The Las Vegas Raiders’ defense led the way during the team’s upset victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Christmas Day, scoring as many points as they allowed and accounting for all of the Raiders' touchdowns. There were several standouts on that side of the ball, leading the way for this week’s winners and losers column.
WINNER: Antonio Pierce
It’s no secret that Antonio Pierce has been auditioning for the full-time head coach job over the last two months, and he made a strong statement with Monday’s win. Pierce managed to get his first victory on the road and against a quality opponent. He’s also creeping closer to the 8-9 or 9-8 record that feels like the threshold for him to keep the job.
It also doesn’t hurt that this game was on a national stage and Pierce has seemingly gained national support to become the Raiders’ full-time head coach.
LOSER: Aidan O’Connell
While the team won, Aidan O’Connell continued to ride the rookie roller coaster as he had another tough performance. O’Connell missed several throws, finishing the game completing nine of 21 passes for just 62 yards and all of that came in the first quarter as he didn’t complete a pass for the rest of the game. Unlike the winners on this list, he left the door open for someone else to take his job next season.
WINNER: Patrick Graham
Patrick Graham has been putting together a great year as defensive coordinator by getting results without having much talent to work with, but Andy Reid and the Chiefs seemingly have had Graham’s number in the past. Kansas City had put up 30 points or more in each of the last three games against Las Vegas, so Monday’s game was a breakthrough performance for the defensive coordinator. Plus, the Raiders’ defense nearly single-handily won the contest as they out-scored the offense with two defensive touchdowns.
LOSER: Andre James
The game started poorly for Andre James as he got beaten pretty badly by Chris Jones for a sack that led to a three-and-out a play later. James wasn’t much better on the rest of the afternoon as he struggled in the running game as well. He’s an impending free agent and the offense looked much better last week with Dylan Parham at center, making the four-year pro expendable.
WINNER: Malcolm Koonce
Malcolm Koonce has been on an absolute tear lately and is arguably the hottest player on the Raiders’ roster. He’s been consistently winning as a pass-rusher, racking up pressure after pressure, and was coming off of a career-high performance with two sacks against the Chargers. But that milestone was short-lived as Koonce was dominant again and finished with three sacks on Monday. He also made a nice play against the run, setting the edge and picking up a tackle for loss.
In my mailbag column this week, someone asked if the three-year pro should get a contract extension in the offseason and I said that he needed to continue to finish the season strong to earn a new deal. However, my opinion has quickly changed and, to quote the movie Rounders, “Pay that man his money!”
LOSER: Davante Adams
While part of it was O’Connell missing throws, Davante Adams was highly unproductive with one catch for four yards on six targets. L’Jarius Sneed did a good job of getting physical with Adams and had the wideout locked up for the majority of the afternoon. Also, Adams had a terrible missed block on a screen that allowed Sneed to make a tackle near the line of scrimmage as the cornerback had his number.
WINNER: Jack Jones
Jack Jones logged his second pick-six in as many weeks as he showed impressive instincts again to jump a curl and come down with the interception. Jones talked some smack during the week but backed up his words with his play and has emerged as a viable starting cornerback for Las Vegas moving forward.
WINNER: Zamir White
With Josh Jacobs out, Zamir White has put together two impressive performances in as many weeks. White averaged 6.6 yards per carry on Monday with 22 carries for 145 yards, including 43- and 15-yard scampers to seal the win on the Raiders’ final drive. Eleven days after setting a single-game career-high in rushing yards, he set another career-high and more than doubled his production from his last outing.
Jacobs’ future with the organization is uncertain as his contract expires at the end of the year, and the 2022 fourth-round pick’s recent emergence might make the 2022 rushing champ expendable.