OAKLAND, Calif. — Every football player has strengths and weaknesses, and in the NFL, it doesn’t take long for opponents to figure out both.
So while Matt McGloin got out to a strong start as the Raiders’ starting quarterback this season, completing 57.1 percent of his passes for 1,044 yards, six touchdowns and only three interceptions in his first five games, future opponents were also busy breaking down tape on the 6-foot-1, 210-pound undrafted rookie from Penn State.
And after watching the Chiefs pick off McGloin four times in their 56-31 win Sunday at O.co Coliseum, one might imagine the book on McGloin goes something like this: Smart guy, fairly accurate passer … but a short guy, and a rookie to boot.
So, as you might imagine, it's no coincidence that all four of the Chiefs' interceptions came by reading McGloin's eyes.
“Oh, I was reading them,” said safety Eric Berry, who had two interceptions, including his second pick-six of the season.
Berry added that they watched a lot of film on McGloin throughout the week, and that “it paid off.”
Linebacker Derrick Johnson, who also had an interception Sunday, sure made it sound like that was the case.
“He takes some chances … we know he's gonna try to throw through some tight windows, sometimes he can't see back there,” Johnson said. “He trusts his reads and he will just throw it blindly a little bit.”
McGloin, who completed 18 of 36 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns, essentially acknowledged that afterward, chalking up some of his throws to poor decisions that led to throws late and over the middle.
“It's high-risk, high-reward,” McGloin said. “I did it with a touchdown earlier, kind of scrambling to my right and threw back to my left for a touchdown.”
McGloin's other touchdown pass — which went to tight end Mychal Rivera, who was matched in single coverage against Johnson — also came over the middle.
However, three of McGloin's four interceptions were made over the middle, and as Berry showed on his 47-yard interception return for a touchdown, the Chiefs knew exactly what to do with those gifts.
“It always feels good to get the ball in my hands,” Berry said. “I played offense growing up in high school. I chose to play defense just because I felt like it's so much fun on D. And every time we get the ball we try to make it instant offense. So it's always fun getting that rock.”
The same goes for Johnson, who by the time of his pick — which came in the fourth quarter and was the Chiefs' fourth of the day — felt like he was due. Not only had he been singled out in coverage to start the game on a 45-yard catch-and-run by Raiders fullback Marcel Reece, Johnson was also angry about allowing the touchdown to Rivera, who outmuscled him for the ball.
“I was pretty heated about that — I needed to make a play for my team,” Johnson said of his interception. “He's a shorter quarterback, so he dropped back, and I was just standing in the window and I was waiting, I was waiting for him to throw the ball. He threw it, and my old legs jumped as high as you can and I bobbled it in there and hit the ground really hard, but I made sure I caught the ball.”
By the time it was over, even the Chiefs' backups got into the act. Fourth-year linebacker Frank Zombo, who got the start for the injured Justin Houston, made his first career interception in the fourth quarter, as did third-year cornerback Ron Parker, who picked off Raiders backup Terrelle Pryor late in the game to give the Chiefs a season-high five interceptions.
“It means we're ballhawks,” said safety Quintin Demps, who still leads the team with four interceptions despite no picks on Sunday. “Shoot, I wanted to get me one, too.”
In a league in which interceptions are hard to come by, that's typically the attitude defensive players have against rookie quarterbacks.
But if you ask Berry, the five-pick tally had just as much to do with preparation as it did with McGloin, which he hopes will help the Chiefs continue their opportunistic ways in the future.
“I'm telling you, if you could see us practice … man, we practice getting to the ball, making plays on the ball and trying to score with it,” Berry said. “These past two weeks, we've been really, really getting to it in practice. So we're just gonna try to keep it rolling.”