Final Score: Kansas City Chiefs 30, Las Vegas Raiders 29
Kansas City was down early, but an absolutely electric crowd at Arrowhead stadium (and a second-half comeback) led to the Chiefs moving to 4-1 on the season. The offense started slowly but finally found their rhythm. The defense struggled to slow down the run and certain miscues in the secondary gave way to big plays — but in the end, this was the epitome of a Chiefs-Raiders game.
Offense (Ron Kopp)
The Chiefs’ offense did not start off well — and the ways they failed on the first drive became a theme of the first half. On third down, right tackle Andrew Wylie was beaten cleanly on an inside-spin move by Raiders’ defensive end Maxx Crosby, who swallowed quarterback Patrick Mahomes whole for a quick sack.
Those offensive line woes continued throughout the first three drives — and the negative plays seemed to be coming from the offensive tackles. Wylie had lots of trouble with Crosby, who registered two sacks in the first half. Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. had multiple losses against edge rusher Chandler Jones; the speed rush was too much for Brown, who sometimes gave up the corner too easily.
Those leaks in pass protection really affected the passing offense, mostly limiting it to quick passes. Even the Raiders’ blitzes were working. One got home so quickly that Mahomes had no choice but to purposefully throw it at a receiver’s feet. The unit started 0/3 on third down.
The Chiefs’ offense did begin to adjust — and that started with the ground game. Running back Jerick McKinnon showed out with a 30-yard gain on his first rush. He ended the game as the team’s rushing leader with 53 yards — including three carries of seven or more yards.
But the offense really turned around because of the focused, dialed-in performance of Mahomes and the offensive coaching staff. After the first three drives, the unit scored on five straight possessions — four of them touchdowns. The offense began to scheme open chunk passing gains — and the team’s top three receivers shared those plays.
In that stretch, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling had four catches of at least 14 yards, becoming the team’s overall receiving leader for Monday night. JuJu Smith-Schuster made two important catches, but it was wide receiver Mecole Hardman who came up with two receptions of over 28 yards on the last two touchdown drives. It was his best game of the season.
As Mahomes locked in, he helped the offensive line — and that seemed to help them play better as the game went on; Brown and Wylie appeared to be holding their own at a much higher rate. The running game had its moments, but it wasn’t as dominant as saw against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Arizona Cardinals.
Offensive Player of the Game: Tight end Travis Kelce
All of those chunk gains from wide receivers got the Chiefs into the red zone, where all four touchdowns happened — and all of them went to Kelce. He only totaled 25 yards for the game, but his four scores came in a variety of ways down by the goal line. Two of them were on third down, while another came from a play-action throw that Kelce found space behind. He and Mahomes’ connection always finds a way.
Defense (Talon Graff)
The first half was not going the defense’s way. Even though they started off by forcing a punt, they allowed Las Vegas to put up points on the next four possessions. A heinous roughing-the-passer call on defensive tackle Chris Jones negated what would have been a strip sack and fumble recovery. From that point on, the Arrowhead crowd was pretty much unglued, raining boos on anyone wearing black and white — or black and silver.
Matthew Wright’s record-breaking 59-yard field goal just before halftime gave the team a little additional juice as they went into the locker room — and in the second half, the defense tightened up, allowing just nine points.
The defense struggled to slow down the Raiders’ power-running game plan. Las Vegas used an extra offensive lineman and fullback. With linebackers and defensive lineman blocked up, that forced safety Juan Thornhill to fill running lanes. No. 22 wasn’t as successful as the Chiefs would have liked. Running back Josh Jacobs was able to find consistently find holes and broke off multiple long runs.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo also called a lot of linebacker blitzes, which put them out of position on certain running plays. At one point after a Jacobs run, it appeared that Nick Bolton was calling off the blitzes. The defense allowed Jacobs nearly 7.5 yards per carry for a total of 154 yards and a touchdown.
The pass defense played well throughout the contest — even forcing at least one coverage sack. Outside of two big plays to Davante Adams that each went for touchdowns, quarterback Derek Carr’s aerial attack was grounded. Adams was held to only three catches, but they went for 124 yards.
The defensive backs are a young group and will have these types of lapses on the field. As the season progresses., we’ll want to see these happen less often — and to see receivers getting loose less frequently. If Trent McDuffie can indeed be back before the Week 6 games against the Buffalo Bills, that will be a huge boost.
Carr dropped back only 30 times — most of them late in the game — so through most of the game, he was leaning on the run. That kept the Kansas City pass rush from being too disruptive. But Chris Jones and his teammates were able to take down the Raiders quarterback twice. Frank Clark looked good before he was forced to leave the game with an illness. And a shout-out to George Karlaftis, who shared his first NFL sack with Jones.
Defensive Player of the Game: Defensive tackle Chris Jones
Late in the second quarter, Jones made what would arguably be the best play of his career. Unfortunately, it became a penalty. Still, it deserves acknowledgment. The way Jones was able to get the ball out of Carr’s hands — taking control of it while taking Carr to the ground — was a very athletic (and memorable) play.