For last week's home game against the San Diego Chargers, the Raiders used a bat as motivation. The theme was "Bring the wood" and at pregame they used this blue bat as a symbol to motivate them to beat the Chargers.
The symbol of a bat went along with the fact that they were forced to play at night due to the Oakland A's playoff series which had a night game the day before.
In the locker room following the game, there was a white board which featured the words "SDC Bring the wood" and written around it in various handwriting were different statements such as "Does this define us?", "How hungry are you?", and "Let's go!"
Then prior to the team coming out the tunnel onto the partial dirt baseball field at O.co coliseum, Marcel Reece held up the bat and preached to the team as they converged around and touched the bat. The Raiders took that energy and played inspired football to defeat the rival Chargers 27-17.
The use of symbolism continues this week as the wide receivers and defensive backs have received a challenge in the form of boxing gloves hanging in their lockers along with a note that says "Will you fight at the line of scrimmage this week?"
One of the criticisms the Raiders defensive backs have received this season is allowing too much of a cushion to receivers and not proficiently jamming them at the line of scrimmage. The Chiefs have a methodical approach to their passing game that involves a lot of timing routes. It's an area in which Alex Smith thrives. Disrupt that timing, disrupt their passing attack.
Earlier this season Dennis Allen challenged rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden to get more physical.
"I'd like to see him be more aggressive," Allen said of Hayden following the Raiders week 3 loss to the Broncos. "I think as the plays begin to come his way and he begins to make a few more plays, I think you'll see that confidence and aggressiveness come out a little bit more. You see it at times, but that's really the challenge I have for him is to have that confidence in himself and be a little bit more aggressive as a football player."
That challenge continues for Hayden and he says the bump and run has been a point of emphasis for him.
"That is something that I'm trying to get down right now," Hayden told ESPN's Paul Gutierrez. "In college, you can't use your hands that much. But in the NFL you make your job a lot easier if you do."
Hayden had his first interception and made a few nice plays last week in the win over the Chargers but his primary assignment, Keenan Allen, still managed to catch six passes for 115 yards and a touchdown -- three of which for 65 yards came with Hayden in coverage.
Not to pick on Hayden, though. His fellow corners, Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter, had their issues as well. Overall there is too much cushion being given at the line of scrimmage and not enough contact being made within the 5 yards allowed for such contact.
The Chiefs defense is very physical and the Raiders' receivers must be aggressive in trying to keep from being jammed at the line themselves. The Raiders will also be relying on Terrelle Pryor's athleticism as well as attempting to get their running backs in open space. That requires the wide receivers to block their defenders.
This is something Rod Streater has done very well but Denarius Moore continues to work at. Of late he has shown improvements in that area but at 6-0, 190 pounds, it's not quite as easy for him as it is for the 6-3, 200 pound Streater.
The gauntlet has literally been laid down for the Raiders wide receivers and corners this week. We'll see how they respond on Sunday in the heated and crucial Kansas City game.