Looking back on the Raiders last meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs, the pass defense hemorrhaged yards and points during a poor 2nd quarter that led to an insurmountable lead. On the bright side however Paul Guenther’s unit prevented the Chiefs high-flying attack from scoring during the other 3 quarters of the game.
Let’s take a look at that Week 2 loss and see what the Raiders can build upon in their quest for a playoff berth.
Week 2 saw three defenders make great individual efforts. Benson Mayowa excelled in his role rushing the passer on 3rd downs, notching 2 sacks and a forced fumble. Johnathan Hankins was a force on the line of scrimmage. racking up 3 run stops and 1 pass defensed. Additionally, Daryl Worley had a solid game in man coverage even though he was asked to play out of position, excelled even while playing out of position, tallying a pass defensed and scooped up a fumble.
Pass rush and pass coverage work hand in hand. Notice on the first Mayowa sack, Mahomes is patting the ball and waiting for his target to uncover when he gets tackled from behind. The Raiders are in 2-Man, a coverage they played sparingly until Week 9 against the Lions. Teams need to play elite man coverage against the Chiefs, which is easier said than done. But if the Raiders can tighten up on the back end and allow some coverage sacks like this, they have a chance at creating turnovers that result from sacks and pressures.
Speaking of turnovers, the Raiders were able to generate one turnover the last time these teams met. Mayowa gets another sack when he continues to attack with his relentless motor.
The defense has been able to accrue 13 sacks in the last four games (after logging 13 in all of 2018). Two players who have helped the pass rush improve in recent weeks are Maxx Crosby and Dion Jordan. Crosby provides extra juice coming off the edge and Jordan has provided extra athleticism rushing from the defensive interior. The pass rush needs to have its’ best game if the Raiders have a chance of winning this Sunday.
Worley managed the secondary’s only pass break-up in Week 2. In the clip above he is in man coverage on a TE (not even Travis Kelce). Worley was used as a safety to help the Raiders better match up with the Chiefs. The Raiders defense needs to stay in man coverage against Mahomes to make him hold the ball long enough for the pass rush to arrive. Trayvon Mullen will be tested on the perimeter and the rotation of Curtis Riley and DJ Swearinger is a serious weak spot in the pass defense right now.
As mentioned above, the Raiders asked Worley to play safety. Then, Paul Guenther called one of the most complicated schemes for a safety, asking Worley to figure it out against the Chiefs. This is a blown coverage, but the responsibility lies with Guenther for even calling this coverage. The Raiders back 5 have gone through 13 weeks together at this point and shouldn’t blow coverages like this.
This isn’t a blown coverage. It is a combination of Riley getting beat at safety and the pass rush failing to get home. Either Riley or Worley will be in at safety this weekend. They both had bad reps the last time these team met. Let’s hope they can get things figured out enough to cut down on plays like this.
Man coverage — in theory — is the most fundamentally sound defense because every offensive receiving threat is accounted for. Issues arise when there is a weak link that breaks the entire coverage. In the Raiders case, that weak link is Tahir Whitehead. I’m personally interested to see how Gunther mitigates Whitehead’s inability to cover. Maybe we see Preston Brown debut at MLB on 3rd downs?
Mahomes is not infallible. At the risk of people assuming I’m a homer I will point out that Mahomes has air-mailed a handful of throws every time I watch him play. His accuracy isn’t elite (even though the rest of his game is).
Part of the inconsistent accuracy comes from his unorthodox mechanics and footwork in the pocket. His arm talent is so great that he often doesn’t need to set his feet to make throws. His greatest gift can be his greatest curse as well because his lackadaisical footwork can get him in trouble.
I’ll admit it is very unlikely that the Raiders defense will be able to capitalize on this weakness. However, with the improvements to the pass rush, there is a chance that they force him to make a mistake or two that help tilt the game in the Raiders favor.