Raiders Learn if Secret Can Be Weapon Today : AFC: Refusing to divulge their starting quarterback, they hope to throw off the Chiefs.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was a top-secret week for the cloak-and-dagger Raiders, who closed the shutters and rolled up the sidewalks in a last desperate effort to devise a game plan to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs.

Something is up when Steve DeBerg beats you five straight.

In fact, no one leaves the building.

Today, DeBerg goes for No. 6 when the Raiders and Chiefs play in a first-round wild-card playoff game, the first for Arrowhead Stadium.

The game is the rematch of last Sunday's regular-season finale, in which the Chiefs beat the Raiders for the right to home-field advantage.

If there were advantages in playing a team twice in the same week, the Raiders were out to explore and exploit them.

Last week they unloaded their December surprise, quarterback Todd Marinovich, who in his professional debut threw for 243 yards and three touchdowns.

It wasn't enough. The Chiefs beat the Raiders, 27-21.

Here's what the Raiders then came up with: On Monday, Coach Art Shell announced that he was closing practice to local reporters, fearful that important information might get back to the Chiefs.

Perhaps Shell was revamping a defense that gave up 468 yards last week and bit too often on quarterback DeBerg's famous play-action fakes.

"He fakes the run harder than anyone (else) in the National Football League," defensive coordinator Dave Adolph said.

But Adolph insisted that there would be no major changes this week. He said there wasn't enough time.

OK, there's no new defense, although it seemed a plausible idea in the wake of three consecutive defeats and 1,352 yards allowed.

No, the secrecy was, of course, a strategy to keep the Chiefs guessing which quarterback, Marinovich or Jay Schroeder, would start.

The Raiders demanded that reporters be locked in their workroom during practice. Good luck getting there, though. On Christmas Day, a writer for the Orange County Register was accosted by a Raider employee, who tried to block the reporter's entrance. The reporter was shoved outside into some bushes.

Merry Christmas.

The Raiders have successfully confused Kansas City, though. The Chiefs do not know which quarterback will start, although most of the free world suspects it will be Marinovich.

Maybe the Chiefs don't care.

"There is no mystery about this thing," Chief Coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

Apparently not. The Chiefs ran so freely through the Raider defense last week that they did not need to punt. What mystery?

Truth is, the Chiefs of late have defeated Raider teams with Schroeder or Marinovich at quarterback. Schottenheimer, nonetheless, was impressed with the rookie's debut.

"The thing about Marinovich which was most impressive from my perspective, was the poise the young man exhibited," Schottenheimer said.

In fact, Marinovich almost looked too good for his first time out. The Chiefs, strangely, did not blitz him often.

He rarely appeared confused by sophisticated NFL pass coverages, when by all rights he should have been.

Maybe the Chiefs have something up their sleeves. Maybe Schottenheimer was holding something back for the rematch.

"We were trying to put some pressure on him," he said of Marinovich. "But the first blitz we called, he drilled us for a touchdown."

Good point. Still, Marinovich expects a different game today.

"We think they're really going to come after us," Marinovich said.

It has been quite a wake-up call for the rookie, who figured to finish a quiet season in obscurity.

Marinovich said, however, that he did his best not to lose focus.

"It was easy to get into that type of thinking," he said. "Because the year is so long, compared to the college season. I was trying to study and stay focused even though you really weren't in the picture most of the year. For 27 weeks there, it was hard to stay focused."

Marinovich said his grace under pressure probably was the result of dealing with the national spotlight that has followed him from his days at Capistrano Valley High in Mission Viejo through a tumultuous two seasons at USC.

"I've just been through a lot more of those situations than a lot of guys," Marinovich said. "I don't think it's anything you can coach or work on. It's just being in those situations before, just experiencing all these things--the experience of handling the media, the experience of handling big games, the experience of handling tough decisions. Once you go through it, you can handle it better the next time around."

Shell said he never doubted that Marinovich would respond if called upon. He said this 22-year-old is not easily pressured.

"I don't think the kid is aware of those things," Shell said. "It's like he's oblivious to anything like that, pressure. Being in the playoffs to him would be like just another game."

Then again, who's to say Marinovich will even make the trip? Secrecy has its privileges.

And the starting quarterback is . . .

Vince Evans?

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