Kansas City’s head coach couldn’t say if the Raiders are a different team this year compared to last.
He did say that they’re good, and this time it doesn’t come off as just typical coach speak based around the concept of respecting one’s opponent. Chiefs coach Andy Reid responded to a question of whether the Raiders are a different team than last year:
“Well, they’re playing very good football. I don’t know. I’d have to go back and try and analyze that one. But I’ll just tell you right now, and that’s really all I care about, is they’re playing really good football.”
Oakland’s 4-1 record puts them first in the AFC West, tied with Denver, but the Chiefs are hot on their tail. Oakland hasn’t beaten Kansas City under Jack Del Rio — though it’s only two games — and last defeated their division foe in monsoon-like weather with a few odd circumstances.
It was the Raiders first of three wins during their 2014 season, a Thursday night game with one 0-10 team in Week 12, and the 7-4 Chiefs riding a five game win-streak.
And despite a 3rd down celebration, with linebacker Sio Moore forgetting that Kansas City was likely to go for it on fourth down with 28 seconds to go, the Raiders pulled it out. Excluding that game, the Raiders haven’t beaten Kansas City since Carson Palmer was the starting quarterback in 2012.
Quarterback Alex Smith detailed how different the Raiders are this year:
“Flying around, a bunch of turnovers, running to the football. I think the yard thing, yeah, they’ve given up some yards. … They’ve played some good offenses. That’s kind of inflated that. They’ve been in some good battles though. You look at it, they’ve been in a bunch of close games, so they’re certainly battle tested. I think more mature than last year. When you look at them, they were young. A lot of those young players have had a lot of experience at this point and more mature. You’ve seen them be able to handle those situations.”
And of course, there’s one face that Smith has never had to deal with during a game, but plenty of times in practice. Smith touched on the relationship he developed with former teammate and new Raiders cornerback Sean Smith:
“It’s always interesting any time you go against corners that you obviously played with for a long time. Sean and I, obviously both going to Utah and then played here together for three years. We have a really good relationship. He and I used to always go back and forth in the locker room. It’ll be interesting to go against him.”
The Chiefs and Raiders have a unique relationship, even for division rivals. It was Kansas City who dealt the death nell in 2015 that kept Oakland out of the playoffs in a 34-20 blowout last December, and a loss in January that ensured Kansas City’s place in the postseason ranks.
The Raiders, though, hope this year will be different. And Sean Smith isn’t the only big item that Smith will have to worry about, Bruce Irvin is in the fold as well, opposite Khalil Mack. Smith said:
“They’re both really good players. Certainly, as a quarterback, I’m trying not to pay attention to either of those two guys. Anytime you have two edge rushers of their ability, you have to be aware of it as far as all week and fundamentals in the pocket and things like that. When you’re playing, your attention is down the field a lot, but you do have to be aware of those guys. You can’t be done with them. They deserve that respect.”
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.