And here come the Kansas City Chiefs, looking to jump start a sagging season by perennial Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez.
In Oakland's 23-17 loss to Kansas City in Week 2, Gonzalez had just four
receptions for 42 yards and did not score.
It was a significant development, given that in his nine-year career,
Gonzalez has more receptions (79), yards, (1,251), touchdowns (7) and 100-yard games
(3) against the Raiders than any other opponent.
On Sept. 18, the Raiders kept Gonzalez under control by using Gibson on
plays near the line of scrimmage and having Woodson spend a good portion of the
game shadowing Gonzalez in space.
In a 34-25 win over Tennessee, tight end Erron Kinney had five receptions
for 69 yards and three first downs. Ben Troupe, Bo Scaife and Gregg Guenther also
had first down catches as tight ends.
"The negative in the game -- it didn't cost us -- but their tight ends had
success on third downs and their tight ends had success in the middle of the
field," coach Norv Turner said. "That's something we're going to have to address
during the week and we're really going to have to work hard to come up with a
plan for Gonzalez because we all know what he's capable of doing."
Jarrod Cooper, a standout special teams player, had primary responsibility
for tight ends against Tennessee, with nickel back Renaldo Hill and linebackers
Danny Clark and Kirk Morrison helping out as the Titans often went with
two-tight end sets.
Cooper also scored a touchdown, recovering a Steve McNair fumble generated
off a Warren Sapp sack, and added energy to the defense with his ability to hit
hard and fast.
Details, however, are not his strength.
"He's got some work to do on the details of playing the position," Turner
said. "If his help is outside, stay inside. He gets excited and wants to cover
the guy instead of playing to the strength of the defense."
Gonzalez has just 32 receptions for 306 yards and had his first touchdown in
27 quarters against Tennessee. The Raiders won't divulge how they will deal
with Gonzalez Sunday. Most signs point to a group effort with Cooper, Clark,
Morrison, Hill and free safety Stuart Schweigert all having a part depending on
whether Gonzalez is lined up tight, in the slot or split wide.
"We'll probably have a combination of different guys," Clark said. "I'm not
sure exactly who will line up on him -- sometimes it will be two guys -- and
hopefully we'll play him aggressively."
Clark is not fooled by Gonzalez's modest stats.
"He's one of the best in the game and we have to be technically sound,"
Clark said. "We were creating too much distance on third-and-3, third-and-short,
against Tennessee. We can't back up on those plays. We need to be firm."
SERIES HISTORY: 91st meeting. Chiefs lead 46-42-2 and have won five
straight. Raiders last won 24-0 in 2002 regular season finale in Oakland. Last win in
Oakland was 27-24 on Sept. 9, 2001, in the season opener.
--Wide receiver Doug Gabriel had a career-game in terms of yardage with 5
receptions for 101 yards against Buffalo, but was shut out against Tennessee.
Coach Norv Turner, who has been sparing of praise for Gabriel, may have been
trying to send a message when he publicly credited Tennessee rookie Adam
"Pacman" Jones for his coverage skills.
"Pacman had him a number of times pressed up one on one and he covered him
pretty good," Turner said. "Kerry did a good job not throwing him the ball."
--Wide receiver Jerry Porter, perhaps overly sensitive concerning media
reports about his lack of production until catching 6 passes for 123 yards and two
touchdowns against Tennessee, is treating the media warily.
"It's cool to get you all off our back for a little while," Porter said. "As
soon as something happens, you'll jump right back on, though."
--DE Derrick Burgess, who had two sacks in each of three consecutive games
until getting blanked in Tennessee, said he received some double teams and chip
blocks from running backs for the first time this season.
"I hope it's the last time, too," Burgess said. "I came out of that game
very sore. I guess it's a good thing as long as my guys do their thing. It's all
good. We got a `W.' "
The Raiders collected a season-high six sacks.
--With 4:58 to play in the first quarter of his seventh NFL game, return
specialist Chris Carr called his first fair catch after 18 happy returns.
"My mentality in college was to catch everything," said Carr, a free agent
from Boise State. "It didn't matter if it was 10 yards deep in the end zone or
if I got blasted on a punt return. So it was a hard adjustment going from
catching everything to thinking about fair catching. You just have to realize you
can't make a play every single time."
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 - Defensive touchdowns the Raiders have scored in the last
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You go into games expecting to win. The people I talk to
expected us to win some of the ones we didn't, if you know what I mean," Raiders
coach Norv Turner in a rare reference to pressure from owner Al Davis.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Raiders signed free-agent safety Reggie Tongue and waived Calvin Branch,
who was signed to the roster Oct. 19. Guard Rod Green was signed to the
Tongue, 32, worked out for the Raiders last Thursday. Cut by the New York Jets on June 15, Turner said there's an outside chance Tongue could be available
in a limited role but more likely will be inactive against Kansas City, leaving
their substitution pattern in the secondary unaffected.
On the offensive line, center Jake Grove is physically ready to return but
Turner is hesitant to alter the line's makeup for the sake of continuity. Grove
was limited in practice. Adam Treu is expected to draw his third straight
start, with Grove backing up at center and also ready to play at left guard behind
Turner has not ruled out getting Grove some pre-planned snaps at left guard.
Linebacker Tim Johnson got some plays in place of SS Jarrod Cooper in
alignments when Cooper was supposed to play in the box. Johnson said those plays
occurred only after Cooper left temporarily after a bee sting.
--RT Robert Gallery is coming off a strong game, effectively controlling
Tennessee DE Kyle Vanden Bosch. Vanden Bosch, among the NFL leaders with eight
sacks, was credit with an inconsequential half a sack on a 1-yard loss by QB Kerry Collins. He had four tackles and was not a force in the game.
--CB Stanford Routt may have put himself in line for moving up the ladder in
Oakland's ever-changing secondary with a key tackle of Steve McNair on a
third-and-10 scramble. Routt made an ankle tackle to stop McNair a yard shy of a
first down, forcing a Tennessee field goal attempt.
--FS Stuart Schweigert broke up two passes, including one at the goal line,
in what coach Norv Turner called "his best game as a Raider."
--PK Sebastian Janikowski, after missing four field goal attempts in his
first three games, has made his last seven in a row.
--RB LaMont Jordan is the only player in the NFL to be rank in the top 25 in
rushing (499 yards) and receptions (35).
--FB John Paul Foschi had surgery to repair a dislocation on one of the
fingers of his right hand. He was limited in practice playing with gloves, but
caught a pass.
--DE Bobby Hamilton did not practice but believes he will play. If he is not
ready, or plays sparingly, LB Tyler Brayton's responsibility as an end will
increase, as will the snaps for DE Tommy Kelly and DE Derrick Burgess. DT Terdell Sands could be active for the first time, as well.
--DE-LB DeLawrence Grant did not practice, is listed as doubtful, and will
likely miss his third consecutive game.
GAME PLAN: Raiders will look to run enough to keep the Chiefs honest but
make their biggest strikes through the air against a Kansas City ranked 31sts in
the NFL against the pass. Defensively, Oakland think run-first, then get after
immobile quarterback Trent Green before he can locate Tony Gonzalez against the
inexperienced middle of the Raiders secondary. With special teamer Jarrod
Cooper now a defensive starter, look for directional kicking to keep Chiefs return
specialist Dante Hall under control.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Chiefs DE Jared Allen vs. Raiders LT Barry Sims. Allen (6-6, 265), has five
sacks, five forced fumbles and is the sort of quick, high-energy player from
the edge that can give Sims trouble. In the first meeting, however, Sims more
than held his own. Allen had one tackle for loss on running back LaMont Jordan but
was otherwise invisible. Sims is quietly having a very good season.
Raiders NT Ted Washington vs. Chiefs C Casey Wiegmann. Washington is listed
at 365 pounds and could be more. Wiegmann is a smallish 6-foot-2, 285 pounds.
If Wiegmann is getting manhandled by Washington and needs too much help from
either Will Shields or Brian Waters, it would not only shut off the Chiefs running
game, but the ripple effect could make the Chiefs backfield a playground for
Warren Sapp and Derrick Burgess.
INJURY IMPACT: The Raiders will continue to allow Randy Moss, hobbled with
rib, pelvis and groin injuries, to come along at his own pace. He has been a
non-factor in the second halves of the last two games. They can be expected to go
at Moss early and see what he's capable of, then go elsewhere if he is not
approaching 100 percent.
Defensively, if defensive end Bobby Hamilton is either subpar because of his
ankle injury or not available to play, it denies the Raiders one of their most
stout run defenders as a base defensive end against one of the NFL's better
Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Personnel
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