The Las Vegas Raiders played on a big stage Sunday night and most likely should have come away with the win but lost in the waning seconds to the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
In the NFL it’s rare to see teams compete for four quarters with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders battled the Chiefs for 60 minutes for the second time this season, unfortunately, the outcome was a loss. While losing is always bad, this was one loss that didn’t sting quite as much. The team played a near-flawless offensive game and had a lead with under two minutes to play. Here is my breakdown of what went down on Sunday night.
To me, this was, without a doubt, Derek Carr’s finest hour as a pro. He played nearly flawless on a night when his team needed him to be. Although his team came up short, Carr gave them every opportunity to win that game. Carr was 23-for-31 for 275 and 3 touchdowns and would have added to the stat line if not for four key drops by his receiving corps. The key to Carr’s big night was simple: confidence. He is making the right audibles when needed and making some throws under pressure that we haven’t seen from him in years. The way Carr is using his legs to create is opening up his game to a whole new level. Fans should be excited, because if this continues, the Raiders will win a ton of football games, not only this year but for years to come.
Raiders Offensive Line
This should just be the lock of the week moving forward. Again, the offensive line played a phenomenal game. Allowing no sacks against a decent pass rush. Tom Cable has got these guys playing at an extremely high level. Kolton Miller had Frank Clark locked down all night proving again that he is an elite tackle in this league. However, the biggest shock again is how good Brandon Parker is playing. Hint: it’s at an elite level. Parker was the only Raiders lineman to not allow a pressure on Sunday and continued to prove why Gruden kept him on the roster this season. The way this offense is playing, the offensive line can never have enough credit. It’s been an amazing season for the group, and it will be key to a playoff run to keep them healthy and playing at a high level.
Gruden’s Offensive Game Plan
Jon Gruden has taken some heat on his play-calling in his second tenure. As with Carr, Sunday was one of Grudens best performances. He always seemed one step ahead of the Chiefs defense and did a great job dialing up the big plays when needed. Unfortunately, a few really creative plays with Alec Ingold resulted in two drops but those plays were beautifully designed. Gruden has proven he is not stuck in the 1990s as he joked upon his hire, but I’m fact he is a top play caller in this league.
The Run Game
The Raiders run game was not good on Sunday. Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker only averaged 3.2 yards per carry on the night. Jacobs had a couple of dominating runs, including a touchdown scamper that kept them out of the ugly category. With the combination of the two not getting a ton of opportunities to run, and not being productive when they did, the Raiders left a lot to be desired in the run game. The Raiders seemed to waste their greatest advantage against KC by not running the ball effectively While it was nice the Raiders scored quickly and often, running the ball at a higher clip would have shortened this game a bit.
Raiders Offensive Weapons
The Raiders got flashes from their weapons on Sunday but did leave some plays on the field. It’s hard to criticize an offense that scored 31 points and dominated the majority of the game, but some crucial misses in the passing game helped determined the outcome of this game. The two drops by Nelson Agholor cost the Raiders some points in a game when every single point mattered. Not only the crucial drops, but the lack of involvement by rookie Henry Ruggs III is concerning. No targets in the first half of the game, and few chances late, is a slight cause for concern. The Raiders have plenty going on offense, but getting more from the WR group as a whole would be a good sight moving forward.
Abram is a player that is young and that can be frustrating at times. For every big hit he brings, he has a blown coverage or bad penalty. On Sunday this was on full display, as he had a 15-yard personal foul late in the ballgame and the major blown coverage on the game-winning Kelce touchdown. It will get better, but Abram has to tone down the energy sometimes and just make the simple plays. If he’s capable of dialing back the aggression, he will progress nicely.
The Raiders pass rush just wasn’t good enough. The team sorely missed defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell who they lost to the COVID/Reserve list. The Raiders were facing a backup right tackle and couldn’t get an ounce of push at the line. With guys crashing in and leaving Mahomes free to roam all night, it was an ugly performance. For a unit that had performed better the previous three weeks showing some progress, Sunday’s game was a big step backward. With another zero sack performance, the Raiders pass rush is still the Achilles heel of this team. It also seems like Gruden and Mayock know this as well, with the updated news that they’ve added Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley to the fold.
See the theme? The Raiders defense as a whole was flat out bad. The run defense greatly missed Ferrell as well, allowing the Chiefs to score three rushing touchdowns on Sunday. It was simply a game where the Raiders got bullied up front. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was running freely and the Raiders were missing a ton of tackles in this ugly all-around performance.
All-in-all the Raiders played a good game Sunday and should hold their heads high. They have a much easier schedule coming up and have to simply get the job done to make the playoffs. While their schedule is more favorable, it isn’t easy and the AFC is stacked so a 10-win team could miss the playoffs.