What should have been a convincing win over a lesser opponent this week turned ugly for the Kansas City Chiefs.
There were plenty of mistakes that cost the Chiefs against the Raiders, from penalties to drops, to blown coverage, missed tackles and missed blocks. Injuries hit the home team again on Sunday, with Kelechi Osemele carted off after tearing tendons in both knees and Sammy Watkins going out with a hamstring injury. Losing those two pieces helped prevent the offense from overcoming a forgettable defensive effort.
Here are a few that stood out from a frustrating loss on Sunday:
- Travis Kelce: He’s the best tight end in the league because of his consistency. When this offense can’t get anything going, Mahomes always seems to find No. 87 to move the chains. Kelce had 8 catches, 108 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders and made some key blocks on other scoring plays.
- Willie Gay Jr.: There will still be growing pains, but the rookie seems to have progressed to the point that he’s earning the coaches’ trust and getting the starting nod. This week, he also got the first sack (if you could call it that) of his career, and he racked up six tackles (5 solo). Not bad for the rookie on a unit that can use a playmaker or two.
- Patrick Mahomes: This might seem an odd week to put Mahomes on the winners list. After all, the Chiefs lost in a shootout, and Mahomes had a costly interception. But does anyone doubt that if the defense were able to get one more stop, that Mahomes wouldn’t have led the drive down the field to tie the game? When we get discouraged after a loss, it’s comforting to remember that our team has the greatest player in the league (maybe ever), and that any setbacks are temporary with Mahomes at the helm.
- Charvarius Ward: The Raiders, even with Derek Carr, were able to attack the Chiefs deep down the field this week. Many of those long touchdowns (arguably at least three) were at the expense of Ward, who just wasn’t able to stick with Henry Ruggs (nor should he have been asked to). Maybe he wasn’t getting enough help or there was some confusion on assignments, but the fact that Ward was eventually replaced by Rashad Fenton (who fared much better) says something.
- Ben Niemann: He gets playing time because of football intelligence and coverage ability. Intelligence only goes so far, though. At some point, you’ve got to get the ballcarrier on the ground or stop a pass from being completed. Niemann appeared to be a target of the Raiders offense, and it didn’t go well. He saw extra snaps with Anthony Hitchens missing part of the game with an injury, but we were again left wondering if the coaching staff needs to change up the linebacker rotation going forward.
- Frank Clark and Chris Jones: : “Sack Nation” was invisible this week, and it was a significant part of the failures of the whole team. This defense is predicated upon pressure. Regardless of the reason, the fact is that the pass rush did get home against Carr starts and finishes with this duo.
- The Chiefs’ offensive line: We’ve excused away previous games, talking about how Mahomes is drifting too much in the pocket or the line is facing a particularly tough front. But at some point, the Chiefs big uglies have to get the job done, and it didn’t happen on Sunday. Clyde Edwards-Helaire isn’t finding much room to run, having to fight for his four yards-per-carry average, and Mahomes isn’t able to execute the offense on time, making both deep and underneath passing difficult. Potential first-round bust Clelin Ferrell had nine of the Raiders’ 32 pressures against the Chiefs Sunday. There isn’t another way of looking at the offensive line performance that can override those numbers.
- Nick Keizer: It was just one play, but it was a big one. The Chiefs were in desperate need of a first down, and Mahomes was scrambling to buy time. He zipped a pass over the middle into — and then out of — the arms of the young tight end. We can’t expect the second or third tight end to get many opportunities in the passing game, but when Mahomes throws their way, they have to catch it. Otherwise, they’re just an extra blocker, and frankly, Deon Yelder is better at that role than Keizer.