Chiefs vs. Raiders: Five Things to Watch from The Mothership
3. Will the Chiefs continue their vertical passing attack?
One of the big takeaways from the Chiefs win last Sunday over the Buffalo Bills was the vertical passing attack from Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense.
Smith completed three passes to Maclin that traveled more than 30 yards in the air, and each was critical in leading to the victory
After the game, both coach Andy Reid and Smith explained that the success was about seeing the right look to take those shots.
The Chiefs picked up Branch in the offseason to complement a defense that ranked No. 2 in the entire National Football League, with a secondary that didn't allow a 300-yard passing game to any quarterback in that season.
Branch spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons sidelined by injuries, but his arrival in Kansas City represented a new chance for the eight-year veteran.
"I had some setbacks and I'm just excited to have another opportunity," Branch said last spring. "Every opportunity you get to play this game is a blessing, and I'm blessed to have an opportunity with the Kansas City Chiefs."
Raider Week: Are Team Rivalries Eternal? from The Mothership
By then, the thought of a rivalry was all but missing for a majority of current Chiefs player, leading fullback Arnold Morgado, a free agent from Hawaii, to say, "To tell you the truth, I don't feel the rivalry aspect of it." Teammate Mark Bailey chimed in: "Oh, I'm aware of it a little bit because I remember watching some of the better games on TV in the late ‘60s."
Following a loss to the Raiders in 1977, veteran Willie Lanier sat slumped by his locker still in his uniform. He was approached by just-showered second-year defensive end Whitney Paul who asked him what was wrong. "I don't like to lose to those guys," Lanier said to a surprised Paul. "You haven't been here through the years." Even Raiders head coach John Madden was heard to remark, "I miss the Kansas City [rivalry]. When Hank [Stram] was there it was easy to have one."
As they say, those were the days.
12 Things You Didn't Know About Spencer Ware from The Mothership
12. What is your favorite quote?
"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Justin Houston ruled out for Chiefs game at Oakland, Dee Ford to start from The Kansas City Star
Center Mitch Morse (concussion), receiver De'Anthony Thomas (concussion) and safety Husain Abdullah (concussion) also will miss Sunday's game against the Raiders with injuries, Reid said Friday.
Week 13: Friday injury report from Chiefs Digest
Abdullah started the week as a full participant in practice before being limited Thursday. Reid told reporters Abdullah wasn't feeling good and the Chiefs took action.
"We put him through the concussion protocol and he has some symptoms for that," Reid said. "He's got some symptoms there so we're going to list him as out for this game."
The Chiefs list guard Jeff Allen (ankle) and defensive end Allen Bailey (calf) as questionable. Bailey has missed three straight games, while Allen suffered his ankle injury in Week 12.
Ford hasn't produced much since joining the Chiefs, but hasn't been given much of a chance. Playing behind Houston and Tamba Hali, he had 1.5 sacks last season and has none this season. His playing time this year largely consists of a series here and there when the Chiefs rest Hali.
Ford is eager for the chance to get consistent playing time. He said it will make a difference in his pass rush and all-around play. That might be, but in any case, he's not Houston and the Chiefs will miss him.
Chiefs' Dee Ford eager for first NFL start with Justin Houston ruled out Sunday from The Kansas City Star
Shortly before Chiefs coach Andy Reid announced Justin Houston's looming absence against the Oakland Raiders, linebacker Derrick Johnson made sure he sought out and teased Houston's replacement, second-year linebacker Dee Ford, during practice.
"I kept saying, ‘Dee Ford's making his debut, Dee Ford's making his debut,'" said Johnson, an 11-year veteran. "He was just laughing. I was trying to amp him up."
Turns out Ford doesn't need it.
"He's excited," Johnson said. "You can tell."
Keys to the game: Chiefs @ Raiders from Chiefs Digest
Balance and ball security - those have been the hallmarks of the Chiefs offense during the five-game winning streak. They'll need the same type of performance if they expect to beat the Raiders in Oakland.
Quarterback Alex Smith has been sensational in the statistical areas that seldom figure into the world of fantasy football. He's not thrown an interception in eight games. He's not fumbled the ball away in 11 outings. Smith is picking up important yards with his feet; in the winning streak, he's averaged five carries for 37 yards per game. The most important stat for Smith is five victories in five games.
K.C.'s overall running game is ranked No. 6 in the league, with 124.3 rushing yards per game. The passing game has not hurt the Chiefs, but it's not produced big results while averaging 227 yards per game, tied for No. 24 in the league.
Alex Smith is boring by design, and the Chiefs' quarterback's formula can win in playoffs from The Kansas City Star
For all else that has contributed to the Chiefs' turnaround, including a revived defense and a gelling offensive line, not turning the ball over once in a five-game winning streak has been as vital as anything else.
So it's nothing to sneer at, nothing that just happens.
Even if it seems like one of those ho-hum sorts of things done by someone whose game sometimes seems to be more about what he doesn't do than what he does.
"As a quarterback, you've got a huge responsibility: You're touching the ball every single play," said Smith, who is 51-18-1 in career starts when he doesn't throw an interception and 13-38 when he does. "You have such a big impact on deciding the game, just in your decision-making and how you are with the football and your fundamentals."
The Chiefs like West, who is versatile enough to execute everything in their playbook. They particularly like him as a pass receiver coming out of the backfield. It's why they promoted West over Knile Davis early in the season, when he became Charles' leading backup.
But the Chiefs also can't ignore the job done by Ware, who took over as the featured back from West two weeks ago in San Diego, when West left their lineup with a sore hamstring. Ware led the Chiefs in rushing that day and again in West's absence last week against the Buffalo Bills.
Chiefs' Knile Davis is happy to be back in kick-return mix from The Kansas City Star
After being left off the Chiefs' 46-man gameday roster the previous two weeks, Davis — who returned four kicks for a solid 26.5 yards average — was simply grateful to find himself back in the mix, and he appreciated the praise he received from special teams coach Dave Toub afterward, too.
"Coach Toub was just happy, because I think, coming into the game (Buffalo was allowing) like 15 (yards per kick return) the whole season, and I think I averaged like 26," said Davis, who also had a 38-yard return in the first half nullified by a penalty. "He was like ‘That was an unbelievable job.' "
Chiefs' Tyvon Branch facing his former team Sunday from The Kansas City Star
Branch, 28, had some great years in Oakland — he averaged nearly 100 tackles a season as a starter from 2009 to 2012 — before injuries ruined his 2013 and 2014 campaigns. But when asked if Sunday's game means anything to him, he preferred to turn the spotlight back toward the team.
"It means something for our playoff implications," Branch said. "I've got a lot of relationships out there with people, so obviously it's going to get interesting when I get out there on the field, but I'm not thinking about it, man."
Chiefs' Jaye Howard fined for roughing the passer against Bills from Chiefs Digest
The infraction was the only blemish on Howard's performance against the Bills.
Howard made his impact felt in the trenches, totaling 69 of the 72 defensive snaps and finished the contest with two solo tackles, a quarterback hit and a fumble recovery.
Chiefs' Jaye Howard fined $17,363 for penalty in Bills game from The Kansas City Star
Chiefs nose tackle Jaye Howard was fined $17,363 for his roughing-the-passer penalty on Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the Chiefs' 30-22 win over the Bills on Sunday.
Chiefs know finding solution to defining an NFL catch no simple affair from Chiefs Digest
What in the world constitutes a catch?
"Each play is different, each catch is different and it gets tough sometimes," Chiefs quarterback Aaron Murray said. "It's funny, me and some buddies watching the game - Monday Night Football or Thursday Night Football or whatever - and half of us will be saying it's a catch and half of us will say it's not a catch. Everyone just looks at it differently."
The perspectives are at the core of the debate, but help could be on the way to better define the act of plucking an oblong-shaped ball out of the air.
He updated the status of center
Rodney Hudsonfor Sunday's game with the Chiefs.
"He's doubtful for right now. Went yesterday and we'll make that decision as we get closer."
Head Coach Del Rio also addressed the report that Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston was ruled out for the Week 13 game.
"He's a really good player, but they have a lot of good players, so we're getting ready for the guys that are next, if that is in fact the case."
Raiders run game has 'some things to clean up' from CSN Bay Area
Head coach Jack Del Rio was asked this week to name one thing his Raiders must improve heading into Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
His answer came swift and unwavering.
"I'd say run the ball better," Del Rio said. "We've got to be more consistent running the ball."
'Low-risk, high-reward' screen passes being used more in NFL from The Associated Press via The Belleville News-Democrat
On a typical screen, various players, including linemen and receivers, move to one side of the field to set up a wall of blockers that escorts the player who catches a pass.
"It involves a lot of people on the move, so it's as close to a special teams play as you're going to get," said Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, whose team completes a league-high 5.36 screens per game, followed by the Chicago Bears at 5.27. "So you've got to get it all synchronized and everybody has to be dancing the same dance."
When choreographed properly, screens can take advantage of the league-wide trend of defenders having trouble tackling. They also are a way to keep opposing defenses "honest" by making them wary of getting caught on a blitz.
Raiders' Murray May be Due for a Big Game Against Chiefs from NBC Bay Area
Perhaps this Sunday, when the 5-6 Raiders take on the 6-5 Chiefs at O.co Coliseum (1:05 p.m. kickoff), will be the game Murray breaks out again. Certainly, the sight of Chiefs uniforms should be a comforting sight for him. In two games against Kansas City in his career (both in 2014), Murray has 171 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns.
Murray, however, doesn't believe past peformance will have anything to do with Sunday's game, which the Raiders need to win to stay alive in the hunt for the AFC's second wild card.
"I know the history but this is a new year, a new game and both (teams have) new groups," Murray told reporters Thursday.
And yet, the Raiders would like nothing better than to successfully run the ball against Kansas City and have a more balanced attack Sunday, taking the load off Carr while forcing the Chiefs defense to pay attention to both aspects of Oakland's offense.
Raiders.com Week 13 Mailbag Questions Answered from Raiders.com
From Mike K: Is Amerson moving to the starting lineup the biggest/best adjustment we've made defensively all season?
JK: That's an interesting way to put it. I thought linebacker
Neiron Ballearning more playing time was just as significant. Ball made an impact when the Raiders were having trouble defending the tight end. Since he's been out, that issue has cropped back up intermittently. Amerson is definitely coming on, and I'd like to see him play like he did against Tennessee week in and week out. Six passes defensed was impressive, and his closing speed certainly jumped off the tape. He'll have a challenge with the Chiefs receivers this week.
The money was raised through the sale of Kansas City Chiefs flags that read "This is Chiefs Kingdom." The flags were sold in Omaha and Council Bluffs Hy-Vee Supermarkets and City of Omaha community centers on Sept. 17.