Chiefs Send the Raiders Packing : Pro football: Marinovich is nearly flawless in pro debut, but 27-21 loss means that L.A. must play at Kansas City in wild-card game.
Kansas City here they come, the Raiders, losers of three consecutive games, four in a row to the Chiefs, as well as home field advantage and wild-card playoff momentum.
Kansas City here they come, the Raiders, maybe with a mop-haired, wide-eyed rookie quarterback and a defensive line dragging wounded limbs and egos.
Never was a loser’s locker room more abuzz than it was Sunday, after the Chiefs beat the Raiders by 27-21 before 65,144 at the Coliseum.
The loss forces a first-round wild-card rematch next weekend at Arrowhead Stadium.
The debut of rookie quarterback Todd Marinovich, who responded with a three-touchdown, no-interception performance, took the chill off a more sobering reality: the Raiders are sinking faster than Jay Schroeder stock.
The Raiders have been outscored, 70-21, since the third quarter against Buffalo on Dec. 8. The Chiefs’ offense gained 468 yards and so dominated that it did not attempt a punt for the first time in the 31-year history of the franchise.
Marinovich mania swept the room, as it should have.
Tim Brown, on the receiving end of two Marinovich touchdown passes, led the chorus.
“The guy came out and played like he was in the league for 10, 11 years,” Brown said.
Tight end Ethan Horton, receiver of the other scoring pass, spoke of Marinovich’s poise and baby-soft touch on his passes.
“He’s not going to get rattled,” Horton said. “That’s all I can say. I think there’s just something about him.”
Marinovich, who had not thrown a pass in a game since training camp, completed 23 of 40 against the Chiefs for 243 yards.
The Raiders lost, true, but no one was going to pin this on the rookie, who seemed to lack only the opportunities to bring his team back.
It was Marinovich who, on fourth and goal at the Chiefs’ seven, fired a seven-yard scoring pass to Horton to cut the Kansas City lead to 20-14 with 9:31 left.
When the Chiefs made what seemed to be the decisive play, a 53-yard scoring pass from quarterback Steve DeBerg to J.J. Birden with seven minutes left, it was Marinovich who never blinked. He marched his team 80 yards in three minutes, throwing a 23-yard scoring pass to Brown to cut the lead to six with 3:56 to play.
It was Marinovich who waited on the sidelines for a last-second chance he would never get because of his defense, which left skid marks in retreat of a Chiefs’ offensive onslaught.
It was Marinovich who commanded attention, who raised eyebrows, who disrupted what had been a peaceful quarterback situation ever since Steve Beuerlein was banished to street clothes.
Now the questions were coming from both sides of the room.
“I guess the Raiders probably have a quarterback controversy now,” Kansas City Coach Marty Schottenheimer said afterward.
Is this any of his business? Well, yes and no. The Raiders and Chiefs have a rematch scheduled for next week and Schottenheimer would sure like to know what film to pop into his VCR Christmas morning.
All road signs lead to Marinovich, who did nothing to remove himself from the controversy.
“I don’t know why he wouldn’t start,” Brown said. “I think Todd played well enough to go out next week.”
Raider Coach Art Shell wasn’t about to play that card yet.
“I’m not going to discuss that right now,” he said. “I don’t know what the decision is going to be.”
Neither does Schroeder. He missed the game with two ankle sprains, and now waits to see if he’s the next Wally Pipp.
“We’ll have to see what happens this week,” Schroeder said. “I think I could have played today, but that’s their decision. Give the kid his due. He played a great game. But I’m not going to get into all that other you-know-what.”
We know what.
Afterward, Marinovich sounded like a quarterback who planned to be back next week.
“I hope so,” he said.
It won’t matter who plays next week if the same Raider defense shows up for the playoffs.
The Raiders were carved into pieces by a 37-year-old quarterback who was benched two weeks ago, Steve DeBerg; a receiver who until Sunday had never caught more than five passes in a game, Birden, and the team’s third-string tailback, Barry Word.
DeBerg, as usual, unloaded his play-action wrath on the Raiders, completing 14 of 20 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns.
DeBerg normally picks a defense apart, but Sunday he beat the Raiders with 57-yard scoring strike to Birden in the first quarter, and the 53-yard silencer to Birden in the fourth quarter.
Birden finished with a career-highs in receptions (eight) and yardage (188).
Word rode the bench most of the season behind Christian Okoye and Harvey Williams. Sunday, he rode the Raiders for 152 yards in 35 carries.
The Chiefs totaled 30 first downs, the second most in franchise history.
“We played precisely the kind of game we wanted to play offensively,” Schottenheimer said.
The Chiefs were stopped only by themselves, scoring on five of their eight possessions. Two drives ended on missed field goals of 43 and 45 yards by Nick Lowery.
On their final drive, the Chiefs ran out the clock.
“We tried every defensive scheme possible,” Shell said. “Whatever we did, we were always a step slow.”
Blame that partly on injuries to Howie Long, who returned from a knee strain but was used sparingly, and Bob Golic, who dragged to the field a left leg that was purple from mid-thigh to ankle because of the calf muscle he tore in last week’s loss to New Orleans.
“They needed a nose tackle,” Golic said.
Did they need one that badly? The Raiders activated nose tackle Roy Hart from injured reserve Saturday, but didn’t use him much.
With Golic lurching and limping, the Chiefs attacked the middle early and often. Golic said he could not have aggravated the injury further by playing, and he challenged some who wondered whether he should have been out there at all.
“This is important,” he said. “If my playing injured was detrimental, they’d have pulled me out.”
Knowing Golic, he’ll drag his leg out to Arrowhead Stadium next week and try to make a few plays for the kid quarterback, Marinovich.
Marcus Allen thought Marinovich showed some of the spunk of another left-handed No. 12 from Raider lore, Ken Stabler.
“You know it’s funny,” Allen said of Marinovich. “He was wearing white shoes during warm-ups, then he came in and put on his black shoes. And I said, ‘Oh boy, there goes the Snake out there.’ ”
The Raiders’ 1992 schedule will feature home games against Cleveland, Buffalo, Dallas and the New York Giants. The Raiders have been scheduled away games at Miami, Cincinnati, Washington and Philadelphia. Of course, the Raiders will play each AFC West opponent in a home and away series.
Jay Schroeder was the third quarterback in uniform Sunday, meaning he could have played only after injuries to Todd Marinovich and backup Vince Evans. . . . Tight end Ethan Horton had a big day, catching 10 passes for 89 yards. . . . Steve Wisniewski returned from a knee strain and started at left guard. . . . Marcus Allen returned to the starting lineup for the first time since the season opener against Houston. Allen missed eight games because of strained knee ligaments in that game. He rushed for 55 yards in nine carries against Kansas City. The Chiefs ran the ball 48 times from scrimmage; the Raiders ran it 13.
Playoff dates and times have yet to be determined by the NFL.
Dec. 28 or Dec. 29
AFC: Raiders (9-7) at Kansas City (10-6)
AFC: New York Jets (8-8) at Houston (11-5)
NFC: Atlanta (10-6) at New Orleans (11-5)
NFC: Dallas (11-5) at Chicago (11-4) or Detroit (12-4)
Jan. 4 or Jan. 5
AFC: TBA at Buffalo (13-3)
AFC: TBA at Denver (12-4)
NFC: TBA at Washington (14-2)
NFC: TBA at Chicago or Detroit
AFC champion vs. NFC champion at Minneapolis