Raiders Headed for an Inferno in Mid-America : Kansas City Is Getting the Feeling That Chiefs’ Lean Years Are Behind Them

Times Staff Writer

Since every team can’t have two holdout offensive tackles, two new wide receivers, an unsigned No. 1 draft pick, 18 players on injured reserve and a defensive end who does a sack dance with his team down, 28-0--all of which the New York Jets featured--the Raider season now moves into a different phase: the hard part.

They are next scheduled for Thursday night in Kansas City, where they’ll be dropped into the middle of a budding folk movement, Chief fever.

It used to be: Catch it and die of boredom. The Chiefs have had one winning season (9-7) in their last 11. These are different times, though.


They finished 8-8 last season, but as any of their fans could tell you, there are all kinds of mediocrity.

This was one of the hopeful kinds. The Chiefs won their last three games, beating the Denver Broncos, a 13-3 team; the Seattle Seahawks, a 12-4 team; and San Diego, a turkey. The last one was in San Diego, though, and the Chiefs won, 42-21.

The Chiefs were 3-1 in the exhibition season. They’re 1-0 now, having taken the Saints apart in New Orleans, 47-27.

Bill Kenney, the fifth quarterback ever to throw for 4,000 yards in a season, hit the Saints with 397. Back on the home front, the Chiefs took the precaution of opening their ticket office on a Sunday. They have only 28,000 season-ticket holders, but they’re up to 65,000 for this game and hoping for 74,000 or more. If they hit 76,544, it’ll be their biggest crowd of the decade.

The Chiefs have a young defensive line that Raider executive assistant Al LoCasale calls “the bluest chip in football.”

Each of the ends, Art Still, 28, and Mike Bell, 27, was the second player taken in the first round of his draft. Nose tackle Bill Maas, 23, went fifth in the first round. Still had 14 1/2 sacks last season, Bell 13 1/2 and Maas 4, and the Chiefs set a club record with 50.

“If you look back four years ago, we said, ‘We don’t have a quarterback,’ ” Kenney said Tuesday on a conference call from Kansas City.

“A couple of years ago, we didn’t have linebackers, or a secondary, or running backs. But now we have a good defensive line, a good defensive backfield, quarterbacks, receivers. Everybody’s looking around and saying, ‘We have some good players.’ ”

They have some good young players the Raiders keep slipping past, though.

The Raiders have never lost to the Chiefs’ dynamic young coach, John Mackovic. The Raiders have won the last five games in the series and the last three at Arrowhead.

The Chiefs keep flirting with upset, though. They have led in the fourth quarter in four of the five losses.

Once, Jim Plunkett threw to Calvin Muhammad with 25 seconds left for the game-winning touchdown.

Once Chris Bahr kicked the game-winning field goal with a minute left.

Once Ted Hendricks blocked Nick Lowery’s attempt for a 48-yard game-winning field goal with nine seconds left.

Once Plunkett threw to Dokie Williams for a game-winning touchdown with 3:49 left.

“They may have taken us lightly the last few years,” Kenney said. “It seemed like they go out and do whatever for three quarters, then they come on and win the game.

“They play the competition on the field. They go down to play the Miami Dolphins last year and score 40-some odd points (45). That’s what the Raiders do. Good teams win the tough games. The good team was the Los Angeles Raiders, not the Kansas City Chiefs.

“Any young team--and we are a young team. We have four players over 30 years old. We don’t have a tremendous amount of experience--you grow up watching the Los Angeles Raiders winning Super Bowls. I grew up in Northern California. The Raiders were always my team--Lamonica, Stabler. You grow up thinking, ‘Wow, those guys are great. I could never play with them.’

“My first game against them? We beat them, 27-0 (1981), and I threw three touchdown passes. But I was a youngster back then. Two weeks later, I went out there and threw three interceptions, went 8 for 22 and got benched.

“Some of the players are in awe of them, especially the young ones. But I’ve played against them. They do certain things. They always do the same things. They beat you man on man.

“I know what they’re going to do. They’ll send their defensive lineman--who are great--and guys like Matt Millen, to try to knock my head off. They’ll say to Mike (Haynes) and Lester (Hayes), ‘You got those guys’ and point them at our wide receivers. I never have any trouble reading their defense. It’s what I do best.

“I consider them the best defensive team in the NFL. We have a great offense. They have a better defense than the New Orleans Saints. The Kansas City Chiefs have a much stronger offense than the New York Jets.”

Raider Notes John Mackovic used his first-round draft pick for North Carolina’s Ethan Horton, the first halfback taken in the draft. The Raiders loved Horton, and Kansas City issued him jersey No. 32, which several other decent backs have worn. So far, though, Horton is running No. 2 to Herman Heard, who wears No. 44. Said Mackovic: “At this stage of his development, he’s a much better receiver (Horton caught five passes last week) than a runner. We did not put him in the position of telling him he had to be ready to start at the beginning of the season.” . . . The leading Chief receiver, once more, is Carlos Carson, who caught eight passes against the Saints for two touchdowns and a 21.6-yard average. Henry Marshall caught two for a 27-yard average, Stephone Paige caught one for 37, tight end Walt Arnold caught one for 31 and a touchdown, and Heard caught two for 21.0. Overall, the Chiefs averaged 18 yards for 22 receptions.