Of course it hurts that Nnamdi Asomugha and Zach Miller won’t be suited up when the Raiders host the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday.
But its worth pointing out that neither player was a dominant figure in either of the Raiders last two wins. Miller helped get the Denver rout started with a 43-yard touchdown catch against a blown coverage. Asomugha was Asomugha, covering his man while passes usually sailed in a different direction.
The real heroes for Oakland were the offensive and defensive lines, which put together back-to-back games unmatched by any in recent club history.
One of the big concerns coming out of training camp was the fundamental issue of blocking and tackling and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. The Raiders haven’t done that well for the better part of the last seven-plus seasons and it’s showed up in the won-loss record.
Which is why the Denver and Seattle games were such a revelation. Coach Tom Cable said the only games that even remotely compare in terms of controlling the action up front were the consecutive wins to close out the 2008 season against Houston and Tampa Bay.
Games that impressed Al Davis enough that he eventually made Cable the head coach instead of the interim head coach.
There are some instances where statistics can tell a story, and Oakland’s work at the point of attack is all over the last two games beyond the combined final score of 92-17.
Like in 91 carries for 567 at 6.2 yards per carry and six touchdowns against 36 carries for 122 yards at 3.4 yards per carry and zero touchdowns.
Like in a time of possession advantage of 74:52 to 45:18.
Like in 12 sacks recorded against four sacks allowed.
You want that old silver and black nostalgia, it’s written all over those statistics, because the Raiders were bigger, stronger and tougher. They went out and imposed their will up front, and the Broncos and Seahawks were helpless to do anything about it.
Kansas City is a much more difficult opponent in that regard. The Chiefs run block as well as any line in the league and have rushed for more than 200 yards in three straight games.
Thomas Jones was a terrific acquisition and had considerably success running into the heart of the Raiders defense while a member of the Jets.
The Chiefs defense is ranked seventh against the run and giving up just 3.8 yards per carry.
So while it’s possible the outcome could hinge on a pass play Asomugha could have covered, or a key first down lost by the Raiders because Miller isn’t there to catch it, more likely the Raiders will win or lose because they win at the line of scrimmage.
The reason Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Marcel Reece and Darrius Heyward-Bey have had some big moments of late and Jason Campbell has been coolly efficient is because the offensive line made it possible. Oakland’s defensive line, Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly and Matt Shaughnessy in particular, have provided highlight reel stuff not seen for the last decade, albeit against the Broncos and Seahawks.
Do it against the Chiefs Sunday and things get really interesting.