I was shocked," Shell said. "We didn't play well, as you could tell. We didn't have the intensity level that the San Diego Chargers did. I didn't get us prepared for this game."
San Diego beat the Raiders for the sixth consecutive time and shut them out for the first time in their past 90 regular-season meetings. When the Chargers won 44-0 in 1961, Al Davis was an assistant coach with San Diego.
Tomlinson showed little sign of rust after sitting out the entire preseason, topping 100 yards rushing in the second quarter. He has 837 yards rushing in his past six meetings with Oakland.
"When you have a young quarterback, you run the football a lot," Tomlinson said. "You don't ever want to put a young quarterback in a situation to make a turnover unless you have to. We played conservative and our defense was playing well so we had to ride our defense."
Rivers, who spent his first two seasons as a backup, went 8-for-11 for 108 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates in the fourth quarter that made it 20-0.
The Chargers ran the ball on 48 of 59 plays, and Rivers threw only two passes to wide receivers.
"That was dictated by the score," Schottenheimer said. "If I had Dan Marino, I would have done the same thing. Everything he was asked to do, he did in a winning fashion."
The Chargers' victory capped an opening weekend in the NFL in which 11 games were won by visiting teams, the most on opening weekend since 1983, when 12 teams did it. The Raiders joined Green Bay and Tampa Bay as home teams who failed to score in their openers as they had no answer for Merriman and the Chargers defense.
Merriman, the NFL's top defensive rookie last season, had three of San Diego's nine sacks and the Chargers held the Raiders to 129 yards in Brooks' first game as quarterback. Brooks, who went 6-for-14 for 68 yards, was replaced in the fourth quarter by Andrew Walter.
"It was just a tough outing. They played better than us," Brooks said. "We're going to get better."
Shell was brought back to Oakland to turn the Raiders around after the worst three-year stretch in Davis' more than four decades with the franchise. But after one game it looked like the same old Raiders, who won 13 games over the past three seasons.
The Raiders was shut out for the first time since a 30-0 loss to Kansas City on Dec. 7, 1997, and they hadn't been blanked at home since losing 17-0 to Denver on Oct. 4, 1981.
"They were getting kind of frustrated because we weren't giving the quarterback enough time," Merriman said. "They didn't have as much time to throw the ball as they wanted to. We made Aaron Brooks make decisions that he didn't want to make."
The Chargers ran the ball eight of nine times on the opening drive, with the only pass going to Tomlinson, as the Chargers moved 51 yards to set up Nate Kaeding's 47-yard field goal.
Tomlinson ran 58 yards on the first play of the second drive and capped it with a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal.
Rivers didn't throw a ball to a receiver until the third drive, when he connected with Keenan McCardell on an 18-yard pass on third-and-8. Kaeding missed wide on a 42-yard field goal attempt, but Nnamdi Asomugha was called for running into the kicker and Kaeding made good on his second chance from 29 yards to make it 13-0.
The Raiders offense was booed by the sellout crowd only 12 minutes into the season. The revamped offensive line failed to create any running lanes for LaMont Jordan, who had 20 yards on 10 carries, or to protect Brooks.
Oakland's leading receiver in 2005, Jerry Porter, was inactive for the game as his standing on the team has dropped after demanding a trade at the start of training camp. He joked on the sidelines as the Raiders struggled to move the ball.
Brooks didn't even attempt a pass to Randy Moss in the game's first 25 minutes. Moss had four catches for 47 yards.
- Schottenheimer improved to 26-7 in his career against the Raiders. His 187 career victories are one more than Chuck Knox for seventh all-time.
- San Diego DL Igor Olshansky left in the first quarter with a sprained right knee.
- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was on hand for the game between California rivals.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2006, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved