|Published:||Sep 11, 2012 10:07 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Sep 12, 2012 6:33 AM EDT|
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Coach Norv Turner rattled off the names of newcomers who helped the San Diego Chargers beat the Oakland Raiders 22-14 on Monday night.
There were receivers Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal making big plays to help set up San Diego's first score. There were big hits by safety Atari Bigby and rookie outside linebacker Melvin Ingram. Undrafted rookie left tackle Mike Harris held his ground in protecting Philip Rivers.
And then there was long-time Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding, who matched his career-high with five field goals in his first action since blowing out his left knee on the opening kickoff of the 2011 season.
Kaeding had kicks of 23, 28, 19, 41 and 45 yards.
"It was a good scenario, I think, all around," Kaeding said Tuesday. "The first game not only for me but for every team, the opener's always big. To get that first win is important.
"I've been around just long enough to understand that you'll enjoy it today and move on," Kaeding added. "In my position and in this business it's all about the next one. Whether I would have made all five of them last night or missed all five of them, you've still got to go out next Sunday and get the job done."
In the Chargers' case, that means playing their home opener against the Tennessee Titans.
Kaeding said he was a little anxious on the bus ride to the stadium Monday night, thinking about how last season ended just as it was beginning.
He remembers Dr. David Chao telling him after the surgery that while it wasn't a career-ending injury, it was career-threatening.
The Chargers signed Nick Novak after Kaeding went down last year. Kaeding vowed to regain his job, and he did. Novak was released when roster were cut to 53.
"Any professional athlete, it's always a fine line," Kaeding said. "There are always other people there that can do your job. The train keeps moving down the tracks. You have those little thoughts in your mind. You can either let it eat away at you or you can let it drive you and make you get better and works that much harder to get back to that point where you were. For me, not only to get to that point, but I want to get better. I want to continue to improve as a kicker. I want to keep going stronger and getting better and better. It was a driving force for me, certainly, and I'm happy with where I'm at now."
Said Turner: "He's worked hard. It just doesn't happen. He's worked awfully hard to get back to being himself, and maybe even better than he was, because he certainly looks very strong right now."
Of course, Kaeding kicking five field goals means the Chargers' offense bogged down. San Diego scored just one touchdown in five trips inside the 20-yard line. The other four times, they had to settle for a Kaeding kick.
While Turner said the Chargers have to get better in the running game, he was OK with the red-zone percentage.
"I was really excited about what we did inside the 20, because in our first five games last year, I think we had six turnovers inside the 20," Turner said. "We scored every time we were down in there. We had good shots at touchdowns."
San Diego's only touchdown came on Rivers' 6-yard pass to Malcom Floyd in the second quarter for a 10-3 lead.
"I think we're going to be a real good red-zone team," Turner said. "Each time we've been in the red zone, we've scored. We're going to get down there and score a bunch of touchdowns. In this game, kicking field goals was a lot better than not getting points."
Turner said Harris had a strong game in his NFL debut. He was subbing for Jared Gaither, who's out with back spasms.
Since the Chargers don't know when Gaither will return, they signed guard-tackle Reggie Wells on Tuesday for depth.