In Carson Palmer’s first two starts with the Raiders, he showed off his ability to throw the long ball. But in his last five starts, that long ball has shrunk considerably. Part of that has been the injuries to speedy receivers Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore. But the defenses the Raiders have faced have played a role as well. One such defense is the Chiefs’.
The Raiders didn’t learn much from the Chiefs the last time they played them. The Raiders threw six interceptions, but that was more a product of it being Kyle Boller’s first start after the Jason Campbell injury and Carson Palmer’s first game as a Raider.
The Chiefs were terrible much of the season. But in the first game since they fired their former head coach and replaced him with defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, the Chiefs did what no other team in this calendar year has done—they beat the Green Bay Packers. And they did it on defense.
Their defense shut down the best quarterback in football. Aaron Rodgers couldn’t find open receivers and was running for his life much of the time. If this is any indication of how good the Chiefs defense is, then the Raiders are in trouble. Especially in the passing game.
No one knows the Chiefs and the environment the Raiders are about to enter better than offensive coordinator, Al Saunders. Saunders was a member of the coaching staff in Kansas City for 15 years.
“This team we’re playing this week is very, very good at stopping the long ball because of the style of defense they play,” said Saunders. “You have to adjust your game accordingly, based on personnel and based on the scheme that you face.”
The Chiefs have a scheme that limits the long ball not only from a defensive back perspective but from the pass rush as well. They have a Pro Bowl defensive end in Tamba Hali who does not give opposing quarterbacks a lot of time in the pocket.
“[Hali] is a very gifted player,” said Saunders. “He has tremendous quickness, he has a variety of pass-rush moves. Some guys are generally inside rushers or they’re bull rushers or they’re swim rushers–he has all the tools.”
The Chiefs have a top ten passing defense, allowing just 209 yards per game through the air. Among those top ten passing defenses, they are fourth with just six completions over 40 yards and have the most interceptions with 17, though that number was helped greatly by the six gift wrapped interceptions by the Raiders.
But what this all means is, the Raiders will rely heavily on the short passing game on Saturday. Palmer will have to do his best West Coast offense. Very few seven step drops and far more dumps and screens.
The Chiefs are far less competent in run defense as they are ranked 24th in the league. Michael Bush will get the heavy load as usual, but this time he will have a change of pace back to help out. Taiwan Jones is finally healthy and we should see him touch the ball 5-10 times, especially if Bush is bothered by his sore shoulder.
The Chiefs won’t score a lot of points and the Raiders have handled Kyle Orton before. But if their defense creates turnovers and stops, they may not need to.
The Raiders will not underestimate the Chiefs after what they did last week against the Packers. They have that one game to study what Crennel has planned for his new team. And for this Christmas Eve, the goal will be not to give any gifts to the Chiefs that allow them to pull out another win. To do that, the Raiders must stay conservative and move down the field methodically.