It feels unusual to say it was the Kansas City Chiefs defense that let them down in Thursday's loss to the Oakland Raiders. That's because the Chiefs defense has often been what's keeping them in games. In fact, two weeks ago, the Chiefs defense held on fourth down to beat the Bills. Last week they did the same on fourth and short against the Seahawks to preserve the win. The Chiefs defense didn't make that fourth down stop against the Raiders.
This Chiefs loss feels a lot like the Bills game ... except a loss, obviously. Neither game was pretty on offense for the Chiefs. The Chiefs were down in the second half in both games (13-3 to Buffalo, 17-3 to Oakland) and the offense came back to put them ahead. The Chiefs defense's response was to hold steady in the red zone against the Bills. In Oakland, the Chiefs couldn't stop Derek Carr and the Raiders rushing attack late in the game.
And that's precisely the problem. The Chiefs couldn't stop the run.
Those who follow the Chiefs closely know this was our dirty little secret all season long. The great Chiefs defense can stop the hell out of the pass but can't consistently stop the run. Sure, they can come up big in the clutch like they did on fourth down against Seattle last year. But the Seahawks still put up over 200 yards rushing.
Now we get to the Raiders, who put up 179 yards rushing on 30 carries. That's certainly a lot but doesn't look as bad until you point out that the Raiders were on pace for a historically bad rushing season. Ouch.
It's also bad to point out that the Chiefs defense is the worst in the NFL at stopping the run on a per play basis. The Chiefs defense owns the highest average yards per rushing attempt against them. That's not very good.
Here's the silver lining though: all this may not matter if the Chiefs can make the playoffs. That's because there's not an AFC team in the field that is set on beating teams with the run the way the Seahawks or 49ers or Raiders have tried to do to the Chiefs.
The top three teams in the AFC -- Patriots, Broncos and Colts -- are not teams that are going to run the ball down your throat. They obviously present their own challenges but the Chiefs run defense may not be as big of an issue as I seem to make it above.