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Raiders-Chiefs Week 16: Areas of Concern

Las Vegas wants to be physical and hit Kansas City “in the mouth”

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders defense gets the task of trying to stifle quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs offense this Monday.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Pierce gave long and detailed reasoning as to why preparing for the Kansas City Chiefs’ penchant for trick plays is an exercise in futility.

“You can’t. I mean, these guys have a million of them. Every time you think you’ve seen one, you’ve seen it all, and here comes another one,” Pierce said during his mid-week media availability. “They’re creative, they have fun doing it. That’s good. But obviously at the end of the day, you got to do your job, right?”

A rhetorical question from the Las Vegas Raiders interim head coach, but what he said at the end of his answer to the Chiefs gadget plays wasn’t a linguistic activity.

“We saw the Ring Around the Rosie deal they did last year. All fun and games, that’s cool,” Graham began, “But at some point, the best way to stop a trick play is to do what? Hit ‘em in the mouth.”

An OG coach spitting some OG swagger. That’s going to be easier said than done, of course. But it can be done. Las Vegas needs to bring the physicality that Pierce saw and praised in his team’s 63-21 shellacking of the Los Angeles Chargers last Thursday. The Silver & Black controlled the line of scrimmage and had supreme success. A repeat performance from defensive end Malcolm Koonce combined with a relentless and productive rush on the opposite side from Maxx Crosby will play a large role in hitting Chiefs in the mouth — namely quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Because if the Raiders can’t get to Mahomes or make him uncomfortable, it may be another loss stacked upon the sixth-straight the team has since they last bested Kansas City — a 40-32 win in Arrowhead on Oct. 11, 2020. The Raiders were magician’s themselves in the 31-17 loss the last time the two teams meet on Nov. 26 — Las Vegas offense pulled a disappearing act after building a 14-0 lead.

“I mean, to beat the world champions, you have to be at your best and you got to do a little bit more. And that’s not going above X’s and O’s, it’s not doing anything out of the ordinary,” Pierce said. “It’s reading your keys, a little anticipation will come into play, but more importantly the group together, I feel for us as Raiders, to make up our mind to say enough is enough. I mean, if you can do it in the first quarter, which we’ve done two out of three games being up 17-0 and 14-0, we have to strain as coaches and players to do that for 60 minutes. And it’s really important in the second quarter and in the fourth quarter.”

YAC Attack

The Chiefs offense is a domineering unit and that’s due in large part to yards after the catch. Out of Kansas City’s 3,579 passing yards, 2,198 of those come after a receiving option hauls in the pass from Mahomes. All those yard after the catch as the Chiefs atop the NFL in that category. Kansas City sits at 24th overall in the league in complete air yards (1,540), according to Pro Football Reference.

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Rashee Rice, right, leads the team in yards after the catch with 526 on the season. He has 68 catches for 754 yards and seven touchdowns.
Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

To combat this, the Raiders need to have their wrap-up tackling ability at an elite level. For Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, went into further detail noting defenders need to read and react quickly.

“Because we go into the game, yes, we’re trying to minimize the points, we’re trying to win situational football, but we’re trying to minimize their strengths. So, if that’s a strength, you got to point it out and then more importantly, for us as coaches, we got to tell them how we’re going to do that,” Graham said. “We need to make sure the pursuit is good and we’re running to the ball and we’re gang tackling and we’re limiting the explosives after they catch the ball. So, you got to always point out their strengths I think.”

Weather Or Not

The National Weather Service’s forecast for the Monday game slates rain then rain/snow likely in Arrowhead. The high temperature is expected to be a high near 42 degrees with chance of rain at 70 percent.

This tilt has a high chance to be very mucky and a much more grounded affair instead of an aerial assault by either team. If the inclement weather does deter the pass attack from both the host Chiefs and visiting Raiders, it may take away two Las Vegas rookies who have been integrated into the offense more: Tight end Michael Mayer and wide receiver Tre Tucker.

“Just really having that success in practice,” Raiders interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree said of the two neophytes. “And then they have those plays that they know that are going to come their way and executing that and having that opportunity to just continue to build on that. Those guys deserve those opportunities.”