To slow Chiefs, Raiders may need to go off script

Published: Friday, Oct. 11, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 7C

ALAMEDA – Oakland's Kevin Burnett isn't sure yet what the Raiders will try to do to slow down the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs this week.

It might not matter what the plan is the way the Chiefs have played while winning their first five games.

That's why even as he buried himself in the film room trying to find an edge, Burnett realized the Raiders will likely have to go off script if they're going to give Kansas City its first loss of the season.

"Nobody's (stopped the Chiefs) so far," Burnett said Thursday. "We're going into uncharted waters. You want to go execute your game plan, but everybody's game plan works on the practice field. It's not until Sunday when you see whether it works or not."

Part of Oakland's offseason defensive makeover, Burnett is sometimes at his best when freelancing on the field.

The ninth-year outside linebacker had 14 tackles in last week's win over San Diego, including a stuff of Chargers running back Danny Woodhead on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1-yard line. He also forced a fumble that safety Charles Woodson returned for a touchdown.

"He plays the game fast, and he's instinctive," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "When you play this game fast and you play this game instinctively, you're going to make a lot of plays. We're going to continue to put him in a position where he can do that for us."

Jets – Cornerback Antonio Cromartie injured a knee during practice, and his status for New York's game against Pittsburgh on Sunday is uncertain.

Cromartie, the Jets' top cornerback, went down Thursday during the portion of practice the media are not permitted to watch. He was listed on the team's injury list as limited with hip and knee ailments after participating fully Wednesday – with just the hip mentioned on the report. first reported the knee injury Thursday night. The report, citing sources, said Cromartie was taken for an MRI after suffering a non-contact knee injury.

Cowboys – After being lit up through the air by the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos the past two weeks, the Dallas Cowboys must prepare to stop the run in Sunday night's game against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium.

To do that, they must be ready for quarterback Robert Griffin III and the zone read as well as conventional runs from running back Alfred Morris.

Coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys spent extra time this offseason preparing for the zone read, which gives the quarterback an option to read the defense and either run or hand off.

"Like most teams in the NFL, we worked on it because teams are using this, and it was an effective tool for a few of the offenses," Garrett said of defending the zone read. "You've just got to make sure you have good answers for it.

"You can't let teams run the ball on you, and certainly you can't let the quarterback impact the game. Those two things pretty much week in and week out are things you're trying to do to stop opposing offenses."

Broncos – If Sunday's game against Jacksonville means more than most to Jack Del Rio, he's not showing it.

It is the first coaching opportunity for Denver's defensive coordinator against the team that fired him in 2011 after 81/2 seasons as its head coach.

The Jaguars have gone 4-22 since his departure.

Asked what facing Jacksonville meant to him, Del Rio said: "It's an opportunity to get our sixth win. That's really what we're after. Sunday can't get here quick enough. I feel like defensively we've got a lot of work to do."

Because of a porous pass defense, the Broncos (5-0) rank 29th overall in the NFL after Del Rio guided Denver to a No. 2 defensive ranking last season.

Bills – General manager Doug Whaley is more eager to see Jairus Byrd make his season debut this weekend than to try to project the two-time Pro Bowl safety's future in Buffalo.

Whaley said that while he is not actively shopping Byrd, the Bills would listen to offers if another team called.

"Our focus right now is Jairus getting on the field and playing the best he can for the Buffalo Bills," Whaley said. "We are not actively on the phone hammering out trying to look for a trade. By the same token, (team president) Russ Brandon would listen if someone wanted to trade."

Whaley stressed the same rule applies to any player on the roster with the NFL trading deadline approaching Oct. 29.

As for Byrd's future, Whaley didn't rule out the possibility of the Bills re-signing the fifth-year player once his one-year franchise tag expires after this season.

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