One of the most interesting case studies from the Kansas City Chiefs 2020 season was how the Las Vegas Raiders were able to give the Chiefs so much trouble despite being one of the lesser teams in the league as the Raiders still finished with an 8-8 record.
Considering the talent level of both teams. it is really frustrating why a team like the Raiders were able to give the Chiefs such a fit in both the week 5 and week 11 matchups. Just glancing at the finals scores for each. you would assume that he Chiefs offense wasn’t a problem. More than 30 points in each game is a sufficient offensive performance and almost a disappointment considering the Chiefs offensive personnel and the fact the Raiders ranked 30th in total defense in 2020.
How did the Raiders manage to keep things close with the Chiefs?
There was one issue regarding the offense in both matchups that did slow down the scoring pace, though. That would be the pressure the Raiders defensive line was able to get on Patrick Mahomes. We all know how beat up the Chiefs offensive line was throughout the year in 2020 but despite that, letting the Raiders defensive line get consistent pressure was not something that should’ve been an issue. Even Clelin Ferrell who is widely seen as mediocre for where he was picked in the draft had a career-high 12 pressures on Patrick Mahomes in the first matchup in week 5. Due to that fact, Patrick Mahomes finished with a combined completion percentage of 64% from the two games they played which is pretty pedestrian for him.
The Chiefs lack of a run game also really hurt them in both games. In week 5 they only rushed for 80 yards and just 108 yards in the second matchup which is nothing to write home about. Being one-dimensional is something that hurt the Chiefs a lot last year. Although, the offense is pass-heavy and effective, it only works to an extent and asking Patrick Mahomes to pull a rabbit out of a hat every time isn’t a great strategy. You have to get the run game going to keep the chains moving and to protect Mahomes from getting hit too often.
For those that watched the games, the offense wasn’t what stood out in any way. It was the defense, which was quite honestly an eye-sore. In week 5, the Raiders accounted for 490 yards of total offense. In week 11, they put up 364 total yards and looked every bit as impressive as the Chiefs on offense which made for some entertaining games to the casual fan.
What was the reason for the Raiders unusual explosion on offense?
Let’s start with the first matchup and what went wrong for the Chiefs. Derek Carr went for 347 yards and 3 TD’s on just 22 completions. To be blunt, Derek Carr outplayed Patrick Mahomes in week 5 which is not something you want to hear. Carr’s performance was largely due to the fact he faced minimal pressure as he was only sacked once.
The other reason for Carr’s great performance was the incompetence of the Chiefs secondary, In week 5, they made a lot of mistakes and starting cornerback Charvarius Ward was even benched after getting beat multiple times by Raiders rookie Henry Ruggs who had 118 yards receiving in that lone matchup despite only totaling 452 receiving yards the entire season. Tyrann Mathieu also had a bad penalty in the first half that set up a Raiders score.
The second matchup in week 11 was a lot of the same. Even though, the Chiefs won, it took all the way until the clock hit zero for them to wrap the game up. Carr had 275 passing yards and another 3 TD’s while being sacked 0 times and benefitted from the good performances of Nelson Agholor and Darren Waller who each had 80+ yards and a touchdown. Luckily Mahomes did pull a rabbit out of a hat that time around or else we would be looking at a Raiders season sweep.
The theme here is that Derek Carr seems to be a totally different quarterback when not under pressure and since the Chiefs pass-rush only ranked 19th in sacks last season and only sacked Carr once in two games, Carr was able to have a field day against the Chiefs defense. Prior to 2020, Carr had been abysmal against the Chiefs, particularly at Arrowhead Stadium where Carr has thrown 8 of his career interceptions.
What it comes down to for the Chiefs next year when hoping for an easier time against the Raiders is winning at the line of scrimmage. Most of the Chiefs problems seemed to have been caused by getting dominated on the offensive and defensive line but given that the Chiefs totally revamped their offensive line and added to their defensive line this offseason, they will be able to come at the Raiders with something different than they’re used to with an improved pass-rush and an offensive line that should allow for a more balanced offense
If the Chiefs newcomers deliver like everyone expects them to, the Raiders shouldn’t give them nearly as much trouble and they really never should’ve to begin with considering they are probably the least talented team in the AFC West,