Analysis

Reaction: Raiders week was too close for comfort

Just when the defense was beginning to look reliable, Las Vegas poked holes all over the secondary, and once again KC’s offense was forced to clean up the mess.

Wow. There’s not much else to say at the end of Sunday’s final game of the day between Kansas City and Las Vegas. Sunday’s game was the first of many to be held in Vegas’ new luxurious home, Allegiant Stadium, and although the Chiefs came away with the victory, it’s hard to put together something positive about the Chiefs defense.

After a first half riddled with dropped passes, blown coverages, and absolutely zero pass rush on Derek Carr, the Chiefs were lucky to only be down three, and not seven at the half. The defense, which was averaging 2.1 sacks/game and just under three tackles for a loss/game coming into week 11, seemed unable to affect Derek Carr’s pocket except for one play before halftime which still ended in a first down to Waller.

Just one of the few times during the game that the Chiefs actually touched Carr in his own backfield, and he still completed a pass for 18 yards to his TE Waller.

Not only did the Chiefs defense give up 364 yards of offense to their arch-rivals but they allowed Derek Carr to go un-sacked (and basically untouched) throughout the entire game–only the third time that his offensive line can boast that statistic this season. One of the many reasons that Carr and Las Vegas were able to gain so much yardage was due, in large part, to a plethora of missed tackles by defensive players that, until today, were rather reliable:

A huge missed tackle by Daniel Sorenson ends in a first down on a drive that would end in a wide open touchdown to Darren Waller five plays later

For this Chiefs defense, a squad that had 15 turnovers heading into Raider week, the main resolve lied in the secondary and their ability to read the offense before the snap but Carr and Coach Gruden obviously planned for this and found the best way to stifle that resolve: audibles galore.

“James Harden”, “Mamba Georgia”, and “Purple Walrus” were just some of the many kooky names for plays that Carr called at the line of scrimmage–most of which ending in positive yardage for the Raiders–exposing a possible recipe for other teams to carbon copy when playing us in the future.

One of the many different audibles Carr called at the line, this one ending in positive yardage for Josh Jacobs

Defense aside, the Chiefs’ offense relied heavily on check-downs, screens, and the occasional trick play rather than their normal “air-it-out” style of offense where players like Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman thrive off of Mahomes’ ability to seamlessly throw it downfield. This could be in large part to the amount of pressure that was applied by the Raiders front four, especially Raiders star Maxx Crosby, and the absence of Mitchell Schwartz on the right side of the line.

Although the game ended with ZERO sacks for either team, the Raiders did accomplish something that no other team in the league has been able to do: intercept a pass thrown by Patrick Mahomes. Even though it was only his second interception of the season–which is still the best in the league among starters–it was against the same team that recorded the only other pick thrown by him this season (so prepare for Raiders fans to brag about that for the rest of the season or until Mahomes throws another one).

A late throw by Mahomes to a poorly run route by Demarcus Robinson ends any Chiefs chance at scoring before the end of the first half.

Other than KC’s game-winning drive the Chiefs play-calling resembled an Andy Reid offense from before Mahomes’ tenure as quarterback: methodically driving down the field, chewing up clock with a healthy mixture of running plays and passing plays of 15 or less yards. The big-play threat never seemed to manifest itself even though the Chiefs consistently found the Raiders playing cover zero and man defense, instead they found success in the run game with over 100 yards and three TDs coming on the ground, one of which being Le’Veon Bell’s first touchdown as a Chief.

Although there was not much to write home about regarding this game it still ended in a victory over a divisional opponent, giving KC a little more breathing room at the top of the AFC West, and it did so thanks to Patrick Mahomes on a two-minute drill (what else is new, right?), marching meticulously down the field in a fashion that seemed all too familiar to fans of the Chiefs who watched any postseason game last year.

After being forced out of the pocket Mahomes finds a wide-open Kelce in the endzone for the go-ahead TD that would eventually be the finishing dagger to Carr and the Raiders.

Even though it may seem like I have done nothing but rip on the Chiefs play-calling and defensive pressure tonight there were a few silver linings that came with this game other than the addition of another game in the W column.

  • L’Jarius Sneed and his collarbone looked healthy, and although it appeared he and Chris Jones got into a verbal altercation after the Waller touchdown he still looks like a bright spot in the secondary.
  • Mahomes continues to look cool-as-a-cucumber even when pressure is being brought and especially when he’s down within the last two minutes. Reid and Mahomes also showed that they don’t have to rely on the long ball. Instead, they showed they can drag out the clock with designed runs and screens too.
  • The defense looked tired by the end of the game even though the Chiefs had 6 more minutes of possession, although they seemed tired and had played poorly they did not give up, and with the addition of Deandre Baker not even coming to fruition on the field yet, it leaves a lot to the imagination once playoffs begin.
  • Le’Veon Bell looked revitalized and excited to play, much like the old version of himself that seemed to personally destroy the Chiefs every time he played against them as a Steeler. If the Chief’s offense stays on the methodical path that they seemed to walk on tonight it looks like Bell’s style of play could have a huge impact in future games.
  • And last but not least: you can always rely on Travis Kelce–that you can take to the bank.

This game was an ugly win, something that not many fans or analysts saw coming after a bye week and a slew of heated conversations about victory laps leading up to the match in Vegas. This is the kind of unseemly victory that Andy Reid is great at analyzing and tweaking over the course of the season, and that is one of the main reasons that not one single person should feel that the Chiefs Super Bowl contention should ever be in question.

Overall, a win is a win and the Chiefs now have full control of their destiny on their way to contentious Tampa Bay next week.

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