In an otherwise miserable season, the one thing the Chiefs had been able to count on was some help from their running game.
Then came Sunday, when a big, strong Oakland defense had its way with the Chiefs blockers. Peyton Hillis, Jamaal Charles and Shaun Draughn accounted for just 34 yards in a 26-16 loss to the Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.
To put that paltry total in perspective, Matt Cassel ran for 35 yards himself on quarterback scrambles.
“We knew coming into this ballgame they are a big, physical front and we knew it was going to be a physical football game,” Cassel said. “They did a good job up front of stopping the run game.”
The Chiefs fell behind early Sunday, as they have in all of their other games. But unlike those other games, they largely abandoned their running game. Cassel, Brady Quinn and Dexter McCluster as the wildcat quarterback had 11 runs, exactly half of Kansas City’s total.
Charles was handed the ball just five times, his lowest total of the season.
“We were rotating our backs in there,” coach Romeo Crennel said when asked why Charles wasn’t involved. “Hillis was back and he was able to get some carries. He was somewhat effective. When a guy’s effective, we kind of stay with him a little bit..”
But Hillis only got four carries, one fewer than Charles.
Charles was still playing late in the game, even though he wasn’t getting the ball much. He got it just once in the second half.
Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey got a step on Chiefs cornerback Stanford Routt and looked for the deep sideline pass from Carson Palmer. The Raiders were going after their former player, right off the bat.
The ball was slightly underthrown and Routt came down with the interception, only the team’s fifth of the season, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Chiefs needed something good to happen early, and they got it.
And Routt got to make the first stand.
“Obviously they were trying me,” Routt said. “It’s football, you’ve got to expect it.”
The Raiders and Palmer weren’t deterred. They went after Routt more often with greater success, including a 32-yard touchdown pass to Heyward-Bey, in the Raiders’ 26-16 victory.
Palmer tipped his hat to Routt for the opener.
“He made a great play,” Palmer said. “I need to give Darrius a better chance to make a play on the ball and try to get a completion out of that. (Routt) had a good jump on what play was coming.”
Palmer said the Raiders were trying to set the tone bychallenging the cornerback who spent his first seven NFL seasons with the Raiders. Routt signed a three-year deal with the Chiefs in February.