The Raiders built their best five-game start since 2002 on the back of an offense that repeatedly masked their porous defense. With a hard rain drumming the Coliseum on Sunday afternoon, that cover washed away, leaving streaks on uniforms and a 26-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that was anything but clean.
The Raiders were outgained for a sixth consecutive game, this time by a balanced Chiefs offense meticulously led by former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Derek Carr committed two turnovers, one an ill-advised throw that was intercepted, the other a fumble in Chiefs territory late in the game. Sebastian Janikowski pushed a field-goal attempt wide through the rain.
“Not the kind of afternoon we were hoping to have,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “We took our lumps. We were outplayed and outcoached. Give them credit.”
This meeting of division rivals was thought to be a measuring stick for the Raiders’ early season. They had a three-game winning streak snapped while falling to the Chiefs for the fourth consecutive time. And although they remain tied for first place in the AFC West at 4-2, the Raiders readily admitted after Sunday’s loss that there is much room to improve.
That begins with a defense that came in allowing a league-worst 452.6 yards per game and gave up 406 more to the Chiefs, who appeared equally capable of gaining them on the ground (183) and through the air (223).
“The biggest issue is just the attention to detail,” cornerback David Amerson said of the defense’s first six weeks. “It’s not really guys out there getting out-physicaled or beat on every play or something like that. It’s just little details, offense doing stuff to try to mess with our eyes, eyes not in the right place. Little things like that can turn into big gains.”
Smith, labeled a “game manager” since his days with the 49ers, improved to 8-1 against the Raiders with a characteristically steady performance. Smith completed 19 of 22 passes to nine receivers and did not get credited for a completion on the one throw that resulted in a score.
That was a bubble screen from the Raiders’ 1-yard line to 346-pound defensive lineman Dontari Poe, who rumbled across the goal line for a touchdown that put the Chiefs ahead 20-10 in the third quarter. The play, ruled a lateral and therefore a rushing play, marked the first of 13 unanswered Kansas City points to end the game.
It also fit with a Chiefs game plan that used misdirection to great effect, with several of their long gains coming on plays that developed one way before cutting back to the other. Running back Spencer Ware, the beneficiary of several big gaps, finished with 131 yards on 24 carries.
“They did a lot of window dressing,” Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin said. “They did a lot of disguising stuff, make us believe one thing and actually do the other thing. I think they played a hell of a game.
“But everything just falls back on us, man. We’ve just got to continue to try to fix it.”
Have they diagnosed the problem?
“Just inconsistent, man,” Irvin said. “We play good a couple of plays and then let one get away. You can’t be inconsistent. Teams are too good, and they’re going to make you pay. We’ve just got to be consistent. If we make a play, keep making plays, stack good plays on top of each other.”
The day actually got off to a positive start for the Raiders. Jalen Richard took the opening kickoff back 50 yards, setting up a seven-play touchdown drive that included Carr completing three passes to Amari Cooper and finding Andre Holmes for a 3-yard score.
The Raiders’ defense then forced a punt, with Khalil Mack getting to Smith for their lone sack. But on the second play of the ensuing drive, Carr forced a deep throw from his back foot that fell well short of Michael Crabtree and into the hands of cornerback Marcus Peters. The Chiefs drove down the field for a touchdown, then took over on Janikowski’s miss of 52 yards and scored again on a 4-yard run by Jamaal Charles.
Del Rio said Carr’s interception was “probably a bad decision.” Said Carr: “No excuses, man, just got to make the play.”
Carr found Cooper nine times for 117 yards in the first half, including twice on a sharp drive that resulted in a 46-yard Janikowski field goal and sent the Raiders into halftime down just three points. What momentum the Raiders seized, though, evaporated as the Chiefs came out of halftime with a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive highlighted by a 45-yard run from Ware.
Cooper finished with just one catch in the second half – Carr said the Chiefs changed their coverage – and the offense crossed midfield on just one drive that ended when Carr had the ball stripped from behind on the 20 with 7:14 left in the game.
“It hurts,” Carr said of the loss. “It (stinks). We didn’t do good enough at all. I mean, it was bad. The stupid thing about this game is sometimes it’s going to be like that.
“But we know who we are. We know what we can do. Obviously we didn’t do it today. But we’ve got to go back and get to work.”