WR Jacoby Ford returns the kickoff for a touchdown when the Raiders hosted the Chiefs in 2010. Photo by Tony Gonzales
It’s Chiefs Week in Oakland as the Raiders host their AFC West rival from Kansas City at O.co Coliseum this Sunday in Week 7 action. Last season, the Silver and Black swept the division, beating the Chiefs twice, 23-20 in overtime at home and 31-10 at Arrowhead Stadium. Despite that accomplishment, last year’s 2-0 record versus the Chiefs doesn’t mean a thing to the current 2011 squad.
“Records don’t mean anything in this game,” said Head Coach Hue Jackson. “This is one of the division teams and they’re good. We need to go play well, but records don’t mean anything in these games; you’ve got line up and play. The team that plays the hardest the longest and makes the fewest mistakes, you know that’s the old cliché, that’s the team that’s going to win.”
The Raiders hope to string together three wins in a row as they continue to push for the AFC West title and a trip to the playoffs. “It’s huge,” said DE Jarvis Moss. “When you’ve got a division rival like Kansas City, you get to play them twice a year. They’re huge – you’ve got to win these to stack up wins in that division. You’re trying to get that first-round home game in the playoffs. So, the division is huge. The rivalry, the tradition with it; it’s just great to be in the Black and Silver of it.”
“It’s always great to play in a good rivalry game,” said RB Darren McFadden. “Playing against another divisional team, you know it’s going to be a rivalry. So, we want to go out there and push hard. Just go out there and make a statement for ourselves.”
LB Aaron Curry is playing in his first Raiders-Chiefs rivalry game. “I’m excited just to hear the guys that have been in that rivalry and hear them talk about it,” said Curry. “It’s the type of game you look forward to.”
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, who is experiencing his fifth Chiefs Week, understands the significance of this game to the team and to Raider Nation. “It’s tons of fun,” said Heyward-Bey. “It’s a division game, so everybody is going to pick their game up a little bit more because these games mean a lot to get to the playoffs. They’re a good team, they won our division last year and they are the defending it. So, we’ve got to go out there and we’ve got to compete hard.”
Many of the players, whether experiencing the rivalry before or not, are looking at this game the same way they look at every match up. “I’m looking forward to it for the fact that they’re the next on our schedule,” said LB Darryl Blackstock. “As a team and as a teammate, I can speak for the whole – we’ve got a job to do, which is to beat the Chiefs. We take it one game at a time and they’re the next team on the schedule, so our preparation is going to be impeccable. It has to be impeccable and it has to be precise. We’ve got to put all the chips into the same bowl. We’ve got to put it together now this week, especially before the bye. This would be good for the football team and this organization to go out there and get a win.”
The Raiders, on offense and defense, want to take the field at O.co Coliseum and execute their assignments in order to get the ‘W.’ “I’m just looking forward to going in and doing my job, what I’m asked to do and just go 100 percent on defense, on special teams, and do whatever I have to do to get this big win this week,” said DB Ron Parker.
Although there is excitement for every game, AFC West match ups have a little added passion and intensity. “Just the energy, man,” said S Tyvon Branch. “Everybody’s riled up; those guys are fired up, we’re fired up, it’s always a competitive game.”
Kansas City was plagued by injuries to some of their top players at the beginning of the season (RB Jamaal Charles and S Eric Berry), but the team has turned things around and won their last two games. “They’re playing hard which they always have, they have really good players, and they have an attitude about what they’re doing,” said Coach Jackson. “I mean Dwayne Bowe on offense, obviously you go from whether it’s Tamba Hali on defense to [Derrick] Johnson on defense to the two corners they have [Brandon] Flowers and [Brandon] Carr. They’re a good football team. I think the guys are just now starting to get their legs underneath them and play like they can. This is a good football team that’s coming in here, but again it’s Chiefs Week. It’s the Raiders and the Chiefs; it doesn’t get any better than that so we’re looking forward to it.”
The Raiders number one defensive goal is to stop the run. “Last year, they were the number one rushing team in the whole league so they run the ball well,” said Moss. “They start off running and that’s our defensive goal to stop the run.”
The Chiefs are currently ranked in the top 10 in rushing offense. “Well, on defense you always have to stop the run first,” said Parker. “Our plan is to go in there and stop the run.”
In order to slow down the Kansas City offense, the Raiders have focused on their preparation. “They have the ability to have explosive plays,” said Blackstock. “They have great playmakers over there, they have a wonderful system, great coach. They have a great program and style of players that can help them win. Like I said, our preparation has to be on point in order to come out with a win and be successful this week because they are going to try to beat us and hit us in the mouth. So, we’re going to have to return the favor.”
The Chiefs defense has also stepped up over the last few weeks, so the Raiders offensive weapons know they need to be ready to go. “Guys are going to step in and be ready to play, so we have to just go out there, be prepared and just be ready to play our game,” said McFadden.
Heyward-Bey, the Raiders leading receiver through Week 6 with 22 catches for 345 yards, knows the challenge of playing against the Chiefs. “They run to the ball, they play hard. For any defense, that’s big,” said Heyward-Bey. “They’ve got great players on their team. I mean they’ve got a bunch of first-round picks, top 10 picks. So, they’ve got guys with a lot of talent so we’ve got to be ready for a lot of things.”
Coach Jackson has been emphasizing to his team how well the Chiefs defense has been playing over the last couple of weeks. “I’m new to it [the rivalry] but from what Coach is saying, the defensive backs are playing the best they are playing at right now,” said WR Denarius Moore. “The defensive line – they’ve got a strong defensive line; the linebackers are pretty good. They like to get to the ball, their defense is speedy, the secondary. It’s just something that the wide receivers are going to have to make sure we get our blocks when we’re running the ball and run our routes real crisp so they won’t be right there.”
Offensive coordinator Al Saunders, who has also coached for the Chiefs, knows the history of the rivalry between the two talented teams. Since 2003, 13 of the 16 match ups have been decided by seven points or less. “I think it’s one of the real true great rivalries in football and certainly in the AFC,” said Coach Saunders. “For so many years, Kansas City and the Raiders were the top echelon teams. San Diego has had their turn and I think Denver has had their turn. It’s been a great division for a lot of years. But, I worked 10 years with Marty Schottenheimer there and he made it quite a rivalry between Kansas City and the Raiders. Then, Dick Vermeil followed up with the same thought process because we always felt like, to win the division, you had to beat the Raiders from a physical standpoint. Now being on the other side, it’s kind of interesting because we’re trying to turn the tables now and be more physical than the teams we play. So, it’s kind of fun.”
The Raiders will take the field Sunday at 1:05 p.m. PT against Kansas City in the Silver and Black’s first AFC West game at home of the 2011 season. Catch the game on CBS 5, follow along on Raiders.com, the Raiders official Facebook page, and Twitter.