Inside slant

What had the Raiders scratching their heads the day after Christmas was that so many of the things they had attributed to their losing season had seemingly been rectified ... and it didn't matter.

-- They came into the game one of the league's weakest pass rush teams averaging 1.0 sacks a game over a nine week span. They came away from the Kansas City game with four indicating plenty of pressure on Chiefs QB Trent Green. Still, Green passed for 358 yards and 26 first downs through the air.

-- They ran for 100 yards for only the fourth time this year and got more yardage than the Chiefs (even a 100-99 advantage looks huge in Oakland) and yet they still lost the time of possession battle 34:46 to 25:14.

-- Next to last in turnover differential, they won that battle for only the fourth time this year. It was only a 2-to-1 advantage but it held promise and prevailing in this area had been the crux of the Raiders' game planning.

-- The first turnover resulted in a touchdown that gave Oakland a 7-0 lead in the first quarter for the first time all year.

All that came to yet another loss, 31-30.

"I talked to our team about it, but we missed opportunities to make plays," coach Norv Turner said. "We had the quarterback in our grasp two or three times and let him escape to make plays. We had plays in the running game and the passing game where we had other opportunities (and did not). In a game like that, one play can be crucial."

So many plays passed before his eyes that as Turner reviewed the overall effort in his Monday press conference, he said "it feels like we played a week ago."

Turner said his emphasis in the aftermath of loss No. 10 was to stress the good things and recognize "they were the reason we were IN the game," but to understand that with the plays that could have been made, the ones that Kansas City made, they could have won.


--One of the high points of the season has been the punting of Pro Bowl selectee Shane Lechler, but not far behind him is his workout buddy, Sebastian Janikowski.

It was Janikoiwski's 19-yard field goal in the closing seconds that gave Oakland a 27-24 win over Carolina, but he had not had a chance for a difficult game winner until Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.

Kicking to the more challenging side of the field and doing it from 46 yards with 1:03 to play and the team down 28-27, he left no doubt.

"He drilled it," coach Norv Turner said. "He didn't leave any chance to it. He split it (the uprights) as perfectly as you can."

Janikowski turned and waved to the sidelines after making the kick that seemingly had won the game. Then, he proceeded to hit a perfect squib kickoff to Dante Hall.

One problem: Hall got through several slack-jawed Raider defenders for a 49-yard return and 41 seconds after Janikowski's "game-winner" it was Chief Lawrence Tynes taking the bows with a 38-yard game winner.

"It couldn't have bounced any better," Turner said of the hard squib. "The guy made a great return."

--A year ago, Shane Lechler not only led the league in punting average but he became the NFL's all-time leading punter, passing Sammy Baugh as soon as he qualified with the requisite number of attempts.

However, the guy who went to the Pro Bowl was not Lechler, it was Tennessee's Craig Hentrick, whose average was three yards less (46.9 to 43.9).

The two met a week ago when the Titans played at Oakland and it was a bit awkward. However, Hentrich helped alleviate the situation.

"I didn't know how he was going to approach me before the game and didn't know how I was going to react," Lechler said. "It was something I didn't want to take personally, but I did.

"Craig is a great guy. He came up and said `Shane, I really had a great time over there (in Hawaii) but you really deserved to go.' It meant a lot to me. It's not Craig's fault in any way."

-- For the first time since Rich Gannon's neck injury, the Raiders had a third quarterback available in Week 16 -- David Rivers, who had been on the team's practice squad for a month. He did not see action.

-- A week after breaking a 13-week drought with a touchdown catch, WR Doug Gabriel only made one catch for 11 yards and had a conspicuous drop.

-- DT Grant Irons, son of former Raiders LB Gerald Irons, got the first sack of his NFL career in Kansas City.

-- TE Teyo Johnson had his second consecutive three-catch game and his 52 yards gained were a career high.

-- OT/DT Langston Walker's field goal block in the first quarter was his third in five games.



PASSING OFFENSE: C plus -- Kerry Collins' accuracy was a bit off as he one-hopped a handful of throws and completed less than 50 percent of his attempts for the first time in nine weeks. His lone interception was the final play of the game, a desperation heave. He was plagued by drops and penalties in pass protection. There were also some gems, such as a touchdown pass to Alvis Whitted and a 43 yard pass to Porter.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- If the Raiders' brain trust doubted it, this game was evidence the team really could run if they make up their minds to do so. Zack Crockett bulled his way for 32 yards and a touchdown and the average gain for the team was 4.6 yards. Justin Fargas had his best game of the year with 38 yards and a 6.3-yard average. The Raiders out-rushed their opponent for only the fifth time all year.

PASS DEFENSE: C minus -- Trent Green's 358 yards passing and Tony Gonzalez waltz through the Raider defense in the first half (9 for 112 yards, 2 TDs) was against a team going with neither of its starting cornerbacks. But there was progress, too: Tyler Brayton's interception off Nnamdi Asomugha's breakup and four sacks, including one by Ted Washington who forced a fumble that Warren Sapp, who also got a sack, recovered.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- For the second consecutive game, the Raiders held a team under 100 yards. They frustrated Larry Johnson, who saw his streak of three straight 100-yard games broken (79 yards on 25 carries for a mere 3.2 yard average). However, he also scored two touchdowns.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- The best effort was Sebastian Janikowski's three field goals, all from beyond 40 yards including the clutch one that should have been the game winner. But the coverage unit's failure to contain Dante Hall on his 49-yard kickoff return at the end spoiled it all.

COACHING: B plus -- This was a solid job of getting the most out of not a whole lot given the injuries. The Raider staff definitely out-coached Dick Vermeil, who made some really weird decisions and probably deserved to lose because of them.

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