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Raiders Film Review: Pass coverage continues to be a sore spot for the defense

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Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

For three quarters of Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs and wunderkind Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Raiders defense held the Chiefs vaunted attack scoreless.

Oh you want to talk about the second quarter? That’s 15 minutes of football Raiders fans would surely like to forget. The Chiefs scored 28 points in one quarter of play flipping the game from a Raider lead to woefully behind in a matter of a few drives.

It seemed like Mahomes couldn’t miss during those 15 minutes and lit the Raiders secondary up for over 200 yards, continually hitting deep shots at a rate more like his college days at Texas Tech. How did it happen? For those of you who are gluttons for punishment (thats anyone who has been a Raider fan for more than a year), scroll down and find out.

Coverage break downs

Lamarcus Joyner made comments after the game about the Raiders need to stay in single high man coverage. Joyner expressed his confidence in the defense’s ability to stop passing attacks while in man coverage.

The Raiders did play much more split safety pattern matching concepts than in the previous week against Denver. These coverages are more difficult to pass against because the quarterback doesn’t know which defender will take which receiver until the last second. But because of the complexity of the coverage, it opens itself up to miscommunication. Cue the first touchdown.

The caption should read “first touchdown.” The Raiders defense is playing Cover 4 Match where each DB will take a receiver man-to-man. Daryl Worley (who made a quick conversion to safety after the Johnathan Abram injury) is taking the vertical of number 3.

The Chiefs motion another potential receiver to the passing strength and watch how each DB bumps one man over to account for the additional threat. Every DB except for Worley— who stays on the man he was guarding before the motion.

While Cover 4 Match has its strengths and on paper works, it takes a lot of time to get everyone on the same page. This is Paul Guenther’s fault for calling the coverage while Worley was in at safety.

There was another head scratcher that came on the next drive. If you were watching the game you probably remember Sammy Watkins running around by himself in the middle of the field for a first down. The clip below is the All-22 footage from that play.

The Raiders are in a single high coverage but are blitzing. Both inside linebackers line up in Guenther’s famous Double A-Gap look and get after Mahomes. The defensive end at the top of the screen drops to replace the blitzing linebackers in coverage. But there is still a huge hole in the what happened?

The Raiders used an almost identical blitz in week 1 against the Broncos. Both linebackers blitz the A gaps, two DBs bracket the single receiver at the top of the screen. But on this play BOTH defensive ends drop into coverage. Without being in the defensive meeting room it’s impossible to tell who is at fault. Maybe Joyner didn’t give the call to the defensive end of his side. Maybe the one defensive end who dropped was suppose to get across the formation. Who knows? One thing is for sure, no defensive scheme ever allows a slot receiver to run free by design, someone messed up.

Technique break downs

The locker room interviews after the game made it sound like the majority of the defensive issues stemmed from miscommunication. That’s only half the story. Raider defenders struggled to put good technique on film against Kansas City.

Take this rep from Gareon Conley. The Raiders are in the same Match Cover 4 that gave up the first touchdown. This time everyone is one the same page and taking the right man. However Gareon Conley in press coverage commits the cardinal sin of that technique—opening his hips to allow a free release from the WR.

Once Conley gets out of phase and has to play catch-up, he is at the mercy of Mahomes being able to throw the ball wherever and however he likes. Conley’s neck injury may have prevented him from getting his head around on this play, but it doesn’t excuse the poor press technique at the line of scrimmage.

Then there is our pal Karl Joseph who was beaten by tight end Travis Kelce in press man coverage. **Pretends to be shocked** As someone who watches lots of Raiders film, I can’t remember a single time Joseph successfully covered a tight end near the goal-line.

His technique doesn’t help either. At the snap Joseph takes a mirror step to the outside but gets on his heels. Try pushing anything in that position and see what happens, much less an all Pro TE at 6’5 250lbs. Joseph gets knocked off balance when he attempts his off-hand jam and its curtains from there.


Coverage and pass rush go hand in hand. The defensive line didn’t offer much help and only were able to put pressure on Mahomes once the score got out of hand.

The Raiders were victimized by the pass whether they played man or zone concepts. By my count the Raiders gave up 263 yards (8.2 yards per attempt) while in singe high coverage. They also gave up 154 (9.6 yards per attempt) yards while in 2 high safety coverages. For reference, any yards per attempt over 7 is considered very good. So neither coverage was effective for the Raiders defense.

NOTE: The above numbers are an individual study and do not match up with the box score. Not all coverage snaps were included in reference to this article.