OAKLAND – The Raiders scored twice on as many first-quarter drives. They forced Kansas City to punt on both of their series, taking a firm two-score lead into the second period.
That’s when the wheels came off.
Kansas City turned the game on its head during the second quarter, with 28 unanswered points and a Raiders run of three-and-outs.
That disastrous combo sunk the Raiders’ upset bid and set Sunday’s 28-10 loss in motion.
The Raiders were left to identify what went wrong during a pivotal period that ended any shot of a realistic upset chance.
Well, a lot.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes took yards in massive chunks, including four touchdowns from at least 27 yards out. The reigning NFL MVP was 12-for 17 for 278 yards and four touchdowns in the second quarter alonne, averaging 16.3 yards per attempt over that stretch.
Slot cornerback and team captain Lamarcus Joyner believes there was a recurring theme in the deep-shot onslaught, one that gave two scores away without resistance.
“I think it was just a communication thing,” Joyner said. “I think the guys in this room, one, you look at the one-on-one matchups you want for the most part. We had two plays that we gave to them by miscommunication. Got a lot of new guys in the system, we just have to communicate and we’re going to get better.”
The first touchdown of this stretch was a blown coverage, plain and simple. Demarcus Robinson was wide open for a 44-yard touchdown strike, with no one in his vicinity until Gareon Conley came off his man to make a tackle.
The second touchdown drive was the backbreaker, a 14-play, 95-yard drive that ended with a 42-yard strike to Mecole Hardman on, I joke you not, third-and-20. That’s not a typo. The Raiders forced a third-and-long thrice on that drive and gave up big plays each time. There was a third-and-4 early in the drive where Clelin Ferrell’s neutral-zone infraction gave K.C. an automatic first down.
Mahomes had all day to throw during this stretch, including the 3rd-and-20 debacle, leaving the defensive front to shoulder blame for that play and an entire quarter gone wrong.
“We just have to get home. That’s basically it,” edge rusher Maxx Crosby said. “The back end can only hold up so long. We had to keep getting pressure and, in that second quarter, they started throwing the ball deep and winning some 50-50 balls. That’s on us up front. We just have to get home.”
The third score came courtesy of Andy Reid creating a matchup the Raiders tried to avoid like the plague. The Raiders had Daryl Worley shadow tight end Travis Kelce, with him playing deeper than ever in certain packages with four cornerbacks and a single-high safety. On touchdown No. 3, Kelce shifted outside and got locked up one-on-one with shorter safety Karl Joseph. The Chiefs smelled blood, and threw an easy score to Kelce down the left sideline.
Momentum shifted irrevocably at that point and the downtrodden Raiders were ripe for another haymaker. The offense went three and out, and Mahomes went deep again. Robinson was wide open again for a 39-yard score that concluded the scoring.
Raiders execution was a major part of that disaster, but the reigning MVP had something to do with it.
“Well, we had a breakdown in one coverage, I know that, but a couple of those were just incredible throws and catches also,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “You have to tip your hat to them. We didn’t get enough pressure. We let Mahomes move around back there and cock his arm, and when he gets an opportunity to do that he can drop them in there no matter where they are. I tip my hat to them and we have to do a better job next time.”
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This stretch didn’t deflate the Raiders defense, which took confidence from shutting the Chiefs out in the second half. Joyner pushed against the notion Kansas City went into cruise control, saying a few plays led to big problems.
“We eliminated the mistakes in the second half. I didn’t see them back off at all,” Joyner said. “I felt like they were doing the same plays. I mean, if you look at the film, they really scored two big touchdowns off miscommunication. If you look at the film, there’s other than a few plays when they beat us while we were in man-coverage and we were on our stuff, so I wouldn’t take anything away from my defense. Because if they can put 50 on you, they will.”