For one magical quarter in Oakland, the Raiders could do no wrong on defense. Big boy football looked to rule the day and the Raiders were controlling the clock.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes proved while the Raiders have improved this season, they still aren’t ready to be dethroned quite yet.
Held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time in 22 straight games, the Raiders defensive gameplan and execution was stellar for 15 minutes. Then, Reid dialed up a press coverage beating play. Spreading the Raiders out to the max, the offense freed up a wide receiver with the speed to get vertical.
Mahomes lit up the Raiders for 278 yards and four touchdowns in 9:10 of possession in the second quarter alone. After the first touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson, it was as though the Raiders secondary opened the floodgates trying to save the dam from bursting. Surrendering touchdown passes to Robinson of 44 yards and 42 yards, Mecole Hardman for 42 yards, and Travis Kelce for 27 yards.
How the defense faltered
We can sit here and say, “the Raiders defenders are awful,” but the reality is the Chiefs are damn good. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther took heed to the example set by Jacksonville and elected to press the wide receivers and not give them a free release. For the most part it worked, but the difference between winning and losing in the NFL is a few plays.
On the first touchdown, a running back in motion froze the linebacker and broke down the coverage communication. Robinson was running by himself for the entire play until getting grabbed by Gareon Conley on his way into the end zone.
The second touchdown was part of a 14 play 95 yard drive eclipsing 6:32 seconds of possession. Hardman finished it off with a fantastic route. Taking a beautiful fake step towards a corner route, he caused safety Curtis Riley to take a step towards the sideline, opening up the middle of the field. Hardman then cut back towards the soft spot in the deep Cover 2 Zone in between both safeties on a post route, catching a pristinely placed ball and running into the end zone untouched.
On the third touchdown pass, Kelce burned Karl Joseph off the line and never let him get closer than a step, easily catching the pass and scoring. This exercise in futility is bordering on insanity for Guenther and the Raiders defense.
Every week you see Joseph isolated on tight ends, is a week someone’s fantasy team gets a big boost from that position. In reality, he has been less of a rangy free safety in the NFL and more of a box safety. A great blitzer and solid in the run game, Joseph’s main weakness at this level consists of awareness and man coverage on bigger players. This has been an issue and will continue to be an issue for the Raiders.
Last but definitely not least, was Conley doing his best impression of former Raiders first round draft pick DJ Hayden. Conley had tight coverage on Robinson. Heading into the end zone, he would have been in perfect position to intercept the pass had he just attempted to locate the football.
A back shoulder throw forced Robinson to turn, slow down, jump and reach behind Conley in order to haul it in to complete the catch. At this point, it was insult added to injury as the trajectory of the ball would have it hitting Conley square in between the two and the one of his jersey.
All in all, the Raiders defense played well for three out of four quarters. Holding the Chiefs under 30 points is nothing to sneeze at, limiting an NFL football team to 31 yards rushing is phenomenal. Teams strive for making opponents one dimensional, it just so happens that the Chiefs passing attack is the best in the business.
Benson Mayowa added a sack and a half to his conference leading total giving him 3.5 on the year. Mayowa also forced his second fumble of the season bringing a Chiefs scoring drive to a screeching halt on the first possession of the second half.
Conley and Keisean Nixon both had opportunities to pick off Mahomes if they had simply looked for the ball. Conley let another Mahomes pass bounce off his hands early in the game when covering Sammy Watkins. The defense was in position to make plays and for the majority of the game, they did.
While the final score was relatively one-sided and the second quarter was marred in disaster, what it really came down to was speed. The Raiders team speed has improved but they still aren’t in the same category as the Chiefs when it comes to running.