Chiefs pick off Raiders for fifth straight time Marinovich throws 4 INTs in 10-6 loss

December 29, 1991|By Thomas George | Thomas George,New York Times News Service

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs were ready for Todd Marinovich this time. They switched a new person into the "lurk" position in the secondary, and the choice was safety Deron Cherry, a guy who had been around the league 10 years longer and was 9 years older than Marinovich, the Los Angeles Raiders' rookie quarterback.

"I think he kept losing me in his picture," said Cherry, 32, who surfaced as the Chiefs' special defensive weapon and had two of the Chiefs' four interceptions of Marinovich, as Kansas City edged the Raiders, 10-6, yesterday in an AFC wild-card playoff game before 75,827 fans at Arrowhead Stadium.

If the Houston Oilers beat the New York Jets today, Kansas City (11-6) would play next at Buffalo. The Chiefs would play at Denver if the Jets beat Houston.

The Raiders ended the regular season with a 9-7 record by losing to the Chiefs last week in Los Angeles. The loss yesterday was their fourth in a row overall, their third to the Chiefs in 1991 and their fifth straight overall to Kansas City.

It was the Chiefs' first playoff victory in almost 22 years, since they beat the Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl IV in January 1970.

Yesterday, the Chiefs used a new formula to gain an old result.

Despite the Raiders' 27-21 loss the week before last, Marinovich, playing in his first pro game, had sparkled, starting for injured quarterback Jay Schroeder and throwing three touchdown passes. Kansas City knew little about him other than his reputation as a passer at Southern California, which he left after his sophomore year.

For the rematch yesterday, the Chiefs moved Cherry into the "lurk" position, the slot in the secondary where a defensive back roams near the middle of the field, reads the quarterback's eyes and breaks toward passes, attempting to make big plays.

"The design of the defense today was to read the quarterback's eyes and give him an awful lot of looks, to confuse him," said Bill Cowher, the Chiefs' defensive coordinator.

"Young quarterbacks have a lot of problems with a mixture of zones. We wanted him to have to make several choices and in a hurry. We were bump-and-run and aggressive on the outside and lurking in the middle with Deron. It was a completely different defense than what Marinovich had seen from us last week.

"Lloyd Burruss [Maryland] had played the lurk position this season and so had Kevin Porter, but we thought we'd switch that up, too, with Deron. Deron has great instincts for the football, and after the way he played today, maybe it's a move we should have made earlier this season. But there was not better time for it than in the playoffs."

Marinovich said: "Cherry came down and had a great scheme. He comes down the middle and picks which side to read and either doubles the receiver or the tight end.

"The thing about it is his two picks were not a factor at the end of the game. We still could have gone down and won. Their defense is better on turf than they are on grass. They're a little quicker here."

Kansas City led by 7-3 at halftime but went into the locker room disappointed over several lost chances.

The usually sure-footed Kansas City kicker, Nick Lowery, missed on field goals from 33 yards and 47 yards in the first half. Cherry's second interception -- at the Raiders' 11 with 5 minutes, 12 seconds left in the half -- set up Steve DeBerg's 11-yard scoring pass to receiver Fred Jones.

Strong Nick Bell runs of 16, 14 and 7 yards helped the Raiders drive 65 yards for a 32-yard Jeff Jaeger field goal with 26 seconds left in the half.

The Raiders took the opening kickoff in the second half and marched 62 yards in 11 plays for another Jaeger field goal, this one from 26 yards, to trim the Chiefs lead to 7-6. Kansas City looked as if its defense was in trouble.

It was losing several starters to injuries for series of plays and then lost All-Pro linebacker Derrick Thomas for the entire second half.

Thomas, who had taken a cold medicine before the game, was found to have a rapid heartbeat and was taken to a nearby hospital for observation. Reports from the hospital after the game indicated Thomas was in good condition and was not suffering from any heart ailment.

Kansas City answered Jaager's second field goal with a drive that ended at the Raiders' 1 when Lowery hit an 18-yarder, making the score 10-6 with 10:26 left.

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