Archive for Saturday, September 8, 2001

Raiders must contend with fans as well as Chiefs

September 8, 2001


— The Raiders are quick to tell anyone willing to listen that the league and game officials are out to get them.

Officials are more apt to call penalties against the Raiders and league officials are more likely to saddle the team with unfavorable dates for its road games, many players say.

It would be hard to argue against them after glancing at this season's schedule and seeing that the Raiders play their regular-season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday and finish Dec. 30 against the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High.

"We know this is probably going to be our most difficult road game of the year," wide receiver Tim Brown said of Sunday's game, "and we just have to approach it that way and be ready for it."

Arrowhead Stadium is regarded by many players and coaches as the toughest venue in the NFL. More than 78,000 fans routinely show up, and nearly all dress in the Chiefs' customary red and gold. The stands seemingly end at the sideline. Many fans stand for most of the game. The cheering is incessant.

"You can't hear (anything) there," wide receiver Jerry Rice said.

The Raiders know all too well the perils of playing at Arrowhead Stadium. They lost 11 straight games there including one playoff game from 1989-98. Several times, they lost on plays at or near the end of games during that streak.

Jon Gruden's first game as the Raiders coach in 1998 was at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs jumped out to a 23-0 lead and cruised to a 28-8 victory.

"We were down (17) points before you could blink your eyes," Brown said. "We've been talking about this game since the schedule came out (in April). There's been a lot of focus put toward this game."

That's because the Raiders now know that winning a game at Arrowhead can do wonders for team morale and go a long way toward building momentum for the rest of the season.

The Raiders beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in the regular-season finale in 1999 after falling behind 17-0. They credited that victory with catapulting them into the 2000 season with a full head of steam.

"That was very important for us," Brown said, "and it was the catalyst for us having a good year last year."

They also used a victory at Arrowhead in 2000 as a springboard for winning their next three games.

Tight end Roland Williams played for the St. Louis Rams in 2000. He recalled a game at Arrowhead Stadium in which the 6-0 Rams fell behind 20-0 in the first quarter and lost 54-34. The Rams never recovered and lost six of their final 10 games.

"It tests your poise and resiliency," Williams said. "It tests how you respond to adversity. If you get down there, only teams with toughness, poise and determination can pull it off."

Not falling behind is the key, Brown said. The Chiefs prey upon teams getting down early, getting rattled by the intense crowd noise and making uncharacteristic mistakes.

"We know we're definitely walking into a hornets nest," Brown said. "We just have to be ready for what's going to happen and know the first five, 10 minutes of this game (are) going to be very difficult. The crowd's going to be into it. We just have to protect the football early in the game and get this thing going. Once we get the crowd settled down, it turns into a football game."

Quarterback Rich Gannon said the Raiders have enough veterans and players who have played at hostile stadiums to know what to expect.

"We're mature enough to where regardless of who we play, we'll be prepared mentally and physically to play," Gannon said. "We feel like we can play anywhere and can match up. It's a question of us making the plays."

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