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Raiders' Defense Put to Test

October 16, 2005|From Associated Press

OAKLAND — Football coaches have preached the importance of stopping the run ever since the days when George Halas and Curly Lambeau roamed the sidelines in the 1920s.

For the Oakland Raiders, that's been a particularly sharp focus so far this season, considering the run of talented backs they have had to face.

Corey Dillon. Priest Holmes. Brian Westbrook. Julius Jones. And now perhaps the toughest one yet, San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson.

"He's the best running back in the league. But every week we've had to face great backs," Raiders linebacker Kirk Morrison said, rattling off the names. "Every week we've been tested and this will probably be the biggest test for us. He's really elusive and can hit the home run. That's how it is with him. When he touches the ball, he can take it the distance."

Oakland (1-3) has handled the challenge well so far this season, not allowing a 100-yard rushing performance by any back and giving up 3.4 yards per carry, sixth best in the NFL.

Run defense has been one of the biggest areas of improvement this season for the Raiders, who switched to a predominant four-man front this year to better take advantage of the skills of linemen such as Warren Sapp.

But Tomlinson and the Chargers (2-3) offer a steep challenge. He is averaging 102.4 yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry this season. He has run for a touchdown in an NFL-record 17 straight games, is a threat catching the ball and has even thrown a touchdown pass.

Tomlinson has been especially prolific against Oakland, averaging 146 yards rushing in his last six meetings with the Raiders and scoring eight touchdowns in that span.

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