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Chiefs pick off Raiders and tighten up AFC West race

By Steve Corkran
Sunday, October 23rd, 2011 at 7:53 pm in Oakland Raiders.

Don’t blame this one on quarterback Kyle Boller, Raiders coach Hue Jackson said in the wake of his team’s 28-0 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Steer clear of placing blame at the feet of quarterback Carson Palmer while you’re at it, Jackson added.

No, once again, this loss is on Jackson. It’s his way of falling on the sword, deflecting criticism away from his players and being accountable.

“Carson Palmer didn’t lose the game,” Jackson said. “Kyle Boller didn’t lose the game. Coach Jackson lost the game. And you guys can write that. And that’s fine. We will be back. This is a really good football team in there. We need to get healthy and we need to go to work. That’s what we’re going to do.”

That plays well in the locker room and to fans, perhaps. In the end, this game was on Boller and Palmer for having six of their 35 passes intercepted, including two that were returned for touchdowns.

There’s no way to sugarcoat such a dreadful performance. For some perspective, Donald Hollas is the last Raiders quarterback to have six passes intercepted in one game, and that came in 1998.

As a result, the Chiefs suddenly are players in the AFC West despite a disastrous 0-3 start in defense of their divisional title.

The Chiefs now are at 3-3, one game behind the pace-setting San Diego Chargers (4-2) and one-half game behind the Raiders (4-3).

“The thing that makes it tough right here is that we got a bye week, so we got to sit with this taste in our mouths for two whole weeks,” cornerback Stanford Routt said. “But, we’re 4-3, so we just got to go back to work. It’s only one game. There’s no reason to panic or anything like that. We definitely can’t play like that again. We definitely can’t do that.”

Safety Mike Mitchell said this game pointed out how the Raiders still aren’t at the point where they win without playing at or near their best football.

He said the top-tier teams don’t have games like this. They find a way to overcome injuries to key players and don’t lose games to supposedly inferior teams at home.

“For the good teams, it doesn’t happen like that,” Mitchell said. “That’s what we’re still striving to be. We’re striving to be a really good team that, hopefully, we can get to the point where these games are a thing of the past. But, obviously, we still got a lot of work to do.”

PALMER MAKES RAIDERS DEBUT

Jackson took great delight in playing cat and mouse with the media all week about whether Palmer would start against the Chiefs. All along, he said, he intended to go with Boller.

Not that the Chiefs cared one bit.

“We didn’t buy into none of that,” cornerback Brandon Flowers said. “Whoever they decided to start, we were going to be prepared and ready for. With each quarterback, maybe a little bit of their system changed. We knew maybe at some point they would make a switch … but we were prepared for whoever they put out there.”

Palmer said all the talk about Jackson being unsure whether he would start Boller or Palmer was a smokescreen, a game, designed to keep the Chiefs guessing.

“The plan was not to play,” Palmer said. “All week long, it was just being deceptive and giving Kansas City something to think about, I guess.”

Coach Jackson, tricky guy.

Jackson said he wanted to get Palmer into the game toward the tail end, just to get his feet wet. That changed when Boller had three passes intercepted, and it became apparent that the Raiders weren’t going anywhere under Boller’s guidance.

Palmer entered the game early in the third quarter, with the Raiders trailing 21-0. At first, it looked as if Palmer was the spark the Raiders offense needed.

He completed his first pass for 18 yards and marched the Raiders to the Chiefs 35-yard line. The Raiders punted a short time later, though.

On Palmer’s second pass of the fourth quarter, Flowers stepped in front of wide receiver Denarius Moore, caught Palmer’s pass in stride and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown.

Palmer didn’t have to be told what he did wrong on the play.

“Yeah, I knew it,” Palmer said. “That’s football 101. I can’t do that. I knew it just as the ball was coming out of my hand. I’ve seen that look a million times and pulled the ball down throughout my career, the eight years I’ve played in the NFL and the four years I played in college. I just didn’t react fast enough, it’s something I can’t do and I put our team in a bad position doing that.”

Palmer said he memorized only three or four line protections and a small portion of the playbook. He also lacked the desired timing with his receivers.

Now he gets two weeks to brush up on the offense and get in synch with his receivers before the Raiders play again. By then, he said he expects to be much more effective.

“Here’s a guy who’s been here for however many days trying to learn a whole offense, I’m trying to put some things in his ear so he has a chance,” Jackson said. “From my perspective, from where I sat, he did some good things. Obviously, there’s a couple of balls he wishes he had back, but that’s going to happen right now. We’re going to be fine.”

Overall, Palmer completed 8 of 21 passes for 116 yards, with three interceptions. His 17.3 passer rating is the worst of his NFL career in games in which he attempted at least 20 passes. Boller finished with a 22.3 passer rating.

JACKSON HAS ANIMATED EXCHANGE WITH HALEY

This fell well short of the heated exchange between 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Lions coach Jim Schwartz a week earlier, but it’s worth noting that Jackson showed his displeasure with Chiefs counterpart Todd Haley after the game.

“That’s between me and him,” Jackson said. “We get to play ‘em again. We’ll go to Kansas City here at some point down the road.”

Just a guess, but Jackson probably wasn’t thrilled by Haley calling for a deep pass with 2 minutes left and the Chiefs leading 28-0. Never mind that the pass for wide receiver Dwayne Bowe fell incomplete. It’s the principal.

The Chiefs ran out the clock on the final two plays, with quarterback Matt Cassel taking a knee.

When asked if the pass had anything to do with why he was upset with Haley, Jackson said:

“No. Oh, hey, he can do what he wants to do. It’s his football team over there. I respect that. That didn’t bother me. It’s OK. We’ll play ‘em again down the road.”

Hmmm, an already tense rivalry just got a little bit more heated, it appears.

Numerous players from each team jawed at each other in the south end zone before the game. At that time, Jackson intervened and played peacemaker. Or did he?

INTERCEPTIONS NOT A FRANCHISE RECORD

Believe it or not, the Raiders failed to match or set a franchise record for most interceptions in a game.

The record came in a game in 1977, when Kenny Stabler was intercepted seven times.

INJURIES UPDATE

Running back Darren McFadden started Sunday’s game, but he was nowhere to be seen by game’s end because of a sprained foot he suffered on one of his two carries.

As a result, the Raiders turned to Michael Bush and rookie Taiwan Jones in the running game. Bush responded with 99 yards on 17 carries. Jones added 18 yards on three rushes.

“I feel like I can step in and do a good job,” Bush said. “I had a good game today. Not to take away from myself, but I mean, like I said, this offensive line is doing a very good job in the running game, and when one guy goes down, somebody else has to step in.”

McFadden wasn’t the only Raiders player in pain by game’s end. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain suffered a lower leg injury, safety Matt Giordano left the game with neck spasms and tight end Kevin Boss suffered a concussion.

Fortunately for the Raiders, these players have two weeks before the next game. The Raiders should have close to a full complement of players for their Nov. 6 game against the Denver Broncos.

“The bye week is huge for getting people healthy so we can get our real team on the field,” Mitchell said.

VAN DYKE SHINES

Rookie cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke was in the Chiefs’ crosshairs from the outset. Cassel targeted Van Dyke on the first play from scrimmage and later went back at him on the same series.

Van Dyke held up under pressure and got the last laugh when he intercepted a Cassel pass for running back Dexter McCluster. It marked Van Dyke’s first interception as an NFL player.

Van Dyke had clear sailing down the right sideline, but he stepped out of bounds before he could get rolling.

“Oh, man, I saw paydirt,” Van Dyke said. “But next time I’ll make sure I get in the end zone, for sure.”

Despite his solid effort, Van Dyke said he isn’t satisfied.

“I missed a couple of tackles out there that I should have made,” Van Dyke said. “My interception, I could have taken it to the crib and put points on the board. I just have to go back this week, watch film and get better every day.”

PRYOR MAKES RAIDERS DEBUT

It’s not every day that a quarterback makes his debut for a team midway through the season. The Raiders had two such occurrences Sunday, with Palmer and rookie Terrelle Pryor playing in a game for the Raiders for the first time.

Pryor was inserted into the lineup as a slot receiver on the Raiders third offensive play of the game. He went in motion, lined up behind center, called for the snap and … was called for a false-start penalty.

The referee said Pryor failed to pause before he called for the snap. Jackson disagreed with Jeff Triplette’s assessment.

“I didn’t think it was a penalty, but they called it,” Jackson said. “So, they said that there wasn’t a pause before the ball was snapped. Well, there’s a cadence before the ball was snapped, there’s a ‘set-hut’ before the ball was snapped.”

Pryor returned to the sideline after the penalty was stepped off, and he never returned to the field the rest of the game.

Jackson said Pryor worked on the play in practice earlier this week.

“Yeah, he was ready for it,” Jackson said. “We practiced it. We practiced it several times. … We practiced it, and it didn’t work out the right way.”

PENALTIES BACK IN SPOTLIGHT

The Raiders committed only five penalties for 35 yards against the Cleveland Browns one week ago. Rather than progress, that effort now seems like a one-game aberration.

On Sunday, the Raiders were flagged 14 times for 120 yards, which goosed their lead in both categories. The Raiders have led in both categories since the first game.

As of now, they have committed 69 penalties for 600 yards. That’s 10 more than the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 100 yards more than the runner-up Panthers.

Routt was nailed for one of a handful personal-foul penalties committed by the Raiders on Sunday.

“We’ve got to be a little more disciplined, even myself as much as anybody on that last, or second-to-last or whatever, what happened on that last drive,” Routt said. “Yeah, we’re going to have to go ahead and keep our composure better. Obviously, this was one of those emotional-type games. Division rival; it’s a bitter rivalry.”

Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl

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