What We Learned About the Oakland Raiders Thursday Night
The Oakland Raiders showed us everything we need to know about them, especially in regards to the Kansas City Chiefs.
In Week 6 this season, the Kansas City Chiefs put a 26-10 whuppin’ on Oakland Raiders in their backyard. After that, the Raiders won six straight, showing they improved. So the perception of the team changed as they were highly touted as an AFC contender.
Afterall, they were the No. 1 seed in the AFC after the six-game winning streak. Along the way, the Raiders found different ways to win games, often coming from behind. But the Chiefs were doing the same thing all along, only they lost one more game.
Fast forward to Week 14, a Thursday night affair in Kansas City, and we got to see where the Raiders are. The Chiefs had a chance to climb to the No. 2 seed and first place in the AFC West. The Raiders were trying to hold onto the No. 1 seed in the AFC and first place in the West.
The Chiefs won the game 21-13 so they now control their destiny as far as winning the west goes. And the loss takes the Raiders from the No. 1 seed to the No. 5 seed, needing help to win the west. But again, after seeing this game, we learned a lot about the Raiders.
Turn the page for a look at what we learned.
Nastiest Rivalry in NFL History is Back!
In the 1966, legendary Raiders owner Al Davis was commissioner of the AFL, winning the war against the NFL. Then Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt led AFL owners to merge the two leagues behind his back. And that merger came at the expense of Davis’ job.
Hence, Davis went on to hate NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, Hunt and his Chiefs. And the nastiest rivalry in the NFL was born with players literally and figuratively fighting it out. The Raiders drafted and acquired players just to compete with the Chiefs.
The Chiefs won the AFL to go to the first Super Bowl that year and the next year, the Raiders went. Then two years later, the Chiefs beat them to go to the fourth Super Bowl. It got to the point that both teams were drafting and trading to beat each other.
From there, the Raiders won Super Bowls in the ’70s and ’80s when the Chiefs were down. The Chiefs haven’t won anything since the ’60 but were relevant while the Raiders were down. For a half a century, either one team played spoiler or it was just a hatred game.
Now, both teams, are back, still drafting, trading and acquiring players to compete with each other. And they are both fighting for the AFC West again as both teams are 10-3. As you would expect, it was a physical game, fun to watch regardless of the outcome.
The Raiders put this offensive line together to deal with the defensive front-seven of the Chiefs. And overall, the O-line handled them, holding the Chiefs to one sack. Edge-rushers Justin Houston and Dee Ford didn’t wreck the game at all.
But interior D-lineman Chris Jones and Rakeem Nunez-Roches (one sack) played well. Left OG Kelechi Osemele didn’t play due to illness and Vadal Alexander was a weak link in his stead. But the weak-link starter is right OT Austin Howard, who’s not the same coming off an ACL tear.
Houston came in with four sacks in his previous two games but got his pressures when lined up on Howard. But neither he nor Ford, who has 10 sacks on the season, did too much when lined up over left OT Donald Penn. There would have been less interior pressure had Osemele played.
The Raiders offensive line really handled the Chiefs front-7 in the running game. They opened up plenty of holes for Raiders running backs to rush for 135 yards on 31 carries. That’s another area the Raiders would have done even better at had Osemele played.
Derek Carr no MVP
This writer is a huge fan of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr but can’t defend his game Thursday night. Carr played himself out of the NFL MVP race, playing horribly in the biggest game of the year. MVPs shine brightest in the biggest games on primetime stages.
He was kept clean, not under duress all night and still missed wide open receivers. When he did hit them, they dropped the ball but Carr had problems with his accuracy all night. He sped through his progressions and didn’t throw to wide open guys at times.
In his worse game as a pro, he played like his college scouting report, the one that got him picked in the second round. He freaked out at any sign of a rush and consistently came off reads too early. And he had no accuracy when he was under pressure.
Carr is known for his accuracy under pressure in the NFL but it wasn’t there for him Thursday. There’s something about the Chiefs that bothers him. All sports stars have something to overcome and for Carr, it looks like the Chiefs are that thing.
Peter Aiken/Getty Images
NFL Defensive Player of the Year
On the big stage Thursday night, edge-rusher Khalil Mack strengthened his case for NFL Defensive Player of the year. He got off to his usual slow start then took over the second half of the game. He’s actually done that all year but Thursday night the offense didn’t show up.
Down 21-10 and halftime, the Raiders defense came up with two turnovers to start the second half. The first was an interception by slot-corner T.J. Carrie and the second, a strip-sack by Mack. But all the Raiders got was three points out of the two turnovers.
Mack had one sack on the night to give him at least one in the last eight games. He has 11 sacks this season, still trailing Von Miller by 2.5 sacks but you can run right at Miller. Mack showed Thursday night that you cannot run right at him.
He was dominant against the run, helping the Raiders hold the Chiefs to 65 yards on 27 carries. Mack’s all-around game helped the Raiders hold the Chiefs scoreless in the second half. It also makes him the NFL’s most dominant defensive player.
The Chiefs are complete with offense, defense and special teams so they are better than the Raiders. Yes, Raiders fans including this writer have to admit the Chiefs are the better team right now. Remember, the Chiefs ran the Raiders 26-10 in their backyard.
But the gap is closing as they actually had a chance to win Thursday night. The Raiders got a lot of hype because of the way they played after the Chiefs beat them last time. But they didn’t quite pass the test the second time around.
The coaching gap is especially closing as it took 1.5 games but they are finally figuring it out. Then you have the injury factor that favors the Raiders in a big way. The Chiefs just lost ILB Derrick Johnson for the rest of the season (Achilles rupture).
And while Osemele was out due to illness, 2016 first-round SS Karl Joseph was out with a foot injury. We can’t forget that Mario Edward Jr. and Aldon Smith have yet to play this season. This is important because the two teams could play again this year.
This writer believes the Raiders and Chiefs will see each other again in the playoffs this year. So everything the we’re finding out about the Raiders in regards to the Chiefs is important. The first thing is the Raiders can run the ball and stop the run against the Chiefs.
So they should give the Chiefs a heavy dose of Murray, who’s a Chiefs-killer. In five games against the Chiefs, he has an average of 5.7 yards per carry and four TDs. The last time the Raiders beat the Chiefs, Murray had himself a 90-yard TD run.
The Raiders can win with defense and the running game until Carr can proves he’s not scared of the Chiefs. Speaking of the defense, head coach Jack Del Rio learned that off-man coverage does nothing for them. They have bump-and-run cornerbacks that need to bump and run.
Tight coverage will lead to Mack, the most dominant player in the game, dominating more. So while the Chiefs should be favored if the two teams play in the playoffs, the Raiders have a good shot. They could get four starters back on defense and one on offense.
The coaching staff just has to apply what they learned Thursday night.