Since Sunday’s win over the Tennessee Titans, there’s been a lot of talk about how the 5-0 Chiefs could start the season with a 9-0 record.
That talk is fun but it’s about four games premature.
Last week, I was as nervous as I’ve been in years, with the Chiefs down entering the fourth quarter and no real antecedents in my memory bank to justify why or how we could win that game. But we did, through a long, fourth-quarter drive, a key interception by Chiefs cornerback Marcus Cooper and a clutch, 48-yard field goal by Ryan Succop with just over 2 minutes remaining.
The same thing happened against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2. Up by just one point, 17-16, the Chiefs gave the ball back to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo with 3:55 left. I thought for sure the Chiefs would be done — that’s certainly what would have happened last year. But the Chiefs defense held. They neither bent nor broke.
In the Eagles game, we needed a long drive in the fourth quarter to keep the Eagles from coming back. Last year, there’s just no way that would have happened. This year, Alex Smith engineered a clutch, 15-play, 75-yard drive that took 8:15 off the clock.
There’s no question the Chiefs are a different team this year. But can the same be said about Sunday’s opponent, the Oakland Raiders?
Despite a new owner (well, kind of), a new general manager, a new coach and a new quarterback, deep down, I want to believe that there is some of that special Oakland Raiders mystique permanently lodged in the cerebrum (and I use that term purely in the biological sense) of Raider Nation. Let’s call that mystique the “Destruction Gene.”
I already know what you Addicts are thinking. You’re thinking, “The Destruction Gene belongs to Philip Rivers.” But the Destruction Gene can belong to anyone. The Chiefs had it last year, which is why this year’s wins have been both nerve-wracking and surprising. Do the Raiders have the Destruction Gene this year?
Perhaps, The Raiders’ penalty acquisition rate is legendary. They just released quarterback Matt Flynn, for whom they paid $6.5 million in guaranteed salary just six months ago and for whom they traded a 2014 fifth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks. And remember, they gave up everything but the Oakland Coliseum itself to pay for Carson Palmer, whom they then let go before the season began. This year, they rank 27th in passing yards and 21st in passing defense. Their offensive line is in shambles, with left tackle Jared Veldheer out and injuries to starting center Stefan Wisniewski, right tackle Tony Pashos and new left tackle Menelik Watson. Darren McFadden is injured, again.
But the Raiders stand at 2-3, with just a 10 point differential over their five games. They could easily be 3-2 or 4-1. They are showing surprising flashes of life, the exact opposite of what teams with the Destruction Gene do. These Raiders have run roughshod over the Kansas City Chiefs, winning six straight games at Arrowhead. The 2013 version of the Raiders is ninth in the NFL in rushing and 12th in rushing defense. Last week, they held the San Diego Chargers to 32 yards rushing, with a long run of just 5 yards. We’ve all heard about the fast learning curve Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor has mastered this year. He’s also got wide receiver Denarius Moore, averaging close to 16 yards per catch and a very active linebacker in Kevin Burnett, who had 12 solo tackles last week in a 27-17 home win against the San Diego Chargers.
In short, we don’t know if the Raiders do, or do not, have the Destruction Gene. To solve this puzzle, I conducted extensive and scientific research on the Destruction Gene. The results may surprise you. Here’s what I found out.
The Destruction Gene can be innate (see Philip Rivers). But one can also cause the Destruction Gene to happen. To another person. And the key to this game will be to be focus on triggering the Destruction Gene in Terrelle Pryor. Pryor is clearly the key to the Raiders’ success. He can make plays out of nothing with his mobility and arm. If Pryor destructs, then the Raiders’ chance of winning diminishes faster than Matt Flynn’s NFL career. Here’s how the Chiefs can trigger the Destruction Gene in Pryor.
First, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Dontari Poe need to dominate the Raiders’ injured offensive line and live in Pryor’s face all day long.
Second, Alex Smith’s offense needs long drives. Ball control. Safe decision-making. No turnovers.
Third, I think the Chiefs should put Eric Berry on spy duty on Pryor all day long, not as a blitzer but with primary responsibility should Pryor begin to run. Berry’s only duty is to stop Pryor.
And fourth and finally, the crowd noise at Arrowhead needs to get inside Pryor’s head. He may have five NFL games under his belt, but he’s never been in a situation where he can’t even hear his own center. The noise at Arrowhead needs to be such that porch swings are swinging in the cool crisp air from Lee’s Summit to Kansas City.
If the Chiefs shut down Pryor, the Destruction Gene will kick in.
Addicts, how do you think we trigger the Destruction Gene this Sunday for the Raiders?!!