MO State HS Sports

Three Takeaways from Chiefs 41, Raiders 14

By: Chris Mitchell

The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Las Vegas Raiders 41-14 on Sunday Night Football November 14th and all of a sudden find themselves with the edge for first place in the AFC West after a rocky start to the season with one more non-division game before the bye week. To celebrate, here’s some gut takeaways from KC’s offensive and defensive clinics:

1. The Offensive Adjustments are Paying Off

Coming into their Las Vegas matchup, the Chiefs have faced something of a conundrum when it comes to the looks they get on defense. It’s a multi-pronged issue where not only are they seeing primarily Cover 2 looks with two deep safeties taking away some of those deep big plays, corners and linebackers are also being more aggressive with press coverage near the line of scrimmage. It’s a pretty simple philosophy: Get the skill position players before they have a chance to rev up and punish you. It is a strategy that has seen the most results in slowing down the Chiefs offense. KC’s top targets Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are getting extra attention while receivers lower on the depth chart have struggled to get open and make plays. When executed well, this defensive strategy has limited the ceiling on the levels of production synonymous with the Mahomes-led squad. So how were they able to match their point total from their last three games combined and then some last night? The answers lie in the adjustments and then the execution.

The signs of these changes were made manifest as early as their matchup with Green Bay the previous week, despite the low-scoring affair. The Chiefs messed around with their alignments, not content to have Hill or Kelce “trapped” on some iso routes where they could be easy prey to be covered by multiple defenders. It’s what led to the big gain by Kelce on that final drive vs Green Bay, as well as that game icing pass to Hill on third down. You could have made the argument that if you scratched some uncharacteristic drops off the board, you’d get a clearer picture of an offense that’s learned how to deal with its new reality. After last night, it couldn’t be more crystal clear.

It’s also worth noting that, for the most part, the Chiefs last night were getting a lot of Cover 3 looks. Some eagle-eyed Chiefs fans may remember Cover 3 back when current Raiders DC Gus Bradley was the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers. It gave those early Mahomes Chiefs offenses a little bit of pause, but not after the coaching staff and personnel made the proper adjustments and began to tee off on those looks. There was still some Cover 2 being employed against the Chiefs, but when Hill and Kelce are able to move around more liberally and generate some mismatches, it tends to open the doors to the familiar big plays from the last 3 years. Of course, that doesn’t happen without the man under center.

2. Patrick Mahomes: Still Got It

The past few weeks have not been the kindest to the 2018 NFL and 2020 Super Bowl MVP. Stalled drives, low scoring outings, and turnovers from uncharacteristic mistakes from the QB and his supporting cast, as well as just plain bad luck, have sparked debate on whether or not Pat Mahomes can navigate this bold new world of running an admittedly boring offense while maintaining that Mahomes swagger and confidence that Kansas City and football fans in general fell in love with from the start. Last night we finally saw those worlds combine and the results were terrifying (for opposing defenses, that is).

This was the product of a few things coming together for the Chiefs: Kelce and Hill getting freed up to go do their thing by not only properly running their routes but improvising as they are want to do, other Chiefs skill position players coming through in the clutch in ways that they have rarely done this season (Darrel Williams probably had the catch of the night), and that new and improved Chiefs offensive line showing out and giving Mahomes the time he needed to make plays against a fierce Raiders pass rush spearheaded by Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue. We got a little bit of everything from Mahomes last night, ranging from efficiently executing relics straight out of the 2017 Alex Smith playbook to the daring deep 1v1 shots for big gains that we’re used to seeing Mahomes challenge for, which is how you end up with 406 passing yards and five touchdowns. He was hunting for those plays all night, but not out of desperation or some survivalist instinct to keep the offense alive, but because the successes in the short and intermediate passing game gave him the juice he needed to go back into Terminator mode. We’ve seen glimpses of it all season, like it was something just beneath the surface ready to bust through like lava out of a volcano, but for now it looks like it’s finally here, and he’s gonna need that mentality coming up against the Dallas Cowboys.

3. The Defense is Rounding into Form

It’s no secret that the Chiefs defense has been a catastrophe. Injuries, missed tackles, inconsistencies in the pass rush, blown coverages, all of those things combined can lead to any offense looking like the 2007 New England Patriots on your unit, and it’s a big reason why the Chiefs struggled early out the gate. Fast forward to now, where thanks to the efforts of young gun linebackers Nick Bolton and Willie Gay Jr, we’re seeing a faster, more aggressive version of this “Chiefense,” appearing almost entirely alien to the unit that we saw in the first half of the season. Thanks to the mid-season acquisition of Melvin Ingram, Chris Jones was able to move back to his home at 3T on the defensive line, and the pass rush is all the better for it. It was a quieter night for Frank Clark, but make no mistake, his presence was felt with his ability to pressure Derek Carr for a decent chunk of the night. The defense allowed a net total of nine yards on third down. Jarren Reed even got a sack! Dan Sorensen got a pick!

The secondary also stepped up in a big way. Darren Waller had a pretty quiet evening thanks in large part to the coverage by Tyrann Mathieu. Rashad Fenton also played a big role in keeping that Raiders passing attack quiet, making a heads-up play on one of the most bizarre fumbles I’ve ever seen courtesy of DeSean Jackson, flipping the possession of the ball and, quite frankly, flipping the vibe of the game smack dab back in KC’s corner. It wasn’t a perfect night, some lapses in the pass rush allowed Carr to connect on some big plays, including a big touchdown pass to Bryan Edwards whose only defender was linebacker Anthony Hitchens (putting a slow linebacker on a fast receiver is one of the ways the Chiefs defense made life difficult for themselves this season), but it showed that this defense is more than capable of showing up and showing out against teams that aren’t just the Giants at home or an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers squad.