The last time the Oakland Raiders defense saw running back Shaun Alexander, they had a good view of the back of his No. 37 jersey.
Alexander rushed for 266 yards on 35 carries and three touchdowns in a 34-27 win over Oakland last November in Seattle. Alexander's rushing yards are the fourth highest in NFL history for a single game.
The Raiders' defense, however, will look drastically different than the one Alexander ripped to shreds. The question is, will the outcome be different? The answer to that question will come Sunday when the two teams meet at the Oakland Coliseum. Cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive end Tony Bryant are Oakland's lone returning starters on defense from the end of last season.
Defensive tackle John Parrella, who signed as a free agent from San Diego, is one of the hired guns. Parrella may be able to offer some insight in stopping Alexander. Seattle beat the Chargers both times but not because of Alexander, who was held to a combined 52 carries for 146 yards (2.8 yards per carry) and one touchdown.
"Obviously, he's a great running back," Parrella said. "We got to get 11 hats to the ball. I can't speak for what happened last year but everyone has to hold their gaps and be responsible."
Ironically, Oakland held Alexander to 18 yards on 10 carries in the first meeting, which the Raiders won 38-14. The Raiders established the lead early and essentially made Alexander a nonfactor. The Seahawks, who have relocated to the NFC West since NFL realignment took place, have lost the last two games in Oakland by a combined score of 69-17. Besides grabbing the early lead, the key to slowing Alexander Sunday will be for defenders to stay disciplined in their assignments.
"Hopefully, we can shut them down early and get them out of the running game," Parrella said. "We looked at some of the things he did last year. Everyone has to rally to the ball."
Quote of the day
"It's a lucky field. We don't want to do anything to disturb it."
--Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon on the Oakland A's 19-game winning streak. The Raiders and A's both play at the Oakland Coliseum.