Antonio Pierce did his best to get through his postgame interview on national television, but his emotions were much too strong.
With an effort that may have given their interim coach the best Christmas gift he could ask for, the Las Vegas Raiders delivered a 20-14 win in Kansas City, stopping the Chiefs from clinching the AFC West while keeping their own playoff hopes alive.
In the process, the Raiders may have nudged Pierce a bit closer to having the interim tag removed.
“AP did an awesome job all week of preparing us,” said Las Vegas quarterback Aidan O’Connell, who finished 9 of 21 for 62 yards. “He showed us intensity early on in the week how much he wanted this game and how much it would take. It was a testament to AP and the entire staff.”
The Raiders’ defense scored a pair of touchdowns in a span of seven seconds during the second quarter, while continuing to frustrate reigning NFL MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes the entire game en route to improving to 4-3 under Pierce and since owner Mark Davis fired Josh McDaniels on Oct. 31.
“We talked about it all week,” Pierce said. “Ill-intent, violence, physicality, pain – enough is enough. One of our mantras (was) by any means necessary. Hats off to our defense and defensive staff.”
Raiders running back Zamir White had a career game, rushing for 145 yards on 22 carries, the first 100-yard game of his career.
“Hats off to Zamir, ’cause at the end of we said … ‘if they’re in your way run through them,'” Pierce said. “And he did just that.”
While the Chiefs may have finished with 308 yards, 103 more than Las Vegas’ 205, it wasn’t until they gained 138 in the fourth quarter on their final two drives they showed signs of life on offense. And it still wasn’t enough against the Raiders’ inspired stop unit.
Las Vegas needs wins in its final two games, and plenty of help from others, but is most certainly in a position to pull off an improbable postseason run provided it plays with its best foot forward as it did to kick off Monday’s NFL tripleheader.
“It was on full display on Christmas Day, not a better day to do it,” Pierce said, before exiting the press conference and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.
The Raiders’ defense was dominant from the start, forcing back-to-back three-and-outs on Kansas City’s first two drives. It was the first time a Mahomes-led offense was stopped on three downs on consecutive possessions at home.
It was the fewest yards allowed by a defense in a first quarter in the NFL this season, and the fewest allowed in a first quarter in an NFL game since Dec. 19, 2004, when the Cardinals held the Rams to minus-20. It was also the fewest allowed by the Raiders in any quarter since Dec. 1, 1991, three behind the minus-21 for the Chargers in the second quarter that day.
The Chiefs’ season-long turnover problems continued, as a mishandled handoff from Isiah Pacheco to Mahomes resulted in a defensive touchdown for the Raiders when Bilal Nichols rumbled in from the 8-yard line.
On the next possession, just seven seconds later, Jack Jones intercepted Mahomes and returned the ball 33 yards for a score. It was Jones’ second pick-six in as many weeks.
It marked the first time in franchise history the Raiders scored multiple non-offensive touchdowns in consecutive games.
The Raiders have five defensive touchdowns this season, the first time since they also had five in 2000.
In the end, Mahomes finished 27 of 44 for 235 yards with a touchdown and one interception. He was also sacked four times, the most he’s been brought down in a game this season. Mahomes had been sacked three times in three other games this season.
The Raiders travel to face Indianapolis on Sunday before closing the regular season at home against the Broncos on Jan. 7.