Despite the misreading of sarcasm from Las Vegas defensive coordinator Paul Guenther on Thursday, the coach and his Raiders defense will be ready for the team’s big matchup against Kansas City on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.
Las Vegas Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way with his recent comments about his current depth chart. Is Guenther expressing doubt, or is he playing mind tricks with the media? Does he really think the Raiders defense can’t win?
“I don’t know how we can beat these guys with a full lineup at practice let alone with three-quarters of your lineup not being here all week,” Guenther told the media Thursday.
Relax Raider Nation, it wasn’t a literal statement.
Early on in the season, many perceived Guenther to be in over his head and incapable of doing his job with the Raiders defense. He didn’t inspire much confidence outside of his locker room. Lately, his defense has been producing and nobody has been complaining.
What Has Guenther Done Lately?
Since getting blown out by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and getting torched for 45 points, Guenther has turned a corner. Over the last three games, the Raiders defense has allowed only 44 points – an average of 14.6 points a game. The halftime adjustments have been magnificent aided by an offense winning the time of possession battle. Defensively, the Raiders have allowed only 18 combined second-half points in wins against the Los Angeles Chargers, Cleveland Browns, and Denver Broncos.
A mixture of scheme tweaks, and coaching to the abilities of the players, the Raiders are now winning at the point of attack. An increase in the blitzing attack has resulted in generating pressure. It hasn’t lead to a huge amount of sacks (4), but the Raiders have produced 14 quarterback hits in the last two games. In the last three games passing touchdowns (3) are down, and turnovers (6) have come in bunches.
Are the Raiders in the Heads of the Chiefs?
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid went on the attack in the media with a passive-aggressive mountain of shade. Bringing up the Raiders taking a victory lap around Arrowhead Stadium after a 40-32 win in Week 5, the Chiefs only loss this season.
In the second half of their first matchup, the Chiefs only scored eight points against the Raiders defense. Las Vegas and Guenther completely dominated them as Patrick Mahomes was a complete pedestrian. With the injury to Kelechi Osemele, Mahomes was left running for his life. Stymied by a mix of man and zone coverage with a spy, the Raiders brought the high-flying Chiefs down to earth.
After being held to 80 yards rushing as a team by the Raiders, the Chiefs signed Le’Veon Bell to bolster their rushing attack. Despite a nice rookie season by Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and the addition of Bell, the Chiefs have only cracked 100 rushing yards twice in their last six tries. In two of the last five games against the Raiders, the Chiefs have eclipsed the 100-yard rushing yard marker.
Reid is coaching his team hard, meaning he is working overtime to find every possible way to motivate them. Revenge is a dish best served cold and Reid is 18-3 coming out of the bye. With two weeks to prepare, and what could possibly amount to the AFC West division on the line, Reid is generating bulletin board material.
Spinning 360 degrees
One positive COVID-19 test has relegated most of Guenther’s starting defensive depth to the COVID-19/Injured Reserved list. He has every reason in the world to be apprehensive about facing the sleeping cyclops they awoken by beating them at their own game. With the stakes being the highest they’ve been in years and a revival of good old fashioned hate in the Raiders vs Chiefs rivalry, the Raiders defense will play a central role in the outcome.
As if that wasn’t enough, if they are able to clear protocol in time for the game, the Raiders defense, without its starters, will be forced to take the field without having practiced all week. Reid, Mahomes, and the rest of the Chiefs team is frothing at the mouth with nothing but absolute destruction of the Raiders on their minds. For the last two weeks, this game has been circled on their calendars.
Whether he has all of his guys or a team of backups and practice squad players, Guenther and the Raiders defense will be front and center. It was already a big task prior to another week filled with COVID-19 shenanigans.
The Raiders defense will be ready, as of Thursday, only Clelin Ferrell has tested positive. Should that remain the case, only Ferrell will not be playing. Lead by Johnathan Abram and Nick Kwiatkoski, this young defense is gelling and making plays.
Paul Guenther’s Raiders defense is playing with a lot of confidence, they’re a better squad, and they don’t fear the Chiefs.
That’s half the battle.