By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
OAKLAND — With Derek Carr limited in practice with a quad injury, along with several players dealing with injuries, the Raiders will have to get healthy in a hurry with the Kansas City Chiefs coming to town for Thursday Night Football to kickoff Week 12. This will be the first time that the two AFC West rivals have seen each other this season when the ball kicks off at 5:25 p.m. PDT at O.co Coliseum.
The Raiders are coming off a tough 13-6 loss to another AFC West rival, the San Diego Chargers in Week 11 where the defense harassed Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers all day, even injuring the Chargers signal caller at one point.
Rookie linebacker Khalil Mack recorded his first career sack, one of two on the day (the other by defensive tackle Antonio Smith, his first as a member of the Silver & Black).
Safety Charles Woodson led the team in tackles with 11 (three assisted), and Oakland’s 32nd ranked defense kept the Chargers’ 17th ranked offense at bay yielding only 300 yards of total offense, and one touchdown (a Rivers 22-yard toss to wide receiver Malcolm Floyd on the Chargers third play from scrimmage following a Carr fumble).
But, the offense couldn’t muster any type of chemistry.
Carr played a mediocre game, completing just 16-of-34 passes for 172 yards and couldn’t get the Raiders into the end zone. Oakland managed just three first downs and had four 3-and-outs in the first half. Matter of fact, Oakland didn’t get into the red zone until 5:05 left in the fourth quarter, but came up empty what essentially would be the final drive of the game.
The running game? Well, the running game was still a no show with the exception of running back Latavius Murray.
Murray showed flashes of what he could do when given an opportunity, racking up 43 yards on four carries, one for a 23-yard gain. All career highs.
The tandem of Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden managed just 27 yards on 12 carries combine. According to Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano, Murray will get more time running the ball.
“He played a little bit more yesterday and he’s going to continue to do that,” Sparano said. “I like what I’ve seen out of him so far. So in a roundabout way, I’m saying yeah, you’re going to see more of him.”
But running the ball could be tough for Oakland, especially against a Kansas City team who hasn’t given up a rushing touchdown all season, and that can be credited to their intimidating nose tackle, Dontari Poe all 6’3″, 346 pounds of him.
“He’s a real handful,” Sparano said. “He really is.”
The Chiefs are coming off a 24-20, come-from-behind victory against the reigning Super Bowl Champions Seattle Seahawks Sunday at Arrowhead.
Quarterback Alex Smith was his usual efficient self, completing 11-of-16 passes for just 108 yards through the air but it was the play off their Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles on offense that set the tone for Kansas City.
Charles ran through the vaunted Seahawks defense, rushing for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. The seventh-year running back out of Texas appeared to find running lanes against a Seahawks team that was missing it’s star defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, gone for the season with a hamstring injury.
At 7-3, Kansas City is tied with the Denver Broncos for first place (with Denver currently holding the tiebreaker over the Chiefs following a 24-17 home victory in Week 2) in the AFC West and with a Week 13 home date against the Broncos, Kansas City better not overlook the Raiders.
Oakland would like nothing more than to spoil Kansas City’s chances at taking sole possession of first place in the AFC West, even if it means helping out the Broncos in the process.
Face it. Oakland is just thirsting to end its 16-game losing streak dating back to last season. It will take more from Carr and the offense to support a defense that has played pretty well in recent weeks.
You can’t win football games in the National Football League by just kicking field goals.
Players To Watch
Oakland, RB, Latavius Murray: It’s no secret that the Raiders running game has been, pedestrian, to say the least this season. Ranking dead last with just 630 yards on the ground as a team, Oakland needs the fresh legs of Murray to provide a jolt, something that Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden can’t do.
Kansas City, TE, Travis Kelce: Even though wide receiver Dwayne Bowe leads the Chiefs with 41 catches for 508 yards, it’s the second-year tight end out of Cincinnati that seems to be the guy that quarterback Alex Smith trusts the most. Kelce is second on the team with 37 catches for 475 yards receiving, but leads the team with four touchdown grabs. Bowe has yet to find the end zone. Heck, none of Kansas City’s wide receivers have yet to find the end zone this season.