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Can Derek Carr and the Raiders’ offense best a resurgent Chiefs’ defense?

Las Vegas must start fast and strong in critical AFC West matchup

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs defensive tackle Jarran Reed, left, forces the fumble on Broncos running back Javonte Williams this past Sunday. Kansas City’s defense limited Denver to nine points in a 22-9 win.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Carr knows what awaits him this Sunday within the confines of Arrowhead Stadium: A resurgent Chiefs’ defense that’s found its footing after 3-4 start to the 2021 campaign. Kansas City has rattled off five-straight wins thanks in large part to a defense that’s surrendered a meager 56 total points (11.2 average) in those contests.

Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders offense has quite the challenge ahead of them in a critical AFC West divisional matchup.

The last time the Raiders offense squared off with the Chiefs defense, Kansas City defenders were straight clowning Carr on the sideline in the team’s 41-14 shellacking of Las Vegas in Allegiant Stadium back on Nov. 14.

In case you needed a refresher, check out the video below and go to the 1:18 mark to hear Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill give his two cents on the Raiders signal caller:

“Aye he’s nervous though,” the safety said on the sidelines about the Raiders quarterback, “that boy’s patting his feet around in that pocket, that boy nervous, we good.”

A separate NFL Films clip that circulated on social media had even more Chiefs chiming in on Carr after the Las Vegas signal caller threw up a prayer that was intercepted by safety Dan Sorensen.

“That boy throws a duck,” Kansas City cornerback Charvarius Ward said.

“He’s scared! He’s scared, he just gonna be throwing it up,” added corner Chris Lammons.

If the Kansas City Chiefs were verbose, boisterous, cocky and downright disrespectful in the first go-around, just imagine how they’ll be when the Raiders step foot into Arrowhead this Sunday?

Hence why both interim head coach Rich Bisaccia and Carr stressed the importance of having a sense of urgency and starting fast instead of the slow starts the team battled with in losses.

“Perfect example, coming out with urgency to me, is if we come out and start fast like we did in Dallas and execute, we were urgent, you see what I’m saying?,” Carr said during his mid-week press conference session.

The clash against the Cowboys saw the Raiders offense score on third play of the game: A 56-yard touchdown connection from Carr to fleet-footed veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson. That play set the Raiders ablaze and helped ignite an offense that eventually scored 36 points in the overtime win.

The following game, however, Las Vegas was slow as molasses on offense and didn’t fully get in sync in a 17-15 loss to Washington.

Carr stressed being smart against Kansas City’s defense by wisely selecting the spots where Las Vegas’ offense attacks deep or lives to fight another down.

“You can’t be out there doing stupid things because their offense (snaps fingers) will go down there and make it 7-0 — fast,” Carr said.

But with the Raiders sitting at 6-6 and in dire need of a win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, perhaps being a bit more bold is going be a necessity, especially against the AFC West-leading Chiefs.

“The urgency to win, I feel that. I feel that on everyone’s heart. I’ve always felt that and that’s what I’ve always cared about. Winning is all that matters,” Carr said. “At the end of the day that really is. You have to produce, that gives you a job in this league, but winning takes your team to the next level and that’s what we’re all here to do.”

Certainly the continued absence of tight end Darren Waller and the loss of running back Kenyan Drake compounds things for the Raiders offense. And then there’s the matter of Gus Bradley’s defense performing better this time around than yielding 41 points to the Andy Reid-Patrick Mahomes offense.

But if the Raiders offense is clicking, Las Vegas would fare much better in a shootout.

Freedom To Do So

Why focus on Carr so much? Other than center Andre James, the quarterback is touching the ball the most and dictates the pace — especially in how the Raiders offense is structured. If the Raiders ground game isn’t clicking, Las Vegas will rely heavily on Carr and his arm in the aerial attack.

Las Vegas Raiders v Dallas Cowboys
Derek Carr (4) notes he has the freedom to check in and out of plays at the line of scrimmage.
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Carr gave excellent insight on how much autonomy he has at the line of scrimmage and how much input he has on the game plan, during his mid-week presser.

“Absolutely, I have freedom to see stuff and try to take shots,” Carr said when asked about the freedom he has to check in and out of plays at the line of scrimmage. “Oly (offensive coordinator Greg Olson) lets me put plays in and he calls them in the games and it’s awesome. So I have some freedom in that which is cool that Oly is amazing at letting me do, because I see it the same way. And if he doesn’t see it the same way, he says ‘Yeah, that’s not going in.’ and it’s that simple.”

By The Numbers

In his career, Carr is 3-12 all-time against Kansas City and 1-6 in his trips to Arrowhead.

“If we’re being honest, to make it a rivalry (with the Chiefs), we have to win some games,” Carr noted in the post game press conference in the Raiders home loss to the Chiefs earlier this season.

Carr’s lone win in Arrowhead was the 40-32 upset victory Las Vegas had last season in which the Raiders offense went vertical with some aerial fireworks. In fact, that particular game was the highest yards per throw Carr had in his career in Arrowhead (11.19), according to Pro Football Reference. In the other 14 games against the Chiefs, No. 4’s yards per attempt haven’t surpassed nine yards (next highest 8.87 in the Raiders’ 35-31 loss in Vegas last season). His all-time low was 2.85 per attempt in the Raiders’ 21-13 loss in Kansas City back in 2016.

Carr’s total tally against the Chiefs reads: 355 of 576 (61.63 completion percentage) for 3,616 yards, 23 touchdowns, 16 interceptions while absorbing 35 sacks with 12 fumbles.