Archive for Sunday, September 18, 2005

Raiders to test Chiefs’ revamped defense

With Moss in Oakland’s lineup, Kansas City expecting a tough challenge

September 18, 2005

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— Seven forced fumbles, three turnovers and a shutout until the final minute.

The revamped Kansas City defense shined in its first test of the season, but the task gets tougher when the Chiefs must contend with Randy Moss and the new-look offense of the Oakland Raiders.

"I don't think one game proves anything other than we're going in the right direction," Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil said. "It's a very euphoric experience to play well and limit a team to no first downs rushing and those kinds of things. But that's behind us. We're playing a totally different kind of team this week that presents different kinds of problems. ... Doing it once in awhile isn't the way you gain credibility. You have to do it often."

After missing the playoffs last season, the Chiefs and Raiders both overhauled their teams in the offseason. Kansas City's focus was on a defense that gave up the second-most yards in the NFL, the fourth-most points and caused only 21 turnovers all year. The Raiders' was on returning to the big-play offense that owner Al Davis so desires.

The Chiefs were one of the league's worst four defenses each of the last three seasons, leading to changes that give Pro Bowlers Trent Green, Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez the support they've been lacking.

"It's something that's been missing around here for a couple years," Green said. "As an offense, it really kind of changed our outlook there in the second half. We've always been so attack-oriented. And with the lead that we had, we pulled back the reins a little bit, which is uncommon for us."

The biggest change for the Chiefs has been in the speed and playmaking ability they've added on defense, from Sammy Knight and Patrick Surtain in the secondary to first-round pick Derrick Johnson and free agent Kendrell Bell at linebacker.

The Chiefs even mixed in the 3-4 defense in last week's 27-7 victory over the New York Jets, taking advantage of a deep linebacking corps that also includes the much-improved Kawika Mitchell.

"It seems like they have more leadership over there," Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins said. "They have some veteran guys who have played in this league and know what it takes to be on a good defense. ... They have really revamped the look of their defense, and even though they are doing the same things, they are doing it a lot better."

Even though the Raiders struggled as much defensively as the Chiefs last season, their high-profile moves in the offseason came on the other side of the ball with the additions of Moss and LaMont Jordan. Both newcomers had strong first halves for the Raiders in the opener, but were held in check in the second half as Oakland lost, 30-20, at New England. Moss had a 73-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, but only four other catches for 57 yards the rest of the game.

With Jordan, receivers Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry, and tight end Courtney Anderson (two TDs in the opener) also capable of making plays, Kansas City knows it will take a similar performance to last week to stop this offense.

"It's a big challenge," said Surtain, who had an interception and fumble recovery last week. "Those guys are one of the most explosive offenses in the league. To have so many weapons, you just can't lay your head on one guy. They have a terrific running game. They have terrific receivers. But if we come out and play with the same intensity we had against the Jets, then we should be fine."

One way to slow the Raiders down is to control the ball, which Kansas City does well with Holmes and Larry Johnson at running back. The duo combined for 195 yards rushing and three scores last week, providing a test for an Oakland defense that was strong against the run in the opener.

The Raiders will have the benefit of their fevered crowd and have won their last seven home openers. With a trip to NFC champion Philadelphia to follow, snapping a four-game skid to Kansas City becomes even more imperative after Oakland's loss to New England.

"We really were just a couple of plays away from turning that thing around," linebacker Kirk Morrison said. "It wasn't like we played bad at all. I think we were in that game until the end of the fourth quarter. But for the most part we had a lot of positives and a little minor errors we can correct. There's no time better than when we play our division rivals this weekend to get it done."

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