Raiders key matchup No. 1: Marcel Reece vs. Vontaze Burfict


Raiders key matchup No. 1: Marcel Reece vs. Vontaze Burfict

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the final part in a series that spotlighted three Raiders-Bengals matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m. (CBS), at Paul Brown StadiumRaiders RB Marcel Reece vs. Bengals LB Vontaze BurfictTale of the tape
Reece (45): 6-foot-1, 255 pounds, fourth season, Washington
Burfict (55): 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, rookie season, Arizona StateCINCINNATI -- Surely there are no more questions about whether Marcel Reece, the street free agent who was a wide receiver in college, before being converted into a fullback and then showing he can play a mean tailback, can be an impact player in the NFL.Not after rushing for 103 yards, on 19 carries, and catching four passes for 93 yards, last week against New Orleans, right?"I knew he was a weapon and I didn't know exactly how he was going to fit, or how he was going to run, but he's done an outstanding job," admitted Raiders rookie coach Dennis Allen. "As long as he continues to do the things he's doing, we're going to continue to give him opportunities."As the Raiders should. And with Reece a matchup nightmare, it only makes sense for the Bengals to put the ultra-athletic Vontaze Burfict on him. Burfict, like Reece, an undrafted college free agent, has stepped into the weakside linebacker role admirably for Thomas Howard, the former Raider who was lost for the season after Week 1 with a knee injury.RELATED: McFadden, Goodson, Seymour ruled out ... again
Burfict, whom teams stayed away from mostly because of image problems, has kept his nose relatively clean in Cincinnati. His 67 tackles rank fourth among NFL rookies and he also has a sack and two fumble recoveries. He had a monster game against Pittsburgh with 16 tackles. In fact, Burfict has registered double-digit tackles in five of his eight starts."Theyre a fast defense," said Reece, who was a mere seven receiving yards away from joining Marcus Allen as the only other Raiders player with triple digits in both rushing and receiving in the same game against the Saints."They have a lot of talent over there. Im not worried about what people say. I dont read too much what people say anyway. From what Ive seen on film, its going to be a challenge for us. Just get started early, and often."Which should mean feeding Reece just as earlyand often."You know what? Its not necessarily (about) being that guy," Reece said. We have so many playmakers on this team that no one's that guy. Darren McFaddens the bellcow for this team and will be the bellcow for this team. Right now were kind of playing running back by committee. When it really comes down to it, youre just trying to make plays the way youre supposed to make plays, whether its with the ball in your hands, whether its blocking or whether its helping someone else out. You just have to contribute."McFadden, though, is not able to contribute. His ankle injury is keeping him out of his third straight game, ensuring he will not play more than 13 gamesagain.Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, meanwhile, compared Reece to Jerome Bettis, with more speed."He's a unique type of player," Lewis told Cincinnati media this week."I remember seeing him on tape last year and calling up Hue and asking who that guy was and where he came from. But he does, he has some special ability."Reece, to his credit, brushes it all off."You just go out there, do your job to the best of your abilities, you fight for the guy thats to the left and to the right of you and behind you," Reece said. "No one man, no one group, is bigger than this team or the game of football. I just feel like as far as the numbers, none of that matters unless you get a 'W.'"I dont care if its number of touches, I dont care if its number of yards or lack thereof. If youre not winning, it doesnt matter. You have to win."

Three things you need to know from Raiders’ 31-30 victory over Chiefs


Three things you need to know from Raiders’ 31-30 victory over Chiefs

OAKLAND – Three things you need to know about the Raiders’ 31-30 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night:

1. Back from the brink

The Raiders are still under .500. They face an uphill climb getting back into playoff consideration following a crippling four-game losing streak.

Still. 3-4 is a whole heck of a lot better than the alternative.

“Yeah, 2-5 did not sound good,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “That made our stomach hurt. We wanted to come out here and get a big win. This is a big win. For our team, especially with the adversity we’ve gone through.”

The Raiders looked lost during their downturn, when a loaded offense averaged 13.1 points per game. They fell to 14th in the AFC and last in their division. Perceived strengths proved suspect. Everything was called into question.

If the Raiders were drowning, Thursday was that point in the movie where the hero reappears taking a huge, dramatic breath.

The Raiders are alive again, especially in beating the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs. There’s work ahead to make it more than a really fun night, but Thursday proved their survival instincts are still keen.

“It felt good,” left tackle Donald Penn said. “I wish it would have happened a few weeks ago. We wouldn’t be sitting here like that. You all would have been talking like ‘OK, we’re on a run.' I’m glad to get things going.

“I told them today I was going to go out there and let it rip. I told some other guys to go out there and let it rip. This offense was trying to be too perfect. We had high hopes going into the season when we started, then we hit adversity. We couldn’t find a way to get out of there fast enough. Now we’re getting out of this, but we have to keep it going. One thing we have been doing is we’ve been working as hard as we do every week. It’s starting to pay off.”

2. Dormant volcano erupts

The Raiders offense was horrible four straight games. The season’s first two games proved what a loaded unit can do when functioning well, but those efforts got lost in a wash of bad play.

An MVP-caliber quarterback’s play was openly questioned for the first time. So was a bright young coordinator taking shrapnel for the team’s misgivings. Averaging 13 points per game will make a fan base an angry mob. The offense grossly underperformed, but raw talent didn’t diminish.

Production was hot lava, bubbling underneath the surface. It erupted on Thursday night, with the previously cautious Raiders offense opened up and consistently took yards in chunks.

In doing so, a lost offense may have found an identity, a fallback: The Raiders can flat out sling it.

Quarterback Derek Carr was throwing darts all over the field, completing 29-of-52 passes for 417 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 8.0 yards per pass play and, at times, threw people open or allowed receivers to make a play in tight coverage.

Pass catchers certainly did that. Amari Cooper had 11 catches for 210 and two scores. Tight end Jared Cook had six receptions for 107 yards. Michael Crabtree only had 24 yards, but snagged the game-deciding touchdown.

It felt and looked like the Raiders offense everyone expected each week, finally back on track. That was clear after Carr threw Amari Cooper a touchdown pass the first two drives.

“We struggled to do a lot of things over the last month,” Carr said. “To start fast, again I think that gives life to a team. That’s a sense of hope, which we always have and belief and those kind of things, but to start fast, it always just gives your team a little boost at the beginning that you have to have.”

In previous weeks, the Raiders were wound too tight. They strived for perfection and failed to attain anything close. They just let loose, and went for it. An offense with no TNT blew up, to the tune of six explosive plays.

“We got so many weapons, we got so many explosive athletes on our offense but just in these last four games that we loss we were just so out of whack,” running back Jalen Richard said. “It was little stuff here and there, technical, maybe a missed assignment here and there. Guys were doing their thing, guys were playing hard. We believed the whole game even when we got down a little bit. We pulled through and got the win.”

3. Return of the 2016 Raiders

Last season’s Raiders owned the fourth quarter. They generated seven come-from-behind victories last season thanks to offensive magic and timely defense.

That’s how they erased a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit against Kansas City. They never wavered, even in tough times. The defense provided opportunity. With two minutes remaining, the offense got it done.

Derek Carr orchestrated an 11-play, 85-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Crabtree on the second straight untimed down brought on by defensive penalty.

That moment produced great emotion. It should’ve after completing one of the wildest comebacks in franchise history. The drive itself, however, was clinical.

The Raiders believed they would score. They expected it.

"There was no panic, or anxiety or anything like that,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “We were going to get the job done. There was never, ever any doubt.”

That’s exactly what last year’s Raiders did. On the regular. They couldn’t respond well to adversity in recent games. They found their magic on Thursday night.

Mark your calendars right now for Raiders-Chiefs 2.0 in December


Mark your calendars right now for Raiders-Chiefs 2.0 in December

In case you were asking, and you shouldn’t have been because this game deserves to be savored a bit longer, it’s December 10.
That’s when the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders play each other again, in case Thursday night wasn’t good enough for you.

You philistines.

And while there are some folks who won’t be happy (those who like the Chiefs or bet the Chiefs), there won’t be a more magnificently bizarre game this NFL season – because these two teams are exactly that.
The Chiefs, who two weeks ago were the best team in football as voted on by the instant punditocracy, made enough mistakes in the last two minutes of Thursday’s 31-30 defeat to lose 47-10.
And the Raiders did the same, capped off by Marshawn Lynch’s gloriously Oaklandish reaction to fellow citizen Marcus Peters’ late hit on Derek Carr – namely, “I got your rules and your respect for officials right here!”
But in the end – the glorious, bizarre, untimed end – the Raiders saved themselves from pre-Halloween doom, the Chiefs reverted to the team you can never fully trust, and the rest of the NFL can only shake its collective neckless head in wonderment at the power of the old American Football League.
Because that, ultimately, is what this was – a game out of time. This was a throwback game, all the way back to the mid- to late-60s, when the Raiders and Chiefs hated each other not out of historical duty but out of genuine solar-generated animosity. When they both played as though their cars were being looted in the parking lot, and when 750-yard combined passing nights were actually not that unusual. They were hell-bent then, and Thursday showed that they still have that bent in their DNA even now.
This was that era, played out in a way that old Raider and Chiefs fans can tell their grandchildren, “Now you’re sitting there scratching your head and all, but I’m telling you that used to happen all the time. You think Marcus Peters was bad? Google Ben Davidson on Len Dawson, little Tad.”
And it ended the only way it could for the good of the rivalry – with Oakland winning, and in the most staggeringly improbable way.
Not because the Raiders are more noble human beings or a superior life form from a time long ago, but because that December 10 game needs to mean something. The Raiders needed to win Thursday because losing meant their playoff hopes would be deservedly dead, and their remaining nine games would be reduced to competitive afterthoughts, and the year would be reduced to wondering why what should have been never came close to happening.
And the Chiefs needed to lose because running away with a division this difficult just seems wrong. There is nothing that says Kansas City isn’t better than Denver, or Oakland or the Fightin’ StubHubs, but it shouldn’t be this easy. The Patriots may have eaten the AFC East and spit the bones into a dumpster long ago, but the AFC West clung harder to its AFL roots than the East ever did.
And Thursday was the evidence required to show that, at least for the Chiefs and Raiders, the old days can be recreated with a keen eye for the most malevolent details and the most bizarre turns of fortune.
Call it nostalgia on crank – seemingly the only thing we have left that can bond the generations in these otherwise mean-spirited days.