ALAMEDA (AP) — The high-risk, high-reward passes that characterized Carson Palmer's first half-season as Oakland Raiders quarterback were absent in the season opener.
Instead of taking chances for big plays down the field in the passing game, Palmer mostly chose the safer route of dumpoffs to running back Darren McFadden.
The change in strategy led to a turnover-free performance from a quarterback who threw 16 interceptions in nine games a year ago but also led to a lack of big plays for an Oakland offense that relied on them last year.
Palmer threw just three of his 46 passes more than 20 yards downfield, completing none of those throws, in the season-opening 22-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Last season, Palmer threw about one out of every seven passes deep, completing 16 of those throws that accounted for six of his 13 TD passes.
"We're going to be patient," Palmer said. "I'm going to continue to let the offense come to me and take shots when they're there, but also be smart with the ball and try to stay on the field and move the chains and win the time of possession battle."
Palmer had a 104.9 rating on deep passes last season, seventh among all quarterbacks with more than 10 such throws. The players ahead of him on that list were some of the most effective passers in the game last season: Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady.
With a new offense under coordinator Greg Knapp that stresses a more ball-control style, the absence of injured deep threats Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford, and a Chargers defense geared to stop the deep ball, Palmer ended up throwing shorter passes instead.
He threw 18 passes to McFadden, tied for the most targets to any running back in a game since 1991, as he followed the maxim of taking what the defense gives.
"I thought Carson did a nice job of looking, trying to get the ball downfield, not forcing the ball downfield, taking his checkdown when it was available," coach Dennis Allen said. "We threw the ball effectively, we had five explosive gains in the passing game. So the passing game was not the issue."
McFadden only gained 86 yards on his 13 catches as Palmer averaged 9.3 yards per completion, down from his mark of 13.8 a year ago, which was second best in the NFL. Palmer had only one pass play over 25 yards after having eight in two games against San Diego a year ago.
"You can't let it frustrate you," Palmer said. "Once you start getting frustrated that's when you start forcing the ball into holes where they want you to throw it. If they're going to make us check it down and we have Darren to check it down to we're going to do it."
Moore was one of the game's best deep threats as a rookie with his average catch coming 14.3 yards down field — fourth highest in the league. He missed the opener with a hamstring injury first sustained in minicamp in June. Moore practiced briefly at the start of training camp before being shut down again.
He returned to the practice field last week but was held out of the game by Allen, who did not want to risk further injury. Moore practiced again Wednesday and is expected to play this week in Miami.
"He looked like Denarius of old," Palmer said. "He made a couple phenomenal catches. His burst was there last week, it's just I think more conditioning, really getting in practice. There's a totally different type of shape."
Ford, meanwhile, will be out for a significant amount of time to undergo surgery on a Lisfranc injury to his left foot.
NOTES: CB Ron Bartell broke his shoulder blade Monday and will be sidelined for a while. ... The Raiders signed LS Nick Guess, DL Brandon Bair and CB Coye Francies and released WR Brandon Carswell, LB Nathan Stupar and DL Vaughn Meatoga. Guess could be activated for the game if Pro Bowl long snapper Jon Condo can't go. Condo did not practice because of a concussion. Oakland botched three punts Monday after Condo left the game. ... C Stefen Wisniewski got first-team work and could start for the first time since being sidelined in the exhibition opener with a calf injury. ... RB Taiwan Jones (ribs) and LB Rolando McClain (ankle) missed practice and are day to day.