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SPORTS WEEKEND | AROUND THE AFC / WEST

Raiders Head for Cover

September 01, 2000|HOUSTON MITCHELL

The Oakland Raiders can run. Having added Andre Rison, they should be able to catch the ball. They not only led the league in defense against the rush, their first team gave up 1.07 yards a carry in the first quarter of four exhibition games. Still to be answered: Can they stop the pass?

In the first exhibition game, they couldn't coordinate their coverage. In the next three, they did much better, although that was against Stoney Case, Cory Sauter, Jon Kitna and Brock Huard. They busted loose for seven sacks against Seattle. Everybody got into the act except their best sacker, Lance Johnstone, who sat out the game. But Seattle has offensive line problems and perhaps not too much should be deduced from that.

The Raiders can probably survive the opener against San Diego, but in Week 2 they face Indianapolis and Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.

"We have work to do," Coach Jon Gruden said. "We have a long way to go before we can say this football team is truly ready. We have a lot of players playing together on the defense for the first time."

Sunday's game against the Colts will be an emotional one for the Kansas City Chiefs--their first in the regular season without Derrick Thomas, who died last winter after a car accident.

Denver may be the favorite in the bunched West. Brian Griese seems to have settled in at quarterback, Terrell Davis is back and John Elway memories are growing more distant.

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