In the last 374 days, the Kansas City Chiefs have only lost one football game. As amazing as that statistic is, there’s no worse team to suffer that one defeat to than the Las Vegas Raiders. The hated rivals upset the Chiefs 40-32 at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 5, and now Kansas City has its chance at revenge in Week 11.
No game is worth losing — especially in the midst of a tight race with the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers for the conference’s one seed — but Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu found a positive takeaway from the game as he reflected on it in his Thursday press conference.
“We hadn’t lost a game in awhile. Defensively, we hadn’t played that bad in awhile. To us, it was a gut check, a reality check,” Mathieu pointed out. “I thought we needed it. Obviously, coming off of the Super Bowl victory and starting off the season the way we started it, you can kind of get complacent, you can kind of think that things are always going to go your way. I was kind of glad we had that moment, cause we’ve really been getting better in my mind since that day.”
The first loss may have done some good, but there’s no bright side to another loss. The vocal leader of the defense made sure to emphasize that point.
“You never want to lose two times, especially to the same team,” Mathieu shared. “Especially to a divisional team, especially when these two franchises go way back.”
The main culprit of the Raiders’ success that day was quarterback Derek Carr. Chiefs fans have grown accustomed to non-threatening throws and turnovers coming from Carr in his career, but the 347 passing yards and three touchdowns he threw in Week 5 changed the narrative.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo wasn’t hesitant to admit that Carr outperformed the coaches’ game plan.
“I think he did a terrific job the last time we played them with getting his offense in and out of bad plays,” Spagnuolo told reporters in his Thursday press conference. “He was one step ahead of me the whole time, I give him a lot credit for that. I’ve always thought he was that way and I got a lot of respect for (Raiders head coach) John [Gruden] and what they package together. We’re going to try and be one step ahead in more plays than they are.”
Mathieu joined in on the praise for Carr — who has thrown an interception at the second-lowest rate in the NFL this season.
“I thought he played a great game. He was patient, he was calm, he got his team in the right plays. He was able to really be effective,” Mathieu detailed. “What we’re really going to have to focus on is how can we disrupt him in the pocket, how can we get him to move his feet, how can our big guys up front really impact the game. In the back end, how can we stop those big shots that they lost to take. I think John Gruden and Derek Carr have been working well together, and you can see it on tape. It’s going to be very important for us to really hone in on him from the very first play. To mix up different disguises and not give him the easy way out, make him work down to down.”
The most impactful part of the Raiders offense that game was the deep passing. Las Vegas was able to earn four different catches that gained at least 42 yards. Two of them went for first-half scores. Spagnuolo is preparing to defend those plays better this time around.
“The emphasis has been not to allow explosive plays — it’s that every week,” Spagnuolo expIained. “I have to be a little bit smarter with the calls I make. Everyone’s eyes and what they are doing, if everyone does their job better, hopefully that doesn’t happen.”
One of the players with a few of those huge passes was rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs III. His blinding speed was put on display when he scored on a 77-yard catch-and-run that left all Chiefs defenders in the dust. Mathieu broke down how to defend that explosive of a player.
“For us, it comes down to understanding football and where we’re at on the field,” Mathieu began. “He’s pretty fast, he runs by people, but a lot of those routes are schemed routes. If we can see that pre-snap, I think it’ll put us in a better position to do our best to stay on top of him. He’s one of those guys, if he’s even, he’s leaving. The biggest part for us is to obviously get hands on him in the line of scrimmage, but see where he is in the formation. That could say a lot about what they want to do with him when he’s in certain spots.”
Fresh off of a bye week with a little revenge fueling the team, there’s every reason to believe the Chiefs defense will play better than they did in Week 5. If big plays are still beating the Chiefs this time around, it won’t be because they were ill-prepared.