FROM THE STABLES: Bay Area Excuses

Did the Chiefs beat the Raiders or did the referees or maybe it was just another case of the Chiefs opponent self-destructing or both? It seems that the local sportswriters in the bay area think it was a little of both. Jerry Stith reviews the very latest from the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times and San Francisco Chronicle in the latest banter From the Stables.

In what it seems might be a recurring theme through the 2005 season, it wasn't the Chiefs who beat the opponent, it was either the other team self-destructing(Jets) or the referees winning it for the Chiefs. It seems people are having a hard time coming to the realization that the Chiefs might actually be a good team this season. How else can you explain the way they have been winning their games?

It couldn't be their improved defense could it? Nah, that would be too easy. It can't be their efficient offense under the leadership of one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the NFL today? Nah, that can't be it because after all Trent Green isn't that great. It couldn't be that the Chiefs special teams are among the best in the NFL? Nah, every team has a Dante Hall as a returner and a punter like Dustin Colquitt. Just read what the scribes from Norther California had to say as 'From the Stables' reviews the post game columns.

Oakland Tribune (Jerry McDonald)
The Oakland Raiders silently began the process of taking the only recourse available in the wake of some controversial officiating in a 23-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night at McAfee Coliseum. They put together a highlight reel, sent it to the NFL for consideration and will soon receive a reply that won't change their 0-2 record.

"You send them to the league to be evaluated, you get something back Wednesday that's confidendential," Coach Norv Turner said Monday. "We're not allowed to share it. People say, why do you want to know? Well, the biggest thing is it helps us in our coaching ... to grow and resolve those situations in the future."

The three flags that bothered the Raiders most were a phantom offensive interference call against Randy Moss that negated a 6-yard touchdown pass from Kerry Collins, a holding penalty on Langston Walker that nullified a 54-yard scoring run by LaMont Jordan, and a 35-yard pass interference penalty against Stanford Routt that set the stage for a 31-yard field goal by Kansas City's Lawrence Tynes. The Raiders contended the call on Routt came on a pass that was not catchable.

Since the Raiders settled for a 29-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski after the Moss foul, the penalties cost the Raiders 14 points. After being penalized 16 times for 149 yards in the opener, Oakland was hit for seven penalties for 84 yards Sunday night. Kansas City had nine penalties for 78 yards — including a block in the back that negated an 84-yard punt return for a score by Dante Hall. "The penalties that affected us just came at a bad time," Turner said. "As I said last night, I've watched the Moss catch from every angle you can, and it looks like a touchdown to me."

From the Stables: The problem I'm having with this whole situation is, that I still haven't seen a definitive replay that shows if there was offensive pass interference or not. The referee was in the correct spot to make that call and make it he did. Shouldn't we trust what the referee standing 10 feet from the action sees rather than a camera angle from the upper deck? Until I see definitive proof that Randy Moss didn't push off, I'll go with what the referee called. I mean it is obvious from Moss's history and even by his touchdown later in the game that he tends to push off when going for the ball. He gave a pretty good push to Patrick Surtain on that touchdown, but it wasn't called. The pass interference against Eddie Kennison by Stanford Routt had to be called. Was the pass catchable? Only if Routt hadn't basically tackled Kennison it would have been. How the Raiders can complain about that call is beyond me. That's basically saying, if I tackle the guy now he won't be in the place where the balls lands so it's uncatchable right? Crazy!

San Francisco Chronicle (Nancy Gay)
The Coliseum scoreboard did not tilt, the Chiefs did not rush for several hundred yards and Randy Moss did not catch multiple touchdowns against a Kansas City defense ranked among the worst in the NFL. With two high-octane offenses, two suspect defenses, a decades-old AFC West grudge match as motivation and a sold-out crowd as a catalyst, the winless Raiders and their fans expected more than what they showed Sunday night. And they came within inches of regaining respectability.

With less than two minutes remaining, a fourth-down prayer of a pass from quarterback Kerry Collins from the Chiefs' 10-yard line touched Jerry Porter's fingertips in the right corner of the end zone. He bobbled it briefly, and a one-point Raiders' lead appeared at hand. But Kansas City's newly fortified defense was there as well. Free-agent safety Sammy Knight smothered Porter and cornerback Benny Sapp helped jar the ball loose. The pass, like much of the Raiders' star-studded offense, was incomplete.

The Chiefs held on for a 23-17 victory, and the Raiders -- now 0-2 and facing a brutal test next week at 1-1 Philadelphia, the defending NFC champions -- are left to ponder how one of the NFL's deepest offenses could ring up 327 total yards and reach the end zone only twice. "Inconsistencies. Some of it is (us) obviously putting ourselves in negative positions. We take away big plays, with some of the penalties. Some of the penalties that I saw ... it's no call, no call and then it's a call,'' said frustrated Raiders coach Norv Turner, whose team committed seven infractions -- down from an embarrassing 16 in Week 1. "And again, we're trying to get interpretations.''

Two touchdowns, in fact, were called back because of penalties, one midway through the second quarter when the officials thought wide receiver Randy Moss pushed off Chiefs cornerback Dexter McCleon in the end zone as he made what appeared to be a 6-yard scoring grab from Collins. "The touchdown to Randy Moss looked like a touchdown to me,'' Turner said.

There wasn't much doubt about what ruined running back LaMont Jordan's 56-yard touchdown romp with 1:08 left in the second quarter: Guard Langston Walker grabbed onto Kansas City rookie linebacker Derrick Johnson with all his might, and the holding call nullified a score that would have tied the game 17-17. Turner disagreed with that call, too. "The (penalty) on the long run looked like a good block to me,'' the coach said. Woodson forced a fumble after Trent Green's pass to Samie Parker. Safety Stuart Schweigert recovered the ball at the Raiders' 49-yard line.

But this Raiders' team seems to be one big play shy of success. Woodson thought his play might be it. "You always hope it is,'' said Woodson, who had six tackles, two passes defensed and the forced fumble."But obviously we needed one more.'' Porter thought his play would be it.

"The ball was slightly under thrown,'' he said of the pass from Collins, one of many that the quarterback (21-for-35, 263 yards, one touchdown) seemed to throw off his back foot in the face of smothering Chiefs' pass coverage. "I was playing against a zone, a guy ran underneath it, got a hand on it.''

Could anyone imagine this Raiders team, so impressive on paper with the additions of Moss and Jordan on offense and pass rusher Derrick Burgess on defense, going 0-2 with a trip to Philadelphia, the defending NFC champions, on the horizon? A brutal fact: Over the past four seasons, 38 of 42 teams that started the season 0-2 failed to reach the playoffs. We're not worrying about some silly baseball statistics,'' said Porter, who caught five passes for 68 yards. "The thing is, we've got Philadelphia next week. We'll go into work (today) and see what we did wrong and correct it.''

Chiefs kicker Lawrence Tynes connected on field goals of 31, 39 and 42 yards, giving Kansas City all the fuel it would need. Meanwhile, the Raiders' offense dazzled in spurts but sustained far too many periods of three-and-out, penalty-marred dysfunction to maintain momentum. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski didn't help matters by missing a 50-yard field-goal try early in the third period, a kick he tried to make from third base in the dirt infield. Not that there wasn't a glimmer of hope.

From The Stables: Actually, the Raiders impressed me during the game. I thought there was no way that could play with the Chiefs in this game, but they proved otherwise. To quote Sterling Sharpe, "I really liked what I'm seeing out of the Raiders defense" on Sunday night. Randy Moss may be the media's darling, but the Raiders defense was the most impressive aspect of their team. I'll be watching to see if they keep it up, but I was impressed with what a I saw by them against the Chiefs offense.

Contra Costa Times (Steve Corkran)
Desperation hung in the air Sunday night at McAfee Coliseum. Sure, it was only the second game of the season, and coaches will tell you that the season is a marathon and not a sprint. What they won't tell you is, that no team wants to start a season 0-2 and face the prospect of playing the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles on the road in its next game. Or that history shows that 86 percent of teams that started 0-2 since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990 missed the postseason. That figure soars to a 96 percent failure rate for 0-3 teams.

In the end, it was a Kerry Collins pass that hung in the air, after hitting off wide receiver Jerry Porter's hands in the end zone, waiting to be caught, the difference between 0-2 and 1-1 at stake. Porter couldn't make the catch, and the Kansas City Chiefs ran out the clock in a 23-17 victory. "We are just killing ourselves," Raiders strong safety Derrick Gibson said. "We've got to take a long look at ourselves in the mirror because we've got a big (game) next week, and we can't expect to win with all these penalties. There's no more room for error." This isn't what the Raiders had in mind when they traded for big-play receiver Randy Moss and signed high-profile running back LaMont Jordan. Some of the players have changed but the results are just as discouraging. Now comes a game against an Eagles team that is fresh from a 42-3 pasting of the 49ers, with all-world quarterback Donovan McNabb passing for five touchdowns despite a bruised sternum from the week before.

Sunday night's game is one the Raiders no doubt will look back upon the rest of the season as either the crucial defeat that fueled a third straight disappointing season or provided the impetus for their overcoming considerable odds. History says the former will win out. If so, Sunday night's game will be held up as a huge key in Oakland's demise. Raiders defensive end Derrick Burgess spent his first four seasons with the Eagles. He knows all too well how daunting a task it is to beat the Eagles, let alone at their stadium. "It's going to be difficult, no doubt," Burgess said, "but it's what we have to do. We've just got to focus and find a way to get a win."

That ever-elusive first victory hung in the balance for more than 58 minutes of play Sunday, with the Chiefs leading by no more than seven points or the game tied at all times. Just when it seemed as if all hope were lost, Oakland's franchise player showed why the organization invested more than $10.5 million in him during the offseason. Cornerback Charles Woodson stripped Kansas City wide receiver Samie Parker of the football near midfield and turned a potential back-breaking first-down reception into a Raiders first down at their 49-yard line with 4 minutes, 52 seconds left to play.

Porter leaped high above strong safety Sammy Knight, had the ball in his grasp, then lost it as Knight hit him. Porter reached for the ball and the potential victory that came with a catch, but it fell to the ground for an incomplete pass. Knight said he had a hunch that the outcome of the game would hinge on one play late in the game, just as it did in the teams' four meetings the past two seasons. "We knew it was going to come down to that," Knight said. "Look at the history of this rivalry. Every game comes down to the last drive." Oakland never led and made just enough mistakes to offset any good they did on offense and defense. The Raiders simply aren't at the level yet where they can overcome turnovers, penalties and the mistakes that come with the inexperienced, young players they are forced to rely upon.

From The Stables: The addition of safety Sammy Knight couldn't have been more obvious then on the Raiders fourth down pass late in the game. He read that play correctly as he followed the eyes of Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins. Cornerback Benny Sapp came over a little late but nearly intercepted the ball before falling out of bounds. It's very clear the new additions to the defense have proven themselves over the last couple of games, exactly why they were brought to Kansas City in the first place. Surtain and Knight have solidified the secondary and every Chiefs fan is drooling at the prospect of getting Eric Warfield back to his cornerback spot in a couple of weeks. Linebackers Kendrell Bell and Derrick Johnson have provided the playmaking ability that was so sorely missing the last few years.

As the Chiefs keep winning, maybe down the road these columnists will start crediting the Chiefs defense instead of criticizing their own teams play, but somehow I doubt it. It's actually pretty funny reading how the Raiders self-destructed instead of getting outplayed. Charles Woodson's tomahawk chop on the ball against Samie Parker was a thing of beauty. I've watched that replay a few times and I don't think there is anyway that Parker couldn't have fumbled on that play. It was a perfect strip of the ball and Woodson should be credited with making what could have been a game changing play. I think it is worth mentioning that the Raiders never led at any point in this game and that's not an easy thing to accomplish in an NFL when you play in a hostile environment. The Chiefs haven't trailed at any point this season and that makes it extremely difficult on an opponent. For the Raiders, they're chances of making the playoffs if they start the season 0-3 jumps to 96%. I'm sure every Chiefs fan will be rooting for the Eagles against the Raiders and for that matter the New York Giants versus the San Diego Chargers! As fans, let's kick then when they're down.

Check back on Saturday to find out the thoughts from the Rocky Mountain scribes on the upcoming Monday Night game. We'll review the columns and commentary to see the spin they put on the game and Warpaint Illustrated's ‘From the Stables' will be there to shine the light on them.

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