KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Eric Berry played in some rowdy opposing venues in college at Tennessee, but teammates Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers found it necessary this week to prepare the rookie safety for what he will encounter Sunday when the Chiefs venture to Oakland to play the Raiders.
"They told me they love playing there," Berry said. "It's kind of intense, I guess. I don't know what to expect, really. I'm just going to go in there and focus on what I've got to get done."
That's not bad advice for the Chiefs on the road any time in the next couple of months, really. Five of their next seven games are away from home before they finish the regular season with games at Arrowhead Stadium against Tennessee and Oakland.
This stretch should determine their AFC West title fortunes, so the Chiefs need to learn how to win on the road, where they're 1-2 this season. They survived against Cleveland, shutting out the Browns in the second half, but lost in Indianapolis after being tied early in the fourth quarter and in Houston despite having a 10-point lead twice in the final period.
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Giving the Chiefs some hope: They've won seven straight games in Oakland, though all but one by a margin of seven points or fewer. They were also more successful last season on the road, where they won three times, than at Arrowhead.
"People have argued about this, but there are potentially more distractions on the road," coach Todd Haley said. "At the same time, I like the road from the standpoint of being a team. There are (fewer) distractions as far as not having a lot of people or things around. You are not just jumping in a car and driving wherever you want and going to the hotel at night. You are kind of forced to stay put a little more.
"One thing that is encouraging to me from last year, although we were able to win only four times, we were able to do it on the road a little bit, which was a good sign. We have done it once this year, and we need to obviously have that continue to improve."
To help build a better home-field advantage, Haley has the Chiefs practice at Arrowhead on the Friday before a home game. He called that a case of "studying where you're going to take the test."
"On the road," he said, "you just can't do that."
Oakland's infamous Black Hole hasn't been as loud as usual this season. The Raiders haven't sold out any of their four home games, with the smallest crowd being about 32,000 for a meeting with Houston last month.
The crowd may be larger this weekend for a game matching two suddenly revitalized rivals. The Chiefs are 5-2 and the Raiders in second place in the AFC West at 4-4.
But in Oakland, it's not so much the size of the crowd that's intimidating as the behavior of some of the fans.
"It's one of the unique places that you go in the NFL," Haley said. "Some of these young guys that haven't been in the league... I think you need to lay it out there a little bit that it's a little different. In the parking lot, you'll see some interesting things.
"This is always one of those games that you know what you are in for and you try to prepare the guys the best we can, especially some of these young guys that haven't experienced going out there to Oakland, and that starts from the minute you drive into the parking lot. You see some things that you don't see anywhere else. We will start that preparation here pretty quick, especially with the young guys that haven't been there and getting their mindset where it needs to be to go into a really hostile environment."
Guard Brian Waters told the story on his first trip to Oakland of the Chiefs bus being pelted by batteries thrown by Raiders fans.
"At least the parking lot atmosphere has been consistent over 11 years, and I expect it to be the same on Sunday," he said. "If you've been there enough, you know to stay out of the end zone during warmup if you don't want your mother talked about in a vulgar manner."
The experience can be rattling, more so than a normal NFL road trip. That's why the Chiefs are finding it necessary to caution rookies like Berry.
"I'm pretty comfortable there, but for these young guys who have never been there before, it's hard to describe it, because I don't think there's a college atmosphere you can compare it to," Waters said.
"Some of these guys went to big colleges, and they understand what it takes to go on the road in some really hostile atmospheres. I just don't think they've seen anything similar to this. But I will say that our rookies, this game is definitely not too big for them. They've shown from the beginning they're a group that's not scared of the big stage."