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Raiders beat the Chiefs questions: All the rage

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The Chiefs lost to the Raiders in just about the most unbelievable fashion imaginable. It took something like six “ends” to the game, and it started to feel like watching the end of Return of The King (nerds unite!), but that’s what happened. The Chiefs lost to a team with inferior talent and inferior coaching, and it sucks.

There will be a lot to talk about in the week and a half before the Chiefs play next (hopefully with their two best offensive linemen and Steven Nelson back), but right now I’m too numb from watching the Chiefs toss away a game they should have absolutely won by double digits.

So instead, let’s do a mailbag. I asked, you answered (well... you questioned, I guess). It’s time for some venting.

I really don’t know. I just don’t. The Chiefs had some WILD wins last year (the doink field goal, the Kansas City Thief, Eric Berry’s pick-two...), and I guess eventually that kind of thing comes back around. The Chiefs are absolutely a better team than the Raiders, and literally everyone on earth who is honest with themselves knows that. But some days you’re the windshield ... and some days you’re the bug.

Just remember ... if someone had asked you back in August if you’d take 5-2 going into the MNF game against Denver against this brutal schedule... you would’ve taken it in a heartbeat.

I love that attitude, and in reality the Chiefs are a very good team. The thing is... are we SURE they’re the best team in the NFL at this point? Or the second best? Or third?

One thing after the Pittsburgh game ... I was still able to say, “Yeah, PIT has the Chiefs’ number right now. But they’re still a great football team, one of the best 2-3 in the league easily. Probably the best.” I was also able to say, “Yeah, the run defense was horrific, but the pass defense was still great and that’s way more important in today’s NFL, so the defense will be fine.”

Now? This team feels a lot more like last year’s squad: talented, dangerous, capable of beating anyone ... but fatally flawed in some way. And the defense ... well, it’s becoming a lot harder to feel OK with the defense after watching a previously ineffective Derek Carr (who, once upon a time, was legally considered Bob Sutton’s son) dice up the Chiefs like he was Deshaun Watson in garbage time.

I’m not panicking, but I’m no longer confident this is a great team. Or even a really, really, really GOOD team.

I don’t know.

I wish I had some great, schematic, I’ve-reviewed-so-much-film-I’ve-got-the-solution answer. But the bottom line is that right now, the Chiefs aren’t playing the run well without extra personnel up front and they aren’t playing the pass well without extra personnel on the back end. The latter is a new development, and one that’s got me incredibly worried.

The dropoff from Eric Berry to Eric Murray is significant, of course. But prior to Thursday, he seemed like he could get by. Then Derek Carr found him and exposed him... and exposed him... and exposed him. It felt a lot like a “Peyton Manning reveals Marcus Cooper isn’t all that good” game. I hope he moves forward, he was a total disaster.

My overall feeling (and this will answer a lot of other questions people had about Sutton, so if I skipped your question that may be why) is that Sutton designed this defense with the unique talents of Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry, Marcus Peters, and an overall strong secondary in mind.

The problem is that DJ isn’t playing like DJ, Eric Berry is hurt, Peters is quietly having a very... up and down season, and losing Steven Nelson has made the “overall strong” secondary a lot more leaky. In short, what Sutton WANTS to do and what the players are CAPABLE of doing are two different things.

Sutton’s scheme this year has asked that the corners (and safeties) play a ton of man, and has also asked that pass rushers get there despite only three men rushing. It’s... a lot to ask, and it’s not working as well as I’d like.

I don’t know if the answer is getting Nelson (and therefore CB depth) back, or Tamba Hali helping a pass rush that just isn’t doing as well as it should, or if a major shift in defensive philosophy is needed. I really don’t. I just know that right now, the players can’t seem to do the job Sutton is asking them to do. Which requires some adapting on his part.

I definitely worry that Reid and Sutton don’t scheme for their specific opponents enough. It seems more that they trust their schemes to win against ANYONE if executed correctly. And I gotta say, that’s not always a winning formula.

It’s worth noting that the Raiders tried to imitate a LOT of what the Steelers do on defense and (to a lesser extent) on offense as well. That’s not going to change. As the year goes on, more and more teams are going to imitate what the Raiders/Steelers did on offense (passing and running, respectively) and what the Steelers did on defense. And Reid/Sutton HAVE to adapt. Because the offense and defense have both been exposed in back-to-back games in various respects.

I’d say this was a top three “we miss Player X” game for the Chiefs. You swap out Murray with Berry and that game is a W. I have no doubt of that whatsoever.

Houston, once again, spent a lot more time in coverage than I’d like. Additionally, going back and watching his rushes he was often playing contain rather than just barreling at Carr in a full-fledged rush. I have no idea why, as Carr didn’t seem inclined to run at all. Finally, OAK had TE’s chipping on him a bit, and the RT was spending most of the evening with a hand full of Houston’s jersey hanging on for dear life. All that combined to give Houston a relatively quiet night for the second game in a row.

Like I said above, teams are starting to figure out the weak spots on the defense and exploit them. I don’t think it’s an effort issue at all, simply a case of teams seeing which players on defense can do the jobs they’re asked to do and which ones can’t.

Until Sutton can adjust or the players who are currently getting picked on can be replaced or up their game, I fear we’ll be seeing more of the same. The defense has talent, but a few select weak spots is killing it at the moment.

Well, I’d have to look that up and heywaitaminute.

Man, blaming the refs is a bum deal, but sweet Moses that was bad. Blatant push-offs uncalled while relatively ticky tack holds get called. In the meantime, Houston sat there with a guy practically tangled up in his jersey on some snaps.

It was awful. The officiating was horrific, and it cost the Chiefs on some huge plays, like Allen Bailey’s forced fumble for example. And Cooper’s first TD. And Crabtree’s last TD. And the plays preceding that. But whatever.

At the end of the day, none of it happens if the Chiefs get an extra couple first downs OR (even better) make a few more defensive stops. So yeah, it’s more on the defense than the refs. But I’ve watched a lot of football and have never, ever, ever felt more hosed by the refs than I did in this game. Usually bad calls aren’t actually GAME-DECIDING calls. But Thursday night, they were.

Lack of consistent pass rush. Houston is doing pretty well (though not as dominant consistently as I’d like), but overall I just haven’t seen enough one-on-one winning from anyone else. That includes Chris Jones, who I was hoping would build on a highly impressive rookie season.

They have the horses to get after the passer. They need to figure out why it’s not happening (again, the three man rush isn’t helping, but that’s not the only issue there).

I’ve supported Gaines in the past, but at this point it’s clear he’s a guy who is getting picked on. Steven Nelson’s return is looking a lot more important than I ever would’ve thought when the year started.

Reid traditionally lets his defensive coordinators do their thing and stays out of it. That said, they have GOT to figure out a better way to generate pressure. I did see Houston getting moved around the line late in the game, so it’ll be interesting to see if they start getting more creative with him (and the rest of the rushers) than they’ve been so far this season.

Just keep in mind: the Chiefs are 5-2 after an absolutely brutal schedule. They lead the division. They won 12 games last year. They’re still considered one of the better teams in the NFL. Are there problems? Absolutely. Are those problems fixable? Well ... I think so. And even if they aren’t, you are going to watch a lot more wins than losses this year. This is a good team still. That loss just sucked.

It really is easy to forget that the Chiefs have been living without their two best offensive linemen over the last four weeks. That’s a big, big, BIG deal, as it’s led to significantly downgraded run blocking (particularly with the zone style Reid prefers and Hunt excels in) and even more downgraded pass blocking. This mini-bye will hopefully be enough to get those two healthy, as Morse/LDT is a massive upgrade over Fulton/Erving.

(breathes deeply and repeats)

I will not talk about the refs more I will not talk about the refs more I will not talk about the refs more...

I swear, I thought he missed it. I really did. I couldn’t believe that no one else was making a big deal about it.

However, after going back and watching the only angle available, it looks like the ball hits the net behind the goal posts right after it sails wide, which would indicate it only did so after passing through the posts. So. Stinking. Close.

This excellent SB Nation article explains the run off rules pretty clearly. From what I can tell, it’s because the clock was stopped already, and it wasn’t the offensive PI (in Crabtree’s case) that stopped the clock alone: the “TD” would’ve stopped the clock. So no run off option.

Considering how well the defense has played for YEARS, it seems like an extreme measure to cut the defensive coordinator in the middle of the season. It’s too late for players to learn a new system, so if you get rid of Sutton you are still going to keep the same general scheme in place. Unless things continue to get worse, you gotta ride it out with the guy who has done a good job during his time in Kansas City.

With regards to Gaines/Murray ... and then what? Murray has essentially been another starter for the Chiefs and has played well in other games. Who takes those snaps? Any time you take someone off the field, you have to think about who is replacing him. In the case of those two, I’m not sure who is. Releasing people is reactionary and makes you feel like you’re “doing something,” but all you’re really doing is putting your back to a wall.

I hated this with the fire of a thousand suns. Hated it. I have nothing else to say on that.

The same reason an official can start to signal that the ball is down and then change his mind at the last second to signal touchdown.

Also, the same reason you can call defensive holding but then ignore offensive pass interference. I can feel my rage growing with each mailbag question at this point.

Honestly, the only thing I got right now is that Alex Smith is back to dropping bombs and Kareem Hunt is a stud. Best offense the Chiefs have had in years. I have to, have to, HAVE TO believe the defense will get it together. Even with the holes, there’s too much talent there to be awful. I think they’ll reel it in. And that’ll be a sight to behold: a very good offense and a decent defense both at once? That’s the dream! Believe you might see the dream!

Teams are continuing to do what they can to bracket Travis Kelce on a lot of snaps, and for good reason. However, part of it is simply that the Chiefs aren’t dialing up his number as often as they should be. In my opinion, Kelce should be your first read on up to 15 snaps a game. He’s that talented. But the Chiefs run an equal opportunity offense for the most part, and Alex is never going to be the kind of QB to force the ball to a guy defenses are keying on.

On a depressing note, Kelce’s inexplicable decision to go sideways rather than just dive forward on second and nine with 6:37 ended up being a much, much bigger deal than it should’ve been. Kelce could have had the first down, but made a rookie mistake in going east-west rather than north-south. The Chiefs failed to convert on third and four, and punted the ball back. If Kelce gets a first down there, that’s another three plays in which to potentially get into FG range and make it a two possession game again. Game of inches (or yards, in this case).

Ewwwwww...

Ugh, I dunno. The offense was completely pathetic the vast majority of the game against Pittsburgh, but it pulled together for a few drives down the stretch. The defense has one good drive at the end (forcing a three-and-out that they couldn’t capitalize on), but I don’t feel like they pulled it together for much more than that. Plus, there’s the whole multiple failures thing at the end.

It’s almost impossible to choose, but I guess I’d say the offense was slightly worse Sunday, if only because it had negative net yardage at halftime and seemed on its way to breaking some kind of record until the fourth quarter. But it’s close. Dang close.

That’s a rough note to end on, so I’ll reiterate: this team still has a ton of talent. This team has still beaten multiple playoff contenders. It’s October. To paraphrase my good buddy His Dirkness, what happens in October doesn’t matter. It’s what they do from here on out that matters.

If the Chiefs take their mini-bye, get healthy (well as healthy as they’re gonna get. DANGIT, I miss Berry) then come out and handle the Broncos on Monday Night Football, this will all start to feel like a distant memory. 5-2 is a very good record, one of the best in the NFL in a year of crazy parity. Two losses in a row hurt. But they are still one game away from pulling themselves out of any kind of nose dive. That’s it. Just 1 game.

I guess I need to go review film now, huh? Dang, I kinda enjoyed the distraction. Hope this was as cathartic for you as it was for me.