It's mental in Oakland

Accounting for mental mistakes wasn't on the agenda when Art Shell took over as Oakland Raiders head coach.

The Oakland Raiders' philosophy with regard to blocking this season as mandated by coach Art Shell was established early in training camp.

Never take a backward step. Man-to-man blocking schemes replaced zone blocking schemes.

Co-offensive line coach Jackie Slater referred to it as "not paying for the same real estate twice."

Fourteen games into the season, the Raiders are ranked 28th in rushing and have surrendered a league-high 66 sacks.

"On a consistent basis, it hasn't caught on," Shell said. "We see at times it's there. We see that maybe you got three to four guys getting it done but it's not getting done by all five or the sixth guy, the tight end, or the lead back, then it becomes a problem. You can have three or four guys winning and one guy can break down and the whole play will collapse."

Part of Oakland's problem has been injuries. Only center Jake Grove and right tackle Langston Walker have lined up for every game. Left tackle Robert Gallery twice missed games with a groin injury before going out Nov. 19 with a dislocated left elbow. He returns to the lineup Saturday night against Kansas City.

"You put in a new system, new coaches and have some injuries, and sometimes guys aren't all on the same page and don't understand the way others do," Gallery said. "We've been working all year to try and get everyone on the same page."

Shell remembers some early resistance to the philosophy as line coach in Kansas City, although the Chiefs caught on by the end of training camp and ended up leading the NFL in rushing in 1995.

He isn't about to change now.

"I still believe it's a better way to block," Shell said.


The Chiefs badly need a win, which makes the timing perfect for Saturday's game.

They're playing the Raiders, which is fortunate not so much because the Raiders are bad, though they most certainly are that. It's more that the Chiefs just have Oakland's number. The last seven meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer and the Chiefs have won all seven.

"They tend to always commit a foul or mess something up at the end of the game," defensive end Jared Allen said of the Raiders. "We know we can beat them at the end of the game because we've done it seven times. This last time we were down 13-10 and had to come back and win."

Indeed, the last time the Chiefs and Raiders met, Raiders quarterback Aaron Brooks threw an interception in the back of the end zone on what would have been the game-winning drive. Last season, Larry Johnson scored a game-winning touchdown with no time left on the clock on a noted gamble by then-coach Dick Vermeil, who went for the win instead of the tying field goal.

There was the game in which a bad Chiefs defense stopped Tim Brown on the 1-yard line and the game in which the Chiefs broke up Oakland's final pass in the end zone.

Quarterback Trent Green attributed the games' closeness to the divisional rivalry. He didn't know why the Chiefs always seem to win.

"I know that in my six years here the majority of our division games have been very close," Green said. "We have just been fortunate."

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