Control of AFC West Race at Stake : Raiders: They'll be out to avenge 9-7 loss at Kansas City in today's game at the Coliseum.


Three weeks and seven Derrick Thomas sacks ago, the Raiders tried to pass 31 times into a Kansas City cold front. They fought the storm and the storm won, 9-7.

The Raiders aren't usually much for tricks, yet they threw the kitchen sink at the Chiefs in the sleet Nov. 4. Do you remember three deep incomplete passes on first down at the Kansas City 49 in the fourth quarter, when 20 yards and a field goal would have meant the lead?

The Raiders followed up the next week with their worst performance to date, a 13-point home loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Time for some rare oratory from Coach Art Shell. He took the podium before last Monday night's game in Miami and redefined with his fists the Raiders' theory of simplicity: Don't jump over a wall if you can run through it, he said. Leave the cute stuff for the run-and-shooters.

The Raiders then opened the game by giving the ball eight straight times to Marcus Allen. The defense played make-a-wish with Dan Marino's legs. Jay Schroeder passed 19 times. The Raiders won, 13-10. Point made.

"I think they made a very specific statement at the outset of the Dolphin game," Chief Coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

Shell isn't much for words, but he picks his spots. Miami seemed the right place.

"It's probably the first time this year I did that," Shell said. "I kind of felt we lost that edge, the mental edge where you believe you're going to knock their block off every time you walk on the football field. It got to the point where I felt they might have lost a little of that edge. I challenged them to get it back."

That mountain conquered, the challenge this week is to box whatever it was the Raiders took to Miami and unload it on Kansas City, which storms the Coliseum gates today with a chance to redefine the AFC West.

The Chiefs (6-4) can take control of the division race with a victory, which would mean a sweep of the season series, a first-place tie, and the upper-hand on any head-to-head tiebreaker decisions involving the Raiders, come playoff time.

The Raiders, of course, understand the stakes, and would like nothing better than to avenge their two-point loss in Kansas City and prove they are the true monsters of power football.

The teams are remarkably similar in substance and style. Put a mirror up to the Chiefs and you might see a reflection of the Raiders.

If the Raiders never had to throw a pass to win, they'd do it. Kansas City, too.

"I think basically it's going be one of those games that could conceivably end in two hours and 15 or 20 minutes," Schottenheimer said. "Because they're going to run it and we're going to try to run it."

Let both defenses try to stop it. There's more arrogance involved here than strategy, as witnessed in Miami, where the Raiders made no secret that Allen was getting the ball every down on the first series.

"If everything's working, why should we try to fix it?" fullback Steve Smith asked. "Stick with it until they stop it. A lot of times in this game, everyone is so sophisticated, there's so much high technology, that everybody's trying to out-think everyone else. Sooner or later you've got to say 'Screw it, let's play football. Let's line it up.' "

The Raiders prefer to exercise mental powers on specific concerns, such as devising schemes to stop an opponent's defensive superstar. Today it's outside linebacker Derrick Thomas, who leads the NFL with 15 quarterback sacks.

Thomas, of course, set an NFL single-game sack record against Seattle two weeks ago with seven.

In the Raider scheme, such a one-man act is intolerable. In their loss to the Chiefs, they threw various combinations of blockers at Thomas and limited him to a single sack.

"The best way to see how people control Derrick is to look at the Raiders," Schottenheimer said. "What they do is put one or two guys on him and, if it becomes necessary, sometimes they put three over there. (Shell) is going to make somebody else put pressure on the quarterback. Quite frankly, it's obviously sound coaching."

The list of opposing quarterback sackers who have taken their shots at the Raiders this season include Miami's Jeff Cross, Green Bay's Tim Harris, Kansas City's Thomas, San Diego's twosome of Leslie O'Neal and Lee Williams, Chicago's Richard Dent and Buffalo's Bruce Smith.

Those six players recorded a total of four sacks of quarterback Jay Schroeder. Harris led the way with two, and it should be noted he got his on consecutive downs after the game had been decided.

"The key to that is designing a pass protection scheme that takes away, as much as possible, the big-time player of that particular defensive unit," Shell said. "You can't allow guys to take over the game."

Raider Notes

Kansas City Coach Marty Schottenheimer, who has two good runners of his own, said he can't believe the wealth of talent in the Raiders' backfield. "It's hard to imagine they've got a guy like (Greg) Bell on injured reserve," he said. "They probably have more quality runners on that team than certainly any team in our division, and maybe as some divisions in the league."

Chief linebacker Derrick Thomas on the simplicity of the Raider offense: "They don't think anybody can stop them. I don't think they're going to change very much." . . . The Raiders are 6-1 against the Chiefs at the Coliseum. The Raiders are 10-1 at home under Coach Art Shell. . . . The Raider defense has allowed only one rushing touchdown this season, a two-yard run by Seattle's John. L. Williams on Sept. 16.

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