Raiders prepare for short turnaround with KC Chiefs rolling into Oakland for Thursday Night Football

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) runs the football during an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. The Steelers defeated the Chiefs, 19-13. (Ryan Kang via AP)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — If I told fans of the Silver and Black if their beloved Raiders would be sitting at 2-4 after the first six weeks of the season, many of them would want to toss me in a garbage can and roll me down a hill.

Well, the Raiders are 2-4 and their  2017 NFL season is circling the drain in a major way.

With the Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) traveling to the Black Hole this week for the first of two meetings with Oakland this season on Thursday Night Football at 5:25 p.m. PT, the second game is Dec. 10 in Kansas City, this is a true must win game for the Silver and Black if they have any chance of saving their season.

Oakland is coming off a tough 17-16 loss at home to the visiting L.A. Chargers Sunday, their fourth-straight loss following a 2-0 start to the season. It was also the fourth-straight game that the Silver and Black was held under 20 points in a game.

After missing Oakland’s 30-17 loss at home in Week 5 to the Baltimore Ravens with a back injury, starting quarterback Derek Carr returned to action for the Silver and Black against the Chargers in Week 6, completing 21-of-30 passes for 171 yards with a touchdown but threw two interceptions. Carr threw a 23-yard touchdown to wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who led the team with six catches for 52 yards on 10 targets.

Running back Marshawn Lynch recorded 63 of Oakland’s 109 rushing yards on 13 carries. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson took a handoff and blazed past the Chargers’ defense for a 47-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Defensively for Oakland, linebacker Bruce Irvin recorded his second sack of the season to go along with six tackles. Cornerback TJ Carrie led Oakland with eight tackles. Oakland allowed 343 yards of total offense to the Chargers, with most of the damage coming from running back Melvin Gordon.

Gordon was the Chargers’ offense, with a 150 total yards (83 rushing and 67 receiving) on 34 touches (25 rushes and nine catches) and two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving). Second-year tight end Hunter Henry gave the Raiders fits on Sunday, hauling in five catches for 90 yards.

With the addition of four-time All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman to the defense, the Raiders are hoping that the middle linebacker position will be stabilized for the rest of the year.

Bowman, a seven-year pro out of Penn State, requested his release from the San Francisco 49ers on Friday after losing playing time, signed a one-year deal worth $3 million on Monday.

Kansas City was the last team to lose a game this season after dropping a 19-13 contest to the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 6, giving the Steelers their third straight win over the Chiefs in the last two seasons, counting last year’s meeting in the playoffs.

Strangely, Sunday’s matchup between Pittsburgh and Kansas City was eerily similar to their playoff game in January, an 18-16 Steelers’ win on Kansas City’s home turf.

Chiefs starting quarterback Alex Smith completed just 19-of-34 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown, a 57-yard pass to wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas in the fourth quarter that pulled Kansas City within 12-10 with 6:13 left in the game.

Pittsburgh shut down the NFL’s hottest offense, limiting the Chiefs to 251 yards of total offense and holding the NFL’s top scoring offense per game (32.8) to just 13 points.

Smith leads the league in passer rating (119.2), second in touchdown passes (12) and is third in passing yards (1,637). Kansas City’s signal-caller has yet to throw an interception in 202 passes this season.

The Steelers also held the NFL’s top rusher, rookie running back Kareem Hunt, to just nine carries for 21 yards.

But Pittsburgh sliced up a very good Chiefs defense by racking up 439 yards of total offense. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 252 yards on 17-of-25 passes with a touchdown and one interception. Eight of Roethlisberger’s completions went to wide receiver Antonio Brown, who hauled in 155 yards and a 51-yard touchdown catch that put Pittsburgh up 19-10 in the fourth quarter.

Running back Le’Veon Bell found gaping holes in the Chiefs’ run defense, carrying the ball 32 times for 179 yards and a touchdown. Bell also rushed for 170 yards against Kansas City in the playoffs.

The Chiefs have great playmakers in cornerback and Oakland native, Marcus Peters and fellow cornerback Terrance Mitchell. Peters and Mitchell each have two interceptions this season for a Chiefs secondary that have five for the year, pacing 13th in the NFL.

Veteran linebacker Justin Houston leads Kansas City with 5.5 sacks, ranking seventh in the NFL.

Kansas City sits on top of the AFC West, while Oakland is sitting in the basement of the division. With a win for Kansas City, it could be the final nail in the coffin of the Raiders’ season as it will drop the team to 2-5 and put the season on life support.

But, win on Thursday night on primetime, and it could put the team back on course.

Kansas City has won the last five-straight games against Oakland, with the Raiders’ last victory over the Chiefs, coincidentally, on Nov. 20, 2014, which was a game on Thursday Night Football.

The 0-10 Raiders defeated the 7-3 Chiefs 24-20 in a rainy game in Oakland.

Thursday night’s game will conclude Oakland’s three-game homestand, with Oakland’s next game coming in Buffalo on Oct. 29.





Oakland Raiders report: Khalil Mack is the driving force, but Raiders’ defense needs more punch in 2017

Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack during an NFL football training camp Monday, July 31, 2017, in Napa, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

Heading into the 2017 NFL season, the Oakland Raiders will have a top-10 offense that will score a bunch of points and be entertaining to watch.

That we do know.

When the Raiders’ offense, (sixth in total offense in 2016 averaging 26 points per game) is engineered by Derek Carr, who is vastly becoming one of the league’s top quarterbacks with back-to-back seasons of at least 3,900 passing yards and 25 touchdowns in his first three seasons  in the NFL, all signs point to the Raiders being in good hands with Carr at the helm.

The supporting cast isn’t too shabby either: with precise route-runners in wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree (both had 1,000-yard receiving seasons last season) and a stable of running backs, with hometown hero Marshawn Lynch (acquired via trade from Seattle after retiring prior to the 2016 season) expected to be the lead-dog ahead of change-of-pace backs in Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington.

Third-year tight end Clive Walford and nine-year veteran Jared Cook (signed in the offseason) should provide matchup problems in the middle field for the Raiders with opposing linebackers and safeties. Play from the tight end position has been an afterthought for Oakland early in Carr’s career, but should be vastly improved this season.

But if Oakland has any shot at playing in Super Bowl LII (let alone topple the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game), the defense will need to do a lot more in support of their high-octane offense if they are to play at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on the first Sunday in February.

First, the pass rush needs to improve tremendously.

Defensive end Khalil Mack, the reigning Associated Press (AP) Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY), finished with 11 of Oakland’s 25 sacks (a league-worse in 2016 for any defense).

There’s no questioning the motor that the two-time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro plays with on every down and he’s the most feared player on Oakland’s defense, but he can’t do it all by himself and needs help. Even if Mack has his sites on 30 sacks in 2017, according to Carr who mentioned that after one of the Raiders’ practice sessions during training camp in Napa last week, Mack can’t be everywhere.

Taking a closer look, the Arizona Cardinals finished with a league-best 48 sacks and had two guys in Markus Golden (team- and personal career-high 12.5 sacks) and Chandler Jones (11.0 sacks) getting to the quarterback at-will.

Arizona’s second-ranked defense almost doubled the Raiders’ output in sacks from last season.

Mack had an eight-game stretch where he recorded at least one sack in every game last season, but there’s no way he can get to 30 sacks this season, which would shatter former New York Giants defensive end and Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s record of 22.5 sacks set in 2001. The four-year stud from Buffalo would need to average 2.5-3.0 sacks per game and the way opposing teams double- and triple-team him, that’s a tough feat to accomplish even if you’re considered one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.

Along with Strahan, there have only been 10 other occasions in NFL history where there have been 20+ sacks by a defensive player in a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau:

  • Three players with 22.0 sacks in a season: defensive ends Mark Gastineau for the New York Jets in 1984 (previous all-time record holder in a season), Jared Allen in 2011 for the Minnesota Vikings and outside linebacker Justin Houston in 2014 for the Kansas City Chiefs.
  • Two players with 21.0 sacks in a season: the late, great defensive end Reggie White in 1987 for Philadelphia and defensive end Chris Doleman in 1989 for Minnesota. Both men are in enshrined in Canton after playing 15 seasons each, with White second all-time with 198 career sacks (Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith is first all-time with 200 career sacks), and Doleman sitting fourth all-time with 150.5 sacks.
  • Two players (one accomplished the feat twice) with 20.5 sacks in a season: Hall of Fame outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1986 for the New York Giants, who changed the way the outside linebacker position was played and made the “sack” term a household name when the statistic became official in 1982 after “LT” won his second-consecutive AP DPOY following his rookie season; and defensive end J.J. Watt, took home AP DPOY honors after the 2012 and ’14 seasons. Both men are tied for the most AP DPOYs in NFL history with three a piece.
  • Two players with 20.0 sacks in a season: the late, great outside linebacker Derrick Thomas for Kansas City in 1990, and recently retired outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware in 2008 for the Dallas Cowboys. Thomas ranks 16th on the NFL’s all-time sacks list with 126.5 in his career, is also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and many folks believe that Ware (eighth all-time with 138.5 sacks) and a Super Bowl ring in 2015 with the Denver Broncos, is bound for Canton once his five-year waiting period is over.

The dropoff from Mack, on defense was considerable last year for Oakland, who finished as the 26th-ranked defense in the NFL.

Outside linebacker Bruce Irvin was second on the team with seven sacks, but he needs to get 10.0-12.0 sacks this season on the opposite side of the defense to lighten the load for Mack. Irvin did finish tied with Atlanta Falcons’ outside linebacker Vic Beasley with five forced fumbles last season, most in the league.

Mario Edwards Jr. has had a hard time staying healthy, and Justin “Jelly” Ellis needs to step up his production and provide more pressure to opposing quarterbacks. Throw in Denico Autry and Jihad Ward into the mix as well of guys that are expected to have better seasons for the Silver and Black.

Rookie defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes could be a force in the middle of the defensive line if he’s completely returned from the ACL injury that derailed his junior season two seasons ago for UCLA, in the Bruins’ first game of the 2015 season.

The Raiders believe that Vanderdoes has recovered well, well enough that they spent a third round pick on him in the NFL Draft this past April.

As of Monday, Vanderdoes was the starting defensive tackle on the team’s unofficial depth chart ahead of Ward but according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, Vanderdoes was briefly out with what the team called a “minor” knee injury Tuesday, but returned to practice on Wednesday.

It remains uncertain if Vanderdoes plays in Oakland’s preseason opener in Arizona Saturday night.

Second with no “true” middle linebacker on the roster (“true” meaning a middle linebacker with at least 1-2 years of NFL experience) on the roster, the Raiders need someone to fill the void at one of the critical spots on the defense for any team.

There’s high hopes for another rookie in Marquel Lee to seize the job in training camp, a fifth-round pick from Wake Forest that could be a hidden gem for Oakland.

The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Lee was a three-year starter in his four seasons for the Demon Deacons and finished tops on the team 105 tackles (63 solo and 42 assisted), 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles his senior year.

Lastly, Oakland’s secondary has to protect the back-end of the defense and limit the long ball. Oakland was seventh-worse in the league last season surrendering an average of 375 passing yards per game in 2016.

With both safety positions solidified with 11-year veteran Reggie Nelson (team-high five interceptions and his second-straight Pro Bowl berth) and second-year player Karl Joseph (60 tackles total) patrolling the middle of the field, and David Amerson likely to maintain his spot at right cornerback, incumbent Sean Smith’s starting job at left cornerback is in jeopardy to four-year player TJ Carrie.

The nine-year veteran had a forgettable 2016 where he was consistently picked on by opposing quarterbacks, who had a passer rating of 114.0 against Smith last year, completing 44 receptions on 77 targets for 749 yards and eight touchdowns according to a recent training camp report filed by NBC Sports Bay Area Oakland Raiders Insider Scott Bair.

Carrie has passed Smith on the depth chart in training camp, lining up with the starting 11 over the weekend. Smith has been seen working out with the second-team defense playing a hybrid linebacker/safety covering tight ends in sub packages and at slot cornerback when the offense goes four wide receivers.

Limiting the the big-play wouldn’t hurt either.

Oakland’s defense surrendered a league-most 61 plays of 20+ yards to opposing offenses.

The 2017 season could be one of the greatest seasons in Raiders’ franchise history, and the defense will play a major roll (good or bad) in what Raider Nation is hoping will end in the organization winning its fourth Vince Lombardi trophy.




Raiders head to Kansas City for season finale

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — Quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders look to spoil Kansas City’s chances at the AFC West crown when the Silver and Black travel to the Show Me State Sunday to take on the Chiefs in the season finale for both teams.

Oakland (7-8) can finish with a .500 record for the first time since 2011 with a win in Kansas City, where they have lost their last two trips to Arrowhead.

A .500 record would be great for Oakland, who have won a combined 11 games over the past three seasons.

Oakland is coming off a 23-20 overtime victory over the visiting San Diego Chargers in Week 16 behind Carr’s 204 yards, one touchdown and one interception performance.

It was Oakland’s last home game for the season, and potentially the last Raiders’ game in Oakland as the team is rumored to be heading to Los Angeles for the 2016 season.

The win for Oakland was great in what was safety Charles Woodson’s final home game. The 18-year veteran announced his retirement last week.

”Charles is one of the greatest players to ever put on a uniform,” coach Jack Del Rio said. ”He’s a great Raider. To be able to send him out the right way, to be able to cap off a special evening like this, our last home game of the year … I’m just really proud of the effort.”

Running back Latavius Murray carried the ball 19 times for 79 yards and a touchdown. The third-year running back from Central Florida leads the AFC in rushing with 1,035 yards and has become the bellcow for the Raiders.

Oakland’s defense had trouble generating a solid pass rush on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers for nearly three quarters, registering just one sack.

After starting the season 1-5, Kansas City (10-5) have been red hot winning their last nine in a row.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals have ever qualified for the playoffs after starting 1-5, until Kansas City clinched a playoff spot with a 17-13 home win against the Cleveland Browns in Week 16.

The Chiefs are seeking a franchise-record 10th straight victory, but want more.

With a win over their hated rivals from Oakland, coupled with a Chargers’ victory over the Broncos in Denver, Kansas City could win the AFC West title for the first time since 2010.

Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin has been what head coach Andy Reid and Kansas City have hoped and then some in his first season with the team.

Maclin, who was voted to his first Pro Bowl this season, is having a monster season with 84 catches (one shy of his career-high set last season in Philadelphia), 1,034 yards, and seven touchdowns.

Kansas City didn’t have a wide receiver catch a touchdown all of last season. Maclin has caught a touchdown in four of the last five games for the Chiefs, including a pair of touchdowns against Oakland in Kansas City’s 34-20 Week 13 victory at Coliseum.

With Pro Bowl linebackers Justin Houston (hyperextended knee) and Tamba Hali (broken finger) sitting out last week, Kansas City failed to record a sack for the first time since Week 4.

Houston and Hali have combined for 14 of Kansas City’s 41 sacks this season, which are tied for fourth-most in the league this season.

Both players are day-to-day, but could suit up Sunday.

Kansas City have won four of the last five meetings, and forced the Raiders second-year signal caller into throwing three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.



Raiders off to KC looking for seconds

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — After a dominating performance on both sides of the ball in a 24-13 victory over their cross-bay rivals the San Francisco 49ers at Coliseum last Sunday, the Raiders look to take that momentum into Kansas City Sunday against their arch rival the Chiefs.

Oakland (2-11) earned their first win of the season with a 24-20 victory over Kansas City in Week 12 at the Black Hole and would like nothing more to take the season series from the Chiefs.

Raiders’ signal caller Derek Carr played more like a 10-year veteran than a rookie, completing 22-of-28 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns against the 49ers No. 2 ranked defense that gave up two touchdown drives of 80 yards and rarely pressured Carr.

Carr completely outplayed 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who didn’t fair too well against a Raiders defense that sacked Kapernick five times, two apiece by rookie linebacker Khalil Mack and defensive tackle Antonio Smith.

“This week it was preached to us just how important this game was,” Smith said after the game. “This week more and more of us became true Raiders, knowing what the heritage is about, knowing what this game was about, how important it was to this city.”

Safety Charles Woodson sealed the victory (and possibly San Francisco’s playoff chances) in style with a fourth quarter interception.

Kansas City (7-6), are coming off close 17-14 loss to the Cardinals in Arizona last Sunday, their third straight loss dating back to their first encounter with Oakland on Nov. 20.

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith completed 26-of-39 passes for 293 yards one touchdown and an interception. Running back  Jamaal Charles finished with 10 carries for 91 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown run. Charles’ second touchdown (an 18-yard toss from Smith), gave Kansas City a 14-6 halftime lead only to see the lead slip away.

Oakland could have some trouble against a Chiefs team that is No. 5 overall in defense, and No. 2 against the pass and who are desperate to end their three-game losing streak and stay afloat in a tight AFC playoff race.

Players to Watch

Kansas City, OLB, Justin Houston.

Houston has been nothing less then stellar for Kansas City this season. With 16 sacks (a career-high), Houston is tied with Baltimore outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil for the most in the NFL. The fourth-year pro from Georgia recorded a sack the last time Oakland saw Kansas City.

Oakland, QB, Derek Carr.

There is no question that Carr is Oakland’s quarterback for the next five-to-10 years. That should be music to the ears of Raider Nation, who’ve had 18 different starting quarterbacks since Rich Gannon in 2003. Carr leads all rookies in touchdown passes (17) and passing yards (2,676).