Chiefs' Defense Stands Tall In Oakland

The Kansas City Chiefs snapped their seven-game losing streak in a 20-13 victory over the Raiders Sunday. The Chiefs' defense held the Raiders to just 13 points, their lowest points-against total since holding Oakland to 10 on October 21, 2007. This impressive defensive performance comes just one week after allowing a franchise-high 54 points to the Buffalo Bills.

One glaring difference between last week's loss to Buffalo and this week's win over the Raiders is the turnover margin. Last week the Chiefs committed five turnovers while only forcing one, and this week they forced two and only committed one. The Chiefs capitalized on both of their takeaways - Maurice Leggett picked up a fumble off a botched fake field goal attempt, returning it 67 yards for a touchdown, and Connor Barth hit a 27-yard field goal set up by a Brandon Flowers fumble recovery.

The old coaching cliché probably heard by every kid who ever played pee wee football is that games are won by "special teams and turnovers." Well, the Chiefs' last two contests have been a perfect example of that saying coming to fruition. Oakland's average possession began on their own 30-yard line Sunday, while Buffalo's started on their own 48-yard line last week, and that's including the Oakland possession that began on the Chiefs' one-yard line after Tyler Thigpen's interception. Take that turnover out of the equation and the Raiders get the ball on their on their own 23 on average.

Sunday's defensive performance wasn't just night-and-day in comparison to last week's loss, but also in comparison to KC's loss to Oakland in Week 2, where the Raiders rushed for 300 yards. Sunday, they amassed only 271 yards of total offense, the fewest the Chiefs have allowed since giving up just 236 to Detroit on December 12, 2007.

Finally Sunday, it seemed as though the Chiefs' defense was starting to put some things together. They've been thrashed all season long, and have come under a lot of scrutiny, but they put all that behind them against the Raiders and turned in an impressive performance.

Rookie cornerback Brandon Flowers was hitting like Bernard Pollard when he leveled Zach Miller and Pollard looked like former Raider great Jack Tatum when he nailed Ashley Lelie to force a fourth down in the fourth quarter.

The underdog, Rocky Boiman, looked like the famous movie character who shares his first name when he stripped the ball from Justin Fargas, resulting in a takeaway. Defensive tackles Tank Tyler and Glenn Dorsey, along with help from Ron Edwards and Alfonso Boone, did a good job of denying the marquee running game of Oakland, and JaMarcus Russell's inaccuracy saved KC's secondary from any semblance of a real test. For whatever reason, the Chiefs' defense played great in the black hole, and delivered head coach Herm Edwards the kind of grind-it-out, tough, defensive win he always craves.

SIDE NOTES:

Though Thigpen didn't play the game of his life Sunday, he did a good job of managing the game. He missed high on a couple passes to Tony Gonzalez, threw one interception and another near-interception, but protected the ball otherwise and moved the chains when necessary. He finished just 15-of-22 passing for 162 yards, but churned out 48 yards on the ground, exploiting Oakland's affinity for man-to-man defense.

Connor Barth was signed by the Chiefs as a rookie free agent this offseason, and after running neck-and-neck with veteran Nick Novak in training camp, the organization ultimately chose Novak's experience over Barth's youth. After cutting Novak and watching Barth for six games, it seems as though the Chiefs made the wrong decision in August, as Barth is perfect on the season on both field goal attempts and PATs. In a season like this one, the Chiefs can afford to play five-card draw with their fringe players - pick up some players, keep the ones you like the best, throw back the ones you don't, pick up some more, and repeat the process. Thus far it looks like the Chiefs have a pretty good hand in the foot of Barth.

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