An Awakening in Arrowhead
From humiliation to jubilation ... what a difference a week makes. The big question going into Sundays game in Arrowhead Stadium was how would the Raiders respond after getting trounced by Denver on opening night. The first step in the awakening was to have an excellent week at practice in spite of all of the turmoil and negative stories from the press. Step two was to execute a game plan that in it's simplest form is essentially playing an aggressive, spirited, and sound brand of football. The specifics of the blueprint for the success of this 23 to 8 victory on the road was as follows :
(1) Commit to stopping KC's rushing attack; Check.
The KC Chiefs had a grand total of 55 net yards rushing. Star RB Larry Johnson had 12 carries for 22 yards. Raiders SS Wilson did an excellent job supporting the run D.
(2) Create consistent QB Pressure; Check.
On the 2nd play of the game, CB Nnamdi Asomugha blitzed QB Huard. Although the blitz wasn't successful, the mindset of dictating the terms to the game was accomplished. On KC's second series of the game, LB Thomas Howard blitzed and sacked QB Huard for an 8 yard loss. LB Kirk Morrison and SS Girbil Wilson were also used liberally to get after the QB. The Raiders use of the blitz and surprising good pressure from the base 4 led to 5 sacks. Most importantly, the consistent QB pressure provided by the front 7 led to hurried throws, 2 interceptions, and dictated the tempo of the game.
(1) Protect QB Russell; Check. Hats off to LT Mario Henderson who had a very difficult assignment protecting Russell's blindside. In his first start in the NFL in very hostile territory he played solid football. Russell wasn't sacked one time.
(2) Establish the run; Check. The Raiders OLine was getting to the second level of KC's D and executed the Zone Blocking Scheme to near perfection. For the game, the Raiders carried the ball 47 times for 300 yards! That is a whopping 6.4 yards per carry average. Rookie Darren McFadden was sensational. Run DMc had 21 carries for 164 yards for 7.8 yards per carry and 1 TD. During the course of the game, McFadden ripped off runs of 21 yards, 50 yards, 19 yards, 24 yards, and 24 yards. That is 5 carries for 138 yards.
Going beyond the statistical whip down of the Chiefs, what I really appreciated was the unbridled passion that was displayed by the entire Raiders team. Playing with emotion and purpose carried the Raiders to a higher ground ... at least for a week. The ups and downs of being a Raider fan neatly encapsulated in 2 short weeks. The question is whether we are as good a football team demonstrated today or as bad as the team that showed up on MNF. Was this game a foundational first step in building a winner or was it merely an aberration? We shall see ...
Next Up: Raiders travel to Buffalo to play the 2-0 Bills.