News, Notes, Quotes, Injuries, Matchups

There seems little doubt about the reason the Raiders and the Chiefs are the Sunday night combatants.

Offense: Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez.

Defense: neither was expected to have any.

TV likes it like that way and what was expected to be the story line was a 41-38 game much like the one that ushered in the new millennium on Jan. 2, 2000.

Or last year's pair -- 31-30 and 34-27.

That's how the rest of the league sees the game but for the teams themselves and for their followers, the issue is something altogether different.

It's whether Kansas City's defense which ranked next to last in the NFL a year ago in yardage allowed, is really better after nearly shutting out the Jets a week ago.

And, in turn, whether the Raiders' defense, which ranked next to last in points allowed a year ago, is still as bad after yielding 30 points to New England on opening day.

The possibility that neither is the case exists.

The Chiefs did hold the Jets scoreless until the closing seconds and stopped Curtis Martin on 20 carries for 52 points. But they also yielded 390 yards to a team unveiling a new offense.

"All I know from putting on that film, is that they are a lot better than they were last year," Raider QB Kerry Collins said.

The Raiders started badly but finished strong against New England and, truth be told, no one expected them to shut down the Patriots, who have made even the best defensive teams in the league look bad in recent years. Despite the 23-point difference, they held New England to fewer yards than the Jets compiled against the Chiefs.

The Raider problem is, and has been, consistency.

"You go out and stop them one series, then you go back on the field and the next series it's like night and day," Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson said. "We played good in spurts but you have got to put 60 minutes together to win a game. And their offense made the plays when they had to.

"One series, we go out there and it's three and out but you have to duplicate that the next series ... and so on and so forth. Sixty minutes is a long game but we've got to put it together."

Asked if it appeared the Raider defense had improved from a year ago, Woodson was blunt.

"I certainly hope so," he said. "Last season we kind of got down on ourselves early and things kind of snowballed from there. You just hope that this year we have some new players and there will be a new mind set."

SERIES HISTORY: 90th meeting. Kansas City leads 45-42-2, has won four in a row and five of the last six. Between 1999 and 2001 the Raiders reversed a Kansas City trend by winning five in a row. Prior to that, the Chiefs had won 17 of the previous 19 against the Raiders.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Raiders have won nine of their last 10 home openers dating back to their Oakland return in 1995.

The only loss was to the Chiefs in 1997 in a Monday night game. The Raiders don't play a Monday game this year but will be playing their sixth straight night game including exhibitions.

--While Kansas City's Dante Hall has made quite a mark on the NFL with his kick returns, Chris Carr is just a Raider rookie with sights on making a similar impact.

"He's amazing," the undrafted rookie specialist from Boise State said. "I think everybody looks up to him as probably one of the best returners that's ever played."

Since Hall has returned four punts and five kickoffs for touchdowns the last three years, it's a valid argument. But there's a new kid on the AFC West block.

"I know the spotlight is going to be on their returner," Carr said. "But I know I can do some things, too."

He did just that in the Raiders' final exhibition game. When he took the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against New Orleans it didn't count due to a penalty, but it definitely opened some eyes.

"I think he's awesome," said fellow special teams member Tim Johnson. "Every time he touches it I think he's gong to break one. On kickoffs he's wiggling through little holes nobody can see. On punts, he's making guys miss. If we get our blocking going, he will definitely score this year."

"It's been awhile since we've had that kind of a returner here," said Raiders snapper Adam Treu, who has chased Hall around in recent years. "I don't know that in my nine years we've had one. We had Desmond Howard, but there is something different about Chris.

"He's really quick and you don't always see that. His legs are always moving and you don't know where he's going to go. He kind of reminds me of Tim Dwight (with) his fearlessness, his trust and understanding of the blocking scheme. There is nothing tentative about what he does after he catches the ball."

--Raiders 6-8 left guard Langston Walker blocked an extra point against New England, his third blocked kick in the last seven Raider games.

"I just put my hand up and listened for the sound of a foot," Walker said when asked the secret to his success. "You can't adjust in the air. It's a crapshoot. I should probably go to (Las) Vegas."

--On the Raiders' opening possession of the season, they drove down the field 72 yards in six plays and scored a touchdown. It was the first time after 31 straight occasions that New England allowed an opponent to score a touchdown on its first series.

Included were four Kerry Collins completions (in four attempts) for 30 and 29 yards. After that, Collins was only 14-for-36 passing for 202 yards -- and one of those was a 73-yard touchdown pass. In the second half, Collins was 11 for 27 for 106 yards.

What happened?

"On that first drive, we really did a good job of staying ahead of schedule," Collins said. "We had some plays that kept us in second and short, third and short. We hit a couple of big plays right off the bat.

"We got a couple more big plays during the game, but I know from my standpoint, there were things I could have done later in the game that I did on the first drive buy just checking it down to LaMont (Jordan) a couple more times rather than maybe trying to take a shot (downfield)."

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 -- The number of times Raiders QB Kerry Collins uttered the word "obviously" during his nine minute talk with the media Wednesday.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't take it as a personal challenge (to play against Tony Gonzalez). He makes a play, I want to make a play. We play the same position. He is going to the Hall of Fame. I've got a long way to go before I go to that level." -- Raiders TE Courtney Anderson, who caught two touchdown passes in the Raiders opener at New England.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL There don't figure to be any starting lineup changes in store for the Raiders for this game, however it will be interesting to see how the Chiefs offense and the Raiders defense respond to one another.

Last week, New England used multiple receivers to force the Raiders out of the defense they started the game with -- with 280-pound linebackers Tyler Brayton and Grant Irons manning the outside spots. The Raiders had more success in the dime defense, getting at least a semblance of a pass rush while in the 4-1-6 with rookie Kirk Morrison in the middle.

Against the Chiefs, coach Norv Turner has hinted broadly that Oakland will go back to the big front seven with Brayton and Irons at outside linebacker. The reason: they want more beef to deal with Kansas City's two-pronged rushing attack with Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson, who combined to help the Chiefs rush for 198 yards last week vs. the Jets.

But if the Raiders stay "big" will the Chiefs try to take advantage by using Holmes and Johnson as receivers? They only caught one pass each for a total of 16 yards a week ago.

Because both Holmes and Johnson had 35-yard runs, the Raiders make it sound like that is the focal point. However, Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil hedged his bets a bit when he said his goal was to present a balanced attack.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Kerry Collins (jammed thumb) practiced Wednesday and said he would be 100 percent for the game.

--WR Doug Gabriel (finger) has been running routes but doctors have ordered him not to try to catch passes while his injury mends. Rookie Fabian Washington has been catching balls on Gabriel's behalf.

--WR Jerry Porter (hamstring) made it through the opener with no further damage and said he was now 100 percent. "I am fine, I am always fine," he said. "Unless you see a bone coming through the skin, I'm still fine."

--Backup C Adam Treu is the only Raider still on the squad who was present for the Raiders' only home opener loss in 1997 to Kansas City.

--RB Zack Crockett is one rushing touchdown shy of Mark van Eeghen on the Raiders' all-time touchdown list with 34.

GAME PLAN: Oakland wants to make better use of RB LaMont Jordan when opponents get a good pass rush on QB Kerry Collins. That is likely to mean the Raiders will pass frequently rather than use Jordan to exert ball control on the ground. There was a lingering suspicion that Collins tried to go deep too often against New England and that the 14 passes thrown to Randy Moss were too many. The Raiders will respond to the Chiefs' strategy but will go in assuming that Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson will carry the load on the ground. However, they will be quick to revert to their dime defense should Kansas City change its emphasis and attack through the air. The Chiefs may be tempted. Oakland's strength on defense appears clearly to be its run defense, which held the Patriots to 2.4 yards a carry, even though playing a large portion of the game in dime.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

WR Randy Moss will try to give Chiefs LCB Patrick Surtain's another headache. Surtain suffered a concussion last week and is expected to play.

Raiders' SS Derrick Gibson has enjoyed some of his best games defending Kansas City TE Tony Gonzalez and will have to do it again.

MLB Danny Clark will be a pivotal figure in assisting 280-pound linebackers Tyler Brayton and Grant Irons on the Chiefs' perimeter rushes. R

DE Tommy Kelly must not allow 10-time Pro Bowl LT Willie Roaf to dominate him. Kelly only was in on one tackle a week ago when he faced New England's Matt Lyght.

INJURY IMPACT: The only Raider not expected to miss the game is WR Doug Gabriel, who is still at least two weeks away from returning after having a pin inserted to stabilize a dislocated index finger.

RB Justin Fargas (knee) has been limited in practices but is being counted on to play.

QB Kerry Collins jammed the thumb on his throwing hand against New England but was practicing fully on Wednesday.

WR Jerry Porter (hamstring) is being listed on the injury report (probable) but is showing no effects from the injury that shelved him virtually all of August.


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