Andria’s Analysis this week looks at what was meant to be but never was, and how the Raiders approach their toughest contest yet Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Week 6 has come and gone, but unfortunately, it was not without incident. What should have been an easy win, or at least A WIN. The Raiders welcomed division rival LA Chargers to the Black Hole in anticipation of breaking the 3-game losing streak. Instead, an early interception and a late lobbed snap by long snapper Jon Condo led Oakland to the fourth loss this season.
The week had its ups and downs, with Marshawn Lynch producing his longest run this season at 15 yards. Michael Crabtree caught his fifth touchdown pass on the season. All good signs that the Raiders could be on an upswing. Then the Chargers started driving and the defense failed to adjust.
For some reason unbeknownst to me, Karl Joseph was assigned to cover Hunter Henry, which he is not equipped to do. Henry stands 6’5″ and weighs 250 pounds. Next to Joseph, he’s a monster. While Joseph is a special talent, there’s no way to mitigate that size difference. On that drive, Joseph dropped his assignment and Hunter Henry was wide open, leading to the field position and the game-winning field goal.
Since the Raiders don’t have an answer for tight ends at the moment, their players have to stand in places that they’re not equipped to stand and games will continue to end the way this one did. Until they have those physical 1st and 2nd round draft picks, this will be a weekly problem, especially given the opponents that Oakland will face in the coming weeks.
Kansas City, New England, Dallas and Philadelphia all have strong, play-making tight ends that can run through a secondary like a semi through a wooden fence. All are primary receivers on their teams and if Oakland has no coverage for men of that size with that skill level, the season will continue to degrade instead of seeing a return to greatness.
Looking forward to Kansas City
One of those tight ends will be hitting the Raiders early and often. Travis Kelce has a history of committing tight end on cornerback violence year after year, and the Raiders have been perennial victims. Alex Smith looks like a different quarterback than he ever has. Even though it took him 13 years, he’s been able to dig deep and find an elite passer somewhere under the game manager. How long that lasts will remain to be seen, but at the moment, Smith is the man in the MVP conversation.
The game will be in Oakland, which would indicate an advantage for the home team, but lately, the Raiders haven’t proven that the home field advantage means much. So what do they have to lose? Not much at this point. If the game goes as expected, they’ll lose to the current NFL leaders and move on with their day.
But if the remarkable should happen, the Raiders could save some face here. Full bore from kickoff to closing, Jack Del Rio can take this team back to relevance. Covering tight ends, neutralizing the run game and that current rookie of the year leader Kareem Hunt, and the offense hitting plays like they’re able to do means that the Raiders may have an opportunity here.
Probably one of the most important tasks, offensive coordinator Todd Downing must make sure he doesn’t follow in his predecessor’s footsteps and fall into KC’s defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s trap. He needs to focus on the basics of football, where the Raiders can thrive but sorely need to recall. Kansas City is playing a college-style Mountain West offense, which seems so simple but has flummoxed their opponents all season long.
Back to basics. College ball works for a reason and the Raiders have the ability to compete. Any team does. Oakland has the personnel for standard play-calling and they have the instinct to be able to beat this team at their own game. Just remember, coaches: play smarter, not harder. A concept that’s been missing from the sidelines.
In this, the most “Any Given Sunday” season in the NFL in recent memory, it’s safe to assume that you should never count a team out until the game is over.