I will warn you out the gates that you may find last week's Ballers & Busters after the win over the Chargers to be far more pleasant than this week's incarnation. All was not lost, however. The Raiders made a game of it against the undefeated Chiefs on their home field.
The Raiders scored first to go up 7-0 and though the Chiefs tied the game and went ahead by a touchdown at the end of the third, the game was still very much within reach heading into the fourth quarter.
It was a defensive effort through much of this game which meant whichever team cracked would lose. It was the Raiders who cracked in the end and what was once a hard fought game, ran away with them in the end. Before we get to those who faltered, we start with those who kept it interesting.
A week after being named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, C Wood is Top Baller. Every play he made was a big one. As a defensive back, you don't want to see a lot of him. So often times, no news is good news. In that regard, it's important to note, he didn't give up a catch. His news was headlines starting with a fumble recovery. D.J. Hayden forced it with the Chiefs knocking on the door at the Raiders 10-yard line with the score tied at 7-7 in the third quarter. Woodson scooped it up and the Chiefs went without any points on one of their few successful drives.
To start the fourth quarter, the Chiefs were up 14-7 and the Raiders needed a stop. Woodson helped give it to them when on third and seven he stopped a catch for one yard to force a three and out. Later in the fourth quarter, he forced a fumble but the ball bounced out of bounds. Alex Smith completed just 2 passes that went over ten yards in the air and Woodson's coverage had a lot to do with that.
Yes, two defensive backs go one and two in the Ballers this week. The stat that jumps out at you about Porter in this game is he didn't give up a single catch on four targets his way. His first target fell incomplete with him in tight coverage to force the Chiefs to punt on their first drive. The next drive, he showed his prowess in the run game with a tackle for a loss of two. He saw targets two and three on the next drive resulting in a pass defended and a coverage incompletion on consecutive plays. The Raiders got a sack on third and long on the next play to force a third punt to start the game. Alex Smith learned his lesson and targeted Porter's assignment just one more time the rest of the game for another incompletion. But that didn't stop Porter from finishing tied for third on the team with 5 solo tackles.
He just keeps doing it week after week. It's called consistency. Just a few weeks ago it didn't seem likely I would ever say that about Denarius. But here we are. He had the first catch of the day for 16 yards on the Raiders' second possession. Then come the second quarter, the Raiders were on the move with another catch by Denarius, this time for 12 yards, and the drive was capped by a 35-yard catch and run by Denarius for the Raiders only touchdown on the day and a 7-0 Raiders lead. The Raiders' offense couldn't really get out of its own way after that but Denarius still finished with 5 catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Walker has put together a couple of good games in a row now and looks to be finding his niche with this Raiders defense. He had a run stuff on the first drive, a pressure resulting in an incompletion on the second drive, and a sack to end the Chiefs' third drive. He later had another pressure to hit Alex Smith as he threw for an incompletion. He was tied for second on the team with 5 solo tackles. He also had the sack, a tackle for loss, and two quarterback hurries.
It's safe to say King is now consistent with his punts. They almost always travel 50+ yards downfield with some good hang time. But it wouldn't mean much without a good gunner. And ahat a weapon Taiwan Jones has become on special teams coverage. Every single punt, he is a good five, ten yards ahead of the rest of the team down the field and often times makes the gunner tackle on the play. King averaged nearly 52 yards per punt despite punting another touchback with a 30-yard net. His net yard average of 45.3 was even more impressive. That's where Taiwan Jones comes in. He made the tackle on three of seven returnable punts. King's biggest punt of the day came as the first half came to a close. It went 64 yards in the air and Taiwan streaked downfield to stop it for just a nine-yard return. He got an assist on the next punt return tackle that traveled 50 yards in the air and then had a solo gunner tackle again on another 50-yard punt at the end of the third quarter. There was a time in which the roster status of both these guys was in doubt. They have both defied the odds and have become quite a special teams duo.
Matt McCants - It's difficult to put an offensive lineman among the Ballers with the overall performance of this group on Sunday. But despite popular perception, McCants actually had a really good game. He wasn't supposed to play in this game Tony Pashos went out injured early and it was McCants to the rescue. Believe it or not, he played 44 snaps and gave up just one quarterback hurry. And that was against a very good Chiefs' pass rush.
Based on the Chiefs first touchdown drive, things weren't looking good for Hayden. He missed a tackle on a screen on the first play which resulted in a 14-yard gain. Then he gave up a 17-yard catch on the next play. A few plays later, the Chiefs were in first and goal at the 7-yard line thanks to his being called for pass interference. But in the second quarter he began to atone for his those mistakes when he forced a fumble with the Chiefs in scoring position at the 8-yard line. Later, he came in for punt return duties and had the best return of the day of 22 yards. He also didn't give up another catch the rest of the game.