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How the Chiefs offense beats the Raiders defense

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We’re down in the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory breaking down the holes in the Raiders defense.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

It has been a crazy couple days as a Kansas City Chiefs fan, with a divisional game right around the corner. The circumstances could very easily lead to a distracted team that may not be on the top of their game.

Luckily for the Chiefs, they are a team led by Andy Reid, who is sensational off the bye week and is a coach that is very capable of getting them to be “up” for this game, even with the outside distractions. The Chiefs spent the last 13 days stewing over a heartbreaking defeat to the Los Angeles Rams, in which they played well but just didn’t close it out.

I think the Chiefs likely come out clicking and motivated despite the distractions.

The Chiefs will be heading into Oakland to play the Oakland Raiders, a team that is struggling in just about every aspect of football both on and off the field. There couldn’t be a better game for the Chiefs to come out and flex their new offensive firepower and ability to rebound after their last game. The Raiders defense is one of the worst in the league at stopping the run and one of the worst in terms of defending the pass from an efficiency standpoint. Essentially, the Chiefs’ offense should be able to have their way this game in any facet they want may very well turn this into a statement game.

Let’s head down to the basement of the Arrowhead Pride compound to the Laboratory and start breaking down the holes in this Raiders’ defense.

Raiders defense

Personnel preferences

The Raiders play a lot of mixed-fronts rotation between three and four down linemen and has changed to a little bigger front with Bruce Irvin’s departure. Often, the Raiders will have three interior defensive linemen with a single-edge defender split wide. Behind the line of scrimmage players, the Raiders most often keep two linebackers on the field but will go heavy when 12 or 21 personnel are shown.

On the back end, the Raiders predominantly stick with three cornerbacks on the field when they go to nickel rather than an additional safety. This plays into the part of almost always having two linebackers on the field and plays a major role in their ability to stop the run against spread out packages. The Raiders often keep Daryl Worley on the right side of the defense, Gareon Conley on the left side and Nick Nelson is starting to get more run in the slot.

Pass defense

The Raiders pass defense, statistically, isn’t terrible but that’s because:

  • 1) Their run defense is so bad
  • 2) Teams simply don’t have to keep passing against them.

They are near the bottom of the league when it comes to efficiency. Their best pass rush comes from the interior with Maurice Hurst and Jonathan Hankins when they’re isolated on subpar interior offensive linemen. Arden Key flashes from time to time but as the only edge presence on the team it’s hard for him to get to the quarterback before they can move away.

On the back end, Karl Joseph and Gareon Conley are showing some promise and make plays nearly every week but are also prone to giving up big plays. Both guys have talent but haven’t maximized it yet in their young careers and the Chiefs should be able to attack both of them. Reggie Nelson, Daryl Worley and any linebcaker in coverage are clearly a weakness of the team which constantly leads to open players.

The Raiders run a lot of pattern match Cover 3 with both man and zone versions of Cover 2 mixed in. They blow a lot of coverages because of team communication, as well as individual faults when carrying out their coverage assignments.

Run defense

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned, the Raiders often have three interior defensive line-type players on the field at once, but outside of Hankins, none of them are extremely capable vs the run.

Hurst, PJ Hall, and Frostee Rucker all struggle to handle double teams or control gaps against well-executed blocks. The personnel is better served attacking a single gap and utilizing their initial quickness to avoid the double teams and being driven off the ball but that puts more pressure on the linebackers to cover their gaps.

Those linebackers, usually Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow, are very slow to identify and attack gaps. They play slow both mentally and physically compared to others and that makes it hard for the Raiders to let their defensive linemen play aggressive. Even with a two-gap approach, the linebackers are still slow to flow and often easily cut off by climbing blockers as well simply out paced by the running back.

How the Chiefs win

Gameplan overview

In a nutshell, the Chiefs should show up, call plays, and snap the ball. That should lead to success in this game, but there are few things they could do, specifically, to up their chances of putting up another 50 points.

One of the biggest weaknesses of the Raiders pass defense is Daryl Worley, the left cornerback, who should be attacked routinely at all levels. The Chiefs should also continue to identify when the Raiders are going with their pattern-match coverage and look to attack with posts, deep digs and crossing routes, as the Raiders linebackers struggle to re-route and get proper depth in coverage. The Chiefs should also have plenty of shot plays and, given the struggling pass rush of the Raiders, vertical concepts off of deep seven-step drops should make an appearance in this game.

The screen game should also make an impact in this game, both to wide receivers and running backs. Piggybacking on the above-mentioned struggles of the linebackers, they are slow to diagnose screens and even slower to get out to defend them. The running backs should also get plenty of run on the ground focusing more on running between the tackles, although outside is often an option vs the Raiders too, utilizing the offensive line’s ability to get a hat on a hat.

Test the waters at running back

This post isn’t about Kareem Hunt, and this is the only mention of him coming, but he does have to be replaced, and this is the perfect game to sort out the rotation. Spencer Ware is likely the first man up, with Damien Williams being the immediate backup, but Darrell Williams is an interesting name to keep an eye on. He’s been stashed on the Chiefs’ 53-man roster, meaning they really like him and were afraid someone else does too, and his running style is similar to Hunt’s.

Against the Raiders, there are running lanes everywhere, but the Chiefs should focus their runs between the tackles. Both Ware and Williams move well for their size but are more north-south runners than guys wanting to work laterally. Then cut upfield on a sweep or toss-type of play. Outside zone is still fully in the mix, as it’s a 45-degree angle rather than 90 to get to the edge, but inside zone and even some power running should be in the playbook this week.

Whether spreading the field out or lining up tight, the Raiders simply struggle to hold up to initial double teams and get their linebackers and safeties to flow to the open holes. Inside zone, Power and Counter all should allow the Chiefs to utilize these double teams, get blockers to the second level and let their powerful running backs work upfield. This is a perfect game to get these bigger-bodied runners to make single cuts and then attack defensive backs at the second and third level.

Open-field magic

Every single running back on the Chiefs roster can catch and excel in the screen game, as well as their wide receivers and their tight ends. Essentially, if the Chiefs want to manufacture free yards in the screen game, it will be open the entire time to just about any player on the team.

The Chiefs have the talent to pull off good screen plays against any defense, but the Raiders, as seen above, are exceptionally poor at defending them. There are three players dropping into zone that should see the blockers pulling out, the running back settling down and the quarterback looking that way. The Raiders are still late to react across the board and once they do, run directly into blocks with poor angles and bad open field ability.

This isn’t a game that requires intricate screens (like a double fake end-around, play-action, back-to-running back screen) but rather just a simple screen. Every wide receiver should get a chance at least one screen pass in this game. Pay special to Damien Williams in the screen game, as he’s the most dynamic of the remaining running backs.

Mahomes has [all the] time

The Raiders have a dreadful pass rush and the Chiefs will be given every opportunity to take care of it. Deep drops, play-action fakes and vertical concepts should be littered throughout the shot plays in this game.

With a pass rush struggling to get home, there is a ton of pressure on the back end to hold up to long developing routes. The Chiefs entire route tree (double moves, triple moves, play-action, etc.) is open for this game and will easily be able to take advantage downfield against the Raiders defense. Tyreek Hill is going to get loose multiple times in this game and as long as Patrick Mahomes is patient, he’ll have big-play chances from start to finish.

Seriously, target those linebackers

The Raiders most often run Cover 3 Match coverage, which asks for specific tasks out of the hook/zone defenders (LBs for Oak). They have to get over slot receivers and re-route them to throw off timing, drop to proper depth to carry routes to the deep safety and work with the routes as they cross the field. They struggle with all three.

Travis Kelce, Chris Conley, and Demetrius “Football” Harris should have plenty of space to get open over the middle of the field in this one. The Raiders linebcakers can’t match them athletically in man coverage and even in zone coverage they have a tendency to fall behind.

Targets against Daryl Worley, O/U 10.5

There is probably a real line on this somewhere but this is a fun way of saying, Worley hasn’t been playing well and needs to be targeted.

Seriously, he’s struggling on shallow, intermediate and deep routes and is often left out on an island.

Playing sides means the Chiefs can get whatever matchup they want against him and this should very much be one of those games that announcers are forced to talk about how often a specific cornerback has been targeted. The Chiefs usually aren’t a team to do that, thinking back there may not be a time where the Chiefs attacked a specific player 10-plus times in coverage, but if there was ever a time to buck this trend it’s this week.

The bottom line

Not to gloss over an NFL game, a divisional rival at that, but there are only two big things in this game fans will be watching for.

The first is Patrick Mahomes taking back over the MVP race with a strong game, which should be considered likely given the struggles of the Raiders’ defense and the Chiefs’ offensive firepower. The second is simply the usage of the Chiefs running backs.

The expectation should be Spencer Ware getting the majority of the work but the incorporation of Damien Williams and Darrell Williams is worth following.

This is the perfect game to get Ware and D Williamses into a rhythm and showcase their abilities in a favorable situation and showcase their abilities to the Chiefs fanbase.

Seeing 25-plus carries in this game, depending on flow, of course, shouldn’t surprise anyone.