Editor’s note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Chiefs matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m., at Arrowhead Stadium.
Raiders RB Latavius Murray vs. Chiefs NT Dontari Poe
Tale of the tape:
Poe (92): 6-foot-3, 346 pounds, third season, Memphis
Murray (28): 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, second season, Central Florida
Raiders running back Latavius Murray’s breakout game came against the Kansas City Chiefs. He had 112 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries before being concussed.
Murray was the feature back in his next game healthy -– he missed a week with a concussion –- and was a solid producer in a victory over the 49ers. His runs weren’t sexy, but he found a way to churn out yards in a way other Raiders backs have not.
He earned 76 yards on 23 carries, a 3.3 yard average that felt better than it reads against the No. 7-ranked run defense.
“He’s a guy who’s really active in the hole with his feet and he’s not a guy that gets arm tackled a lot down there along his ankles,” interim head coach Tony Sparano said. "He can pick his feet up and get through some things at times and he leans forward. So I mean, he’s a big back that leans forward. So the two-yard runs end up being four-yard runs. The four-yard runs end up being six-yard runs because the way this guy leans.”
[BAIR: Raiders-Chiefs Matchup No. 3: Woodson vs. Smith]
Murray’s also dangerous in space. Kansas City defensive linemen like nose tackle Dontari Poe try to ensure he doesn’t get there. Poe is excellent at clogging lanes, with a rare combination of power and speed to make plays in the backfield from the interior line. He ranks among the toughest tackles to corral, something the offensive line must handle to give Murray room to run.
The Raiders have tremendous respect for a player with 39 tackles, five sacks, three other tackles for losses and seven quarterback pressures. Poe feels the same about Murray.
“Yeah, he’s real good -– fast, explosive, finds the hole real well,” Poe said. "We’ve got to kind of put a hat on him and then try to keep him out of rushing lanes.”
Poe is a solid player, and the Chiefs pass rush has been solid, the run defense has been lackluster. They rank 31st with 136.8 yards per game, with over five yards per carry. Murray is the only player to rush for a touchdown this season. They’ve struggled in particular lately, with 184.5 rushing yards per game over the past four contests.
“Those guys up front, it’s a tough group of guys,” Murray said. “We have a challenge up for us up there and the overall defense in general. We’re up for the challenge. We know that they’re going to be ready to go, especially with what happened a couple of weeks ago here. Again, we’re excited for the opportunity.”