Keys to the game: Chiefs @ Raiders

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Nov. 20, 2014; Oakland; General view of the line of scrimmage as the Chiefs and Raiders square off at O.co Coliseum. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Nov. 20, 2014; Oakland; General view of the line of scrimmage as the Chiefs and Raiders square off at O.co Coliseum. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Offensive, defensive and special teams keys for the Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) in Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders (5-6) at O.co Coliseum in Oakland.

OFFENSE

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.

The Raiders have had trouble covering tight ends this season, giving up five games of more than 75 yards; it should be a big night for Travis Kelce. Overall, Oakland’s defense is ranked No 27 and they are No. 29 in passing yards allowed per game, giving up nearly 283 yards.

DEFENSE

Raiders running back Latavius Murray was a relative unknown NFL running back until a rainy Thursday night last November. That’s when he ran through the Chiefs, picking up 112 yards including a 90-yard touchdown run in Oakland’s victory, its first winning performance of the season.

This season, Murray has been the Raiders run game, going for 765 yards on 179 carries and four touchdowns. That’s 69 percent of the attempts and 72 percent of the yards gained by Oakland. They are the No. 23 rushing offense in the league after 11 games with an average day of 96.1 yards, while the Chiefs are the No. 9 defense against the run, allowing 95.9 yards per game.

With second-year quarterback David Carr, the Raiders want to throw the ball, and it’s something they do often (62 percent of the snaps) with some proficiency (266.7 yards per game, No. 8 in the league.)

Carr has 24 TD throws to just six interceptions and he has an impressive group of wide receivers with Michael Crabtree (61 catches, 715 yards and six TD receptions), Amari Cooper (58-851-4) and Seth Roberts (21-352-4). Fullback Marcel Reece is a reliable catcher out of the backfield (22-210-3).

All this works with some success because of the Oakland pass protection, ranked No. 1 in the league, giving up a sack every 30 passing plays. As a comparison, the Chiefs are No. 31 in pass protection, giving up a sack every 11 pass plays.

The Chiefs must stop Murray and put pressure on Carr, forcing him to make mistakes.

SPECIAL TEAMS

No matter the weather conditions the Chiefs find in the Bay Area, they can’t afford to let it affect the kicking game.

In the victory over Buffalo, the cold and rain caused problems for punter Dustin Colquitt and kicker Cairo Santos. On just three punts, Colquitt averaged just 39 yards. Santos hit four of five field goal attempts, missing only on a 54-yarder that hit the crossbar. But on kickoffs he did not have a touchback, the first time that’s happened this season.

The Chiefs are now on a 13-game dry streak without a special teams return for a touchdown; they are long overdue. Oakland has allowed a 93-yard kickoff return for a TD earlier this season, but they’ve been buttoned down on punt coverage.

In the return game, the Raiders have not popped a big return by either kick returner Taiwan Jones (24.8-yard average) or punt returner T.J. Carrie (6.2-yard average.)

Kicker Sebastian Janikowski continues to handle the kicking duties (16 of 19 on FGs) and Marquette King is solid as the punter (43.8 yards per punt.) Even if they can’t produce a big play, the special teams need to make a difference in field position.
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Bob Gretz is the senior editor for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @BobGretzcom.

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