October 22, 1996 in Sports

In The Afc West, Chiefs Most Feared

John Clayton Tacoma News-Tribune
 

For decades, the Raiders - whether they were in Oakland or Los Angeles - preached the gospel of intimidation.

In the nasty old days, the Raiders were known for the clothesline tackle, the eye gouge, the forearm shiver, stomach punches, you name it. Raiders boss Al Davis knew football is a nasty game and everything is legal unless the officials declare otherwise. Just win, baby. That’s Davis’ motto.

And the Raiders won.

They also intimidated. And they had an image, reinforced with the notion that while it might cost them 100 yards in penalties that was OK as long as they won.

But something amazing is going on in the AFC West. The Raiders still rank among the league’s most penalized teams (622 yards following Monday night’s game in San Diego), but they aren’t the most hated or the most intimidating. The new AFC West king of intimidation is the Kansas City Chiefs. Playing them anymore is a weekly war.

The Seattle Seahawks learned a lesson about the Chiefs on Thursday night. Though they weren’t intimidated, they were whipped, 34-16. Chiefs tactics not only affected the heads of Seahawks players but also served notice for the future that they better fight smart or they’ll continue to be the division’s No. 1 punching bag.

“I’m not going to sit here and call them dirty just because of what they did to us,” cornerback Carlton Gray said. “They are a real, real physical team. They play on the brink.”

Actually, they’ve been doing that for some time. Chiefs wide receivers block at the knees of safeties and linebackers. Defenders call those plays cheap shots. The receivers say it’s good football. Chiefs cornerbacks mug receivers as they run down the field.

Before their first meeting against the Chiefs, Seattle offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski used boxing gloves to give his receivers a preview of what abuse they’d take in games against the Chiefs.

What upsets the Seahawks and the other teams in the division is the Chiefs get away with what they call “dirty” tactics. But as Davis said, it’s legal unless the official declare otherwise. Only eight teams in the NFL entered Week Eight with fewer penalty yards than the Chiefs.

“I’ve never seen a team get away with the stuff that they did,” Seahawks wide receiver Mike Pritchard said. “Chris Penn went for Winston Moss’ knee and could have blown out the knee. Moss was ejected and Penn didn’t get flagged. Neil Smith (Chiefs defensive end) attacked Christian Fauria after a play was over, but he doesn’t get a call.”

Several Seahawks players and many other division opponents believe those calls against the Chiefs will never come - in part because their coach, Marty Schottenheimer, is well-respected around the league and is on the Competition Committee that handles rule changes.

Yet some believe Schottenheimer’s teams of late have crossed the line. Maybe those are sour grapes. And in many ways, those detractors are playing into Schottenheimer’s hands because they are worried more about what the officials are doing instead of their offensive and defensive execution.

For example, Seahawks players thought it was inexcusable that halfback Marcus Allen wasn’t flagged for punching strong safety Robert Blackmon along the sideline after cornerback Corey Harris slammed into Allen out of bounds.

Allen has always been quick with his fists. He’s one of the league’s top competitors. He fights smart, but he fights, and he usually ends up on the winning side.

Though the punches were evenly distributed Thursday night, the 118-70 penalty-yardage difference was the result of five defensive offsides and three offensive false starts. Those were just dumb penalties. That’s being distracted.

And if the officials had a problem with the way the Chiefs have played, you’d see more flags. What will be interesting, though, is to see how the league office will review tapes of the debacle. The Chiefs won the game, but the timing could affect them in later games.

The commissioner’s office is very sensitive about violence problems in the game.

The game Thursday puts the Chiefs under more of a microscope. We’ll see if their penalty numbers increase or their fines accumulate. One thing won’t change, though. The Chiefs have become the intimidators in this division.

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