When you have won as many football games as the Kansas City Chiefs have had in the last two seasons, you do not have many opportunities for revenge. But the Chiefs have taken full advantage of their few new opportunities: last season, they beat both the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans in the mail season after losing to both teams earlier this year.
In particular, they have not had many chances for revenge against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Chiefs have only lost three of their last 15 matchups against their divisional rivals. Nor have they allowed either of the two preceding losses to snowball into another; Kansas City bounced back each time with a multiple-point victory.
This time, they seek revenge for the 40-32 defeat they experienced in Week 5 ̵
It should be a great game to start the second half of the season. Here are five things to see:
1. Restriction of explosive games from Raiders
The Chiefs’ most obvious problem in the first matchup was their deep pass defense. The Raiders had five separate games at 42 yards or more – including passing to deep threats like wide receivers Henry Ruggs III and Nelson Agholor. But based on how the secondary game has played the rest of this season, these pieces were an anomaly.
Chiefs Defense’s five biggest plays abandoned in 2020:
1. 72-yard TD pass – Week 5 vs. LV
2. 59-yard TD pass – Week 5 vs. LV
3. 46-yard pass – Week 5 vs. LV
4. 43 yard run – Week 5 vs LV
5. 42-yard pass – Week 5 vs LV
– Craig Stout (@barleyhop) November 20, 2020
Even Raiders quarterback Derek Carr’s big game was an outlier. Raiders deep passers-by have been more effective this season, but Carr’s huge game in Kansas City boosted those stats drastically.
In Week 5, Carr had six deep passing passes and completed four of them for 219 yards and two scores. He went deep on 19% of his throws. For the year, Carr has had 28 deep attempts with 13 completions on a total of 536 yards and five touchdowns. These account for 10% of his throws. That means 31% of Carr’s deep finishes – and 41% of his deep yards – came in the Week 5 game.
This week, Chiefs defense coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and safety Tyrann Mathieu Carr gave credit for his ability to take advantage of the gaps in the Chiefs’ coverage in the last game – but they also made it clear they will be more prepared to defend the long ball in the rematch.
2. Chiefs’ changed offensive line
Last time, Chiefs’ starting offensive was left tackle Eric Fisher, left guard Kelechi Osemele, center Austin Reiter, right guard Andrew Wylie and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz – the same group that had started the first four games of the season.
Since then, Osemele and Schwartz have left the lineup due to injuries. Reiter has rotated with veteran Daniel Kilgore as the starting center and only started another game since Week 5. Fisher and Schwartz were both placed on the reserve / COVID list earlier this week, but both were removed from the list on Thursday. To pile on, filling in right tackle Mike Remmers is questionable for Sunday’s match with a rib injury.
Last time, the Raiders’ pass rush particularly affected Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He had only a 30.8 passer rating when he threw against pressure, completing only a third of his attempts and taking three sacks. In fact, the Raiders had one of their best passing performances of the season with ten more quarterbacks pressure than in any other game.
Raiders will be missing starting edge rusher Clelin Ferrell due to a positive COVID-19 test; in the first matchup, he led the team with nine pressures. However, the Raiders should have inner defensive lineman Maurice Hurst – who missed the Week 5 game – back on Sunday.
3. Matches up with Darren Waller
We already know that the Chiefs will focus on stopping explosive, deep passing games – but it can actually feed on the true strength of the Raiders’ offense. The tight end Darren Waller has distinguished himself as the NFL’s second-best receiving tight end this season. As with Chiefs’ Travis Kelce, he will benefit from fewer defenders in the intermediate zones.
In the Week 5 game, the Chiefs relied on safety Daniel Sorensen to cover Waller on a handful of occasions. In those situations, Waller caught all three of his goals in 39 yards – two of which were important first-down conversions. On the other hand, when Waller was covered by cornerback Bashaud Breeland, he was carpeted – leading to a forced throw and an interception.
It’s not always possible to match a boundary cornerback to a tight end – especially when the wide receivers are also big threats – but Chiefs may need to get creative. Cornerback Charvarius Ward’s combination of size and speed is a major antidote to Waller’s physical ability; it is also Breeland’s body.
If they can find a way to prevent Sorensen – or linebackers like Ben Niemann or Damien Wilson – from covering Waller in crucial situations, it will be for the better.
4. A great day from the Chiefs offense
There are few games where the Chiefs are not expected to score a ton of points. But there are many factors that point to a very explosive offensive performance on Sunday night:
- Chiefs face Raiders after their bye week. After a week of rest, head coach Andy Reid is 24-5 in his career – including the post season.
- The revenge factor is real. Reid has commented on the Raiders’ victory shot from the Week 5 win; he has subtly made it a point of motivation. Thanks to him for spice up the rivalry.
Las Vegas put a majority of their starting defenses on the reserve / COVID list at some point this week due to close contacts with Clelin Ferrell. Most of them have now dropped out of the list, but that obviously hinders a week of game planning – and they could still keep some players out. Linebacker Cory Littleton – also on the reserve / COVID list – will miss the game.
- For the most part, the Raiders’ defense has not been good. They are below average in scores and overall yards. Last week, they took advantage of battling Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock and used bad weather in Cleveland to keep the Browns to a low-scoring game in Week 8. In addition to the two games, they have allowed 32 points per game this season.
After all, the Chiefs offense played well the first time; they just stopped a few times in the second half and then could not catch up. There is reason to believe that they will be even more focused in week 11.
5. Production from Chiefs’ pass rush
In the first matchup, the Chiefs’ dangerous pass-rushing duo of Chris Jones and Frank Clark were almost invisible. The two combined just three pressure and a quarterback hit. It enabled Carr to make the big throws – and this time, such a performance from both of them would be unacceptable.
Now in his third NFL campaign, Raiders left tackle Kolton Miller has played exceptionally well and has only allowed one sack this season. Week 5 was one of three games where he only allowed one quarterback pressure. But Miller has missed the last two weeks with an ankle injury. He is expected to play on Sunday, but he may not be at his best.
Right tackle Trent Brown was on the other side in week 5, but he was placed on the reserve / COVID list a few weeks ago and has not returned. In his absence, Sam Young – a 33-year veteran who has not played a significant role for a team since 2017 – has carried most of the burden.
Somehow, the Chiefs’ star pass rushers have to make their presence felt on Sunday night.