Raiders Bring Productive Running Game To KC

When the Chiefs last hosted the Oakland Raiders, in 2008, things weren't so different than they are now. It was Week 2, both teams were 0-1, the Chiefs were coming off a competitive loss on the road to a good team, the Raiders boasted an impressive trio of running backs, and neither Oakland nor Kansas City were expected to compete for the playoffs.

Last season's contest ended in a disappointing 23-8 loss for the Chiefs. As another parallel, backup Damon Huard started the game because of an injury to former starter Brodie Croyle. While unlikely, it's possible Croyle, now playing the role of backup, could start for the injured Matt Cassel this Sunday.

With Cassel's status still in question, JaMarcus Russell still leading the Raiders' beleaguered passing game (though it looked pretty decent last week), and Kansas City's defense allowing Baltimore 500 yards of total offense last week, a repeat of last season's game looks quite likely this Sunday.

In their victory over the Chiefs last year, the Raiders' backfield combined for 300 yards rushing, while Russell struggled to only 55 passing yards. Darren McFadden led all rushers with 164 yards and a touchdown. Michael Bush and Justin Fargas combined for another 133 rushing yards.

This year, head coach Todd Haley is well aware of Oakland‘s rushing attack.

"They are a great trio of backs," he said. "I don't like to throw the word great around, but I think that they are. McFadden coming out was one of my favorite players. He is a hard running son of a gun. He hits it hard, so you better be ready. Bush is another guy I really liked coming out. Had some injury issues that kind of got lost in the shuffle, but when I saw his name go out to Oakland , I thought to myself, they got something there. Fargas is a guy that if you're paying attention every year, you see him and what he does. He makes plays. He's probably the most elusive of the group. But they each bring a little something different to the table."

One of the major issues with Kansas City's loss last weekend to Baltimore was the time their defense spent on the field. Baltimore ran 85 offensive plays, and the Chiefs didn't muster their initial first down until late in the second quarter, allowing fatigue to set in. If KC's offense starts off as slowly as they did last week, their defense could be looking at another long day at the office, especially with Oakland's ability to run the ball.

"As I said after the game, despite the fact that the offense didn't turn over the ball, we've got to help keep the defense fresh," said Haley. "Three-and-outs don't cut it, and part of eliminating three-and-outs is running the football, I think, and converting on third down, and we've got to do both of those, obviously, obviously better."

If the Chiefs want to keep their defense off the field longer this week and convert more third downs, their running game will be key. One, to keep the clock moving, and two, to make their third-down attempts shorter. Considering what KC's running game did last week against Baltimore - a total of 29 rushing yards - the task of beating the Raiders looks ominous.

However, the Chiefs believe they weren't far away from running the ball more successfully against the Ravens.

"I guess coach said it best - there was just a couple plays where we were just one block away," said tackle Ike Ndukwe. "It was just one guy, but that one guy on each play will get you beat. We can't leave our defense out there the way that we did. As an offense and an offensive line, we should pride ourselves in moving the ball."

Ndukwe is one of two new starters on KC's offensive line, and if the Chiefs are going to move the ball on the ground against Oakland, he and fellow newcomer Mike Goff will have to learn how to play together quickly.

"I think one of the biggest things about the offensive line is time," said Ndukwe. "You've got to play together, and it's going to take some time. But hopefully sooner than later we definitely get to gel a lot better. We definitely didn't play well enough, but we did some things well, but we have some improvements to make."

While watching last week's poor running performance won't give many Chiefs fans hope heading into Week 2, maybe running back Larry Johnson's vote of confidence will.

"I've seen a lot of bright spots out of the new guys that came onto this offensive line," he said. "As long as there's Brian Waters, who's been there with me a long period of time and can get these guys going in the right direction, then we should be good."

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