Defense steps up while offense falters

The defense returned to prominence this past weekend in a loss to Kansas City, as it wasn't enough for the Raiders to pull out a victory.

Raiders Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Blink and you missed it. The Raiders struck and Daunte Culpepper struck like lightning with back-to-back completions of 59 yards to Jerry Porter and 21 to Ronald Curry for a touchdown late in the third quarter. Other than four catches for 45 yards by Zach Miller, not a lot to talk about. Curry dropped three passes and Culpepper threw the killer interception to Jarrad Page when the Raiders were hoping to get in field-goal range.

"It killed us to give up those (big) plays," Page said of Culpepper's 59-yard bomb to Jerry Porter and 21-yard TD throw to Ronald Curry. "But we regrouped along the sideline, talked about how those plays were in the past and made sure we stayed positive. Then we made the plays to come back and win."

"I can't put a finger on it, we really couldn't get ourselves going off the bat," Culpepper said of the Chiefs game, in which the Raiders did not score a touchdown until their 10th possession. "We got it going there in the second half a little bit, but we've got to finish."

RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- At least they were persistent -- persistently bad. LaMont Jordan had 29 yards on 11 carries and Dominic Rhodes had 21 on nine attempts. Erase Jordan's 12-yard run and an 11-yard burst by Rhodes, and the Raiders rushed 22 times for 32 yards. This from a team that averaged 194.2 yards on the ground through its first four games and is now down to 145.8.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Raiders got sacks from Warren Sapp and Chris Clemons and a solid rush from Derrick Burgess. Stanford Routt had his third interception of the year at the 7-yard line, but Kirk Morrison dropped what could have been his fourth. Safety Stuart Schweigert put the wood to Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez. Oakland's best defender, Nnamdi Asomugha, let Kansas City rookie Dwayne Bowe get behind him for a 58-yard gain for the lone egregious error.

"I've really enjoyed seeing (Routt) mature through the process of playing more," Kiffin said. "I mean the way that he prepares. He's out there all the time, becoming one of those guys who's always around, wearing out our defensive backs coaches, which is a good thing.

"It's really good to see a guy that does that and it carries over on to the field."

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Larry Johnson (24 carries, 112 yards) went over 100 yards like he always does against Oakland, but this time it was different. He broke loose on one 54-yard cutback run that didn't hurt because the Chiefs blew a 30-yard field-goal attempt. Other than that, it was 2.5 yards per carry (58 yards, 23 carries). Terdell Sands had one of his better games at defensive tackle, helping tie up Chiefs blocking schemes.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- The weekly big mistake was costly -- this time Asomugha allowed a Kansas City gunner to run him into return specialist Chris Carr, with the ball coming free and the Chiefs recovering, leading to a field goal. Still not much going on returns, other than a 24-yard punt return by Carr. Sebastian Janikowski converted his only field-goal attempt from 37 yards and had three touchbacks. Shane Lechler punted nine times for a 51.2 average and 45.1 net, placing three inside the 20-yard line.

COACHING: D -- Lane Kiffin's stubborn nature regarding running the ball is both admirable and maddening. His decision to go for a first down on fourth-and-one in the red zone -- they didn't get it -- was one of the big reasons the Raiders didn't win. You wonder if Kiffin's tacit admission that he has little faith in the passing game to carry the load isn't affecting the confidence of that part of the Raiders' game. Overall, this was a game the Raiders needed to make a statement they apparently weren't prepared to make.

Chiefs Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Damon Huard was under the gun nearly all day, and his 55.4 passer rating reflects that he often had to throw short to complete 16 of 31 passes for only 177 yards with a pick. He did scramble out of trouble and hit the 58-yarder to Dwayne Bowe to jump-start Kansas City's comeback from a 7-6 deficit, but he was throwing on his heels most of the day.

"We scored enough points to win the game, but we were never comfortable out there as an offense," Huard said of the team's 12-point outpoint, its fourth sub-14-point effort in seven games. "We hit a few big plays when we needed them to win, and that feels good, but we were way too inconsistent to feel good about our offense today.

"We found a way to win, and that's the only important thing. Credit our defense, which was outstanding. But as an offense, there were just too many things we did wrong."

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus -- Even with Larry Johnson's 54-yard run lifting the average, the Chiefs still didn't get 4 yards a try on their 32 runs. They did manage to pound out two running first downs when trying to kill the final 5:49 after Oakland closed to 12-10, but they needed at least one more.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- Critical drops by the Raiders hurt Daunte Culpepper more than did the Chiefs pass defense did. SS Bernard Pollard still gets suckered too often on play fakes. He was badly out of position when a scrambling Culpepper hit Joey Porter for the 59-yarder that represented Oakland's only big offensive play through 2 1/2 quarters. And no safety was back, either, when Ronald Curry, who battled the drops all day, got free for a 29-yard TD pass on the next play.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Chiefs' game plan coming in was to stop Oakland's third-ranked rushing attack and make Culpepper one-dimensional. They did just that in limiting the Raiders to 55 rushing yards and an awful 2.3-yard average.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Give punter Dustin Colquitt an "A" for nearly matching Oakland Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler in a game where field position meant everything. Colquitt averaged 46.4 yards gross and 43.0 net -- Lechler was an awesome 51.2 and 45.4, respectively -- with two inside-the-20s and no touchbacks. Dave Rayner hit field goals of 41 and 20, but his 30-yard hook will put him on the hot seat. Kick coverage, as usual, was good. Kick returns, as usual, provided nothing.

COACHING: B-minus -- Herm Edwards took some hits for electing to try the two-point conversion after the TD that put Kansas City up 12-7 with 11:30 remaining. The failure meant Oakland could tie with two field goals. Luckily for Edwards, the Raiders only got one.


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