The Oakland Raiders host the Kansas City Chiefs at O.co Coliseum in a Week 15 match-up. The rivals will face each other for the second time this season. The Raiders hope to come out with a win to split the season series against their division foe.
After winning eight-straight games, the Chiefs lost three in a row following their bye week. Last week, however, they beat the Washington Redskins handily 45-10 in snowy Landover, Maryland.
The Raiders are coming off a 37-27 loss to the Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Players are looking forward to playing at home again and trying to get a win against a division opponent."They're very, very vital to all of us, to everyone in this organization, especially to the players, to the coaches, just to end this season on a high note," said captain and FB Marcel Reece. "I keep saying it, our fans deserve it. We owe this to them. We owe it to ourselves to be able to produce and let everything we do on this practice field carry on to Sundays and have great showings. And to make a statement to the rest of our division because that's who we end with. It's a great deal to end out three games, three divisional games, two at home, and just finish the season out strong."
Playing against the Chiefs and then the Chargers and Broncos the following two weeks, is an opportunity for the Raiders to see how they match-up with playoff-caliber teams. "We've got three games against division opponents. So it'll be a great opportunity for us to measure ourselves up against the teams that are in our division," said Head Coach Dennis Allen. "Those are the teams – that if we aspire to be a playoff team – those are the teams that we've got to be able to beat. So, I'll look for them to rise up to the challenge and try to win these football games. That's what we're trying to do. And our guys will respond. They'll come back."
The Raiders will be facing a 10-3 Chiefs team that started the season 9-0. "It's a very good football team that we're playing and we know what the challenges are in facing them," said Coach Allen. "You look at them offensively, they've really been explosive the last few weeks. They've scored a lot of points and been able to move the ball against some pretty good teams. They came out and played really well last week, really in all phases of the game, against the Washington Redskins in tough environment in a tough situation there with the snow and the weather. We just know that it's going to be a huge challenge. It's a playoff caliber team and we're going to have to be ready to play."
The Chiefs defense has allowed the 4th fewest points per game in the NFL through 14 weeks of the season. "Obviously they're a good football team and we're going to do whatever we have to do to move the football," said offensive coordinator Greg Olson. "We're going to try to put together the best plan that we can."
QB Matt McGloin will get his fifth start for the Raiders. "Obviously it's a good defense [with] a lot of good position players, a good secondary," said McGloin. "We know that from the first time we've played them, and they've been having a great year so far. So, it's going to be a challenge for us, offensively, but we're excited about it."
WR Rod Streater runs after the catch against the Chiefs in Week 6. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson has noticed how quickly McGloin is able to make decisions and get the ball out of his hands. "He's a guy that makes quicker decisions. He's a guy that doesn't really turn the ball over much," said Johnson. "He's a guy that's smart with his decision making, you can tell that he's confident in his arm because he'll take some shots down the field, but he's not the running quarterback, of course, he can get out of situations at times. He's more of the prototype quarterback, I should say."
One of the biggest challenges on the Chiefs defense is DE Tamba Hali. Along with DE Justin Houston (if he's able to play), the Chiefs have registered 22 sacks between the pair. "He's having a Pro Bowl year; he has a lot of sacks," said McGloin on Hali. "He's a guy that goes each and every play. I know Tamba personally from seeing him around at Penn State so I know how hard he works. We're definitely going to have to be aware of where he is but that whole defense is good so we'll have to be on our toes throughout the whole game."
Offensive lineman Khalif Barnes will be one of the front men to face off with the Chiefs powerful defensive front. "They're good at their craft. They're good with their hands, they're athletic, they're shifty," said Barnes speaking on Hali and Houston. "They have a variety of moves they can use and sometimes they rush not just on tackles but sometimes they'll get matched up on a guard depending on what kind of scheme they're running. So they're all over the field. Mostly they line up on the left side and right side respectively, but they can go all over the place and they're good at pass rushing. They don't just have one move that you have to get ready for; they have a variety of moves. That makes them pretty good players."
The Raiders offense recognizes the challenge the Chiefs defense presents. "Everybody knows the Chiefs D is tough," said FB Marcel Reece. "They have a great group up front. They're fast. They all rally to the ball. Derrick Johnson has been playing great football and Eric Berry is a great safety on the backend, so for us, they're athletic, they trust the guys on the edge to man up a lot most of the game, so we're going to have to execute and protect up front."
"I think when you look at their defense overall, I think they're solid all the way through," added Coach Allen. "I think their front is very stout. Their linebackers are very aggressive and they've got a great pass rush and I think they do a good job in coverage with the guys that they have back there. They like to be aggressive. They like to play a lot of man-to-man type of coverages so it'll be important for us to be able to win our one-on-one match-ups on the edges and we'll have to do a great job in protection against these guys."
LB Nick Roach gets past the offensive line to sack QB Alex Smith. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Reece had a career game against the Jets last week in New York stepping in as the Raiders No. 1 tailback. His ability to be successful in any role is helping the Raiders offense move the football. "I just feel it's the way I've been built," explained Reece. "This is what I've done since I've been here in the league and it's what I'll do for my remainder here. One phrase that always stuck with me since I was a rookie was, 'the more you can do.' The more you can do, the longer you're around. That's what this league is about; that's what this life is about."
The Raiders captain wants to carry over that success to the field this week against the Chiefs defense. Their defense struggled for a few weeks, but has since returned to its unforgiving ways. "We haven't had, on the defensive side of the ball, the last two weeks haven't been too good for us before this Washington game, and we stressed all week to get back to what we do," said Kansas City LB Derrick Johnson. "And that's getting after the quarterback, creating turnovers, not being a problem for our team's success. I think we did a good job getting back to what we did the first nine or 10 games."
The Chiefs defense is aware of Reece's talent. "Reece is a heck of a player," said Johnson. "We have a lot of respect for him. He's a guy that plays all over the field. He's a guy that can get on a linebacker or a safety and actually be a mismatch for them. He's a fullback/running back/receiver, tight end, he kind of does it all. You've got to know where '45' is because if you look up and he's on a cornerback, the cornerback knows that he is not a decoy, the ball can come to him."
The offense knows that in order to win this game, they will need to play a full 60 minutes. "That's a good defense obviously," said Barnes. "We're familiar with them because they're in our [division] but against a front like that, it's going to be a physical game. We have to play a full 60 minutes. It can't be 30, 45, 55, none of that. It's a good defensive front. They've been playing well together for a long time and you have to be on your 'A' game and you just have to match their intensity and you have to try to out hustle them every play for the whole game. That's the only way you have a chance to play with these guys."
One of the Raiders keys for all three phases of the game is to finish. "It definitely has to be a finish attitude and we really have to start fast against these guys," said Barnes. "They're a real good defense and we can't give them any momentum. It's hard enough to play against them so we can't beat ourselves. We have to play perfect football and not hurt ourselves and make any negative plays."
On the other side of the ball, the Raiders defense will be challenged by a Chiefs offense that consistently moves the chains. "I think the Chiefs do a good job of using their personnel," said defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. "They've done a better job even recently of moving their formations and moving guys around to find matchups. That staff and these players do a great job with that. They throw the ball to the guy that's open. They obviously have the two match-up problems with the running back [Jamaal Charles] and they've got some guys that can win one-on-ones. [No.] 22 [Dexter McCluster] has become more prevalent in the offense, and the quarterback can hurt you with his legs. So we need to make sure that we have the pocket closed on certain things that it's our pocket and he'll still make a play or two, but we need to limit those as much as we can keep the top on the coverage."
WR Denarius Moore beats the Chiefs defense and runs after the catch for the touchdown.Photo by Tony Gonzales
RB Jamaal Charles is a major threat on the Chiefs offense with over 1,000 yards rushing and nearly 500 yards receiving. "He's a guy that can score from anywhere on the field," said LB Kevin Burnett. "He's an explosive football player and he's one of the best in the NFL."
One of the keys this week against Charles is to all the defenders to the ball. "Get 11 hats on the ball," said safety Brandian Ross. "We have to hit him, hit him hard, hit him often, keep him inside the tackles. He wants to bounce runs or he wants to stay on track or just hit it straight downhill and we have to hit him and keep hitting him."
The Raiders will need to key in on where Charles is on the field. "This is a guy that in both areas [run and pass], he's extremely explosive. Number one, we have to understand where he's at," said Coach Allen. "They do a lot of different things with him. They get him the ball out of the backfield. They also flex him out. We have to understand the things they like to do with him and how they want to get him the ball. When they do get him the ball, we have to get 11 hats around the ball because, as with all great running backs, it's hard for the first guy to get him on the ground all the time. It's going to take a great effort, a swarming effort, by our defense. We're going to have to play really fast and really aggressive."
The Chiefs have taken more shots downfield over the last few weeks so the Raiders' defensive backs will have to be ready. "We can't let them behind us," said Ross. "They're taking way more shots down field than the first time we saw them, so we have to protect the deep ball, not give up the big play."
Kansas City's offense, led by QB Alex Smith, has been able to execute efficiently. "They have a great running attack and they have great balance," explained Ross. "They're able to run it when they want to and throw it when they need to. They never have to be predominantly pass or predominantly run unless that's what they really want to do."
One of the things the Chiefs have done well is their turnover ratio, currently at 15. The Raiders know turnovers will have an impact on the game. "I think anytime you can get a turnover for your offense, for your football team, it changes the game," said Burnett. "You create a short field for the offense, you get the defense off the field, and at this point in time, any competitive advantage you can get, you'll take it."
The Raiders defense wants to give their offense a chance to take over the game. "One, we have to stop the run," said Ross. "We have to get off the field on third down and we have to find a way to create turnovers. The last time we played it was a close game, but they created turnovers and we didn't and that was the difference in the game. We have to find a way to get the ball back to our offense."
The Raiders final three games of the season are against their divisional opponents. After dropping three straight games, the Silver and Black want to finish out the season on a strong note and make a statement to the AFC West. "They're very, very vital to all of us, to everyone in this organization, especially to the players, to the coaches, just to end this season on a high note," said Reece. "I keep saying it, our fans deserve it. We owe this to them. We owe it to ourselves to be able to produce and let everything we do on this practice field carry on to Sundays and have great showings. And to make a statement to the rest of our division because that's who we end with. It's a great deal to end out three games, three divisional games, two at home, and just finish the season out strong."
Burnett wants to leave everything out on the field. "You look at it as it's the last time you'll be able to play football for six to eight months and some of us may never play again, so you play every down like it's your last and don't worry about the rest," said Burnett.
It's rivalry week because the Chiefs are coming to town. The Raiders want this one. "Guys are continuing to work hard, continuing to compete," said Coach Allen. "We'll be ready to go on Sunday."