Raiders unable to sustain start in loss to Chiefs

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
A 14-0 second quarter lead quickly evaporated as Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City rallied and dominated to drop the Raiders to 5-7.

LAS VEGAS — As game plans go, you didn’t need to be Bill Walsh to figure this one out. A fourth grader could’ve come up with it.

Keep Patrick Mahomes off the field as much as possible. Put some points on the board with your offense and maybe you’ll have a chance to beat the Kansas City Chiefs.

Of course, doing it for four quarters is the challenge. Sunday, the Raiders did it for just slightly more than one quarter and that’s simply not good enough if you’re looking to knock off the defending Super Bowl champions. Mahomes is too good and Andy Reid’s too smart a coach to let that happen.

So it was fool’s gold for the Raiders and their fans, once again outflanked by the visiting team’s supporters in the crowd of 62,441 at Allegiant Stadium. A 14-0 second-quarter lead didn’t even hold up until halftime. And once Mahomes got going and Travis Kelce decided to take an active part in the Kansas City offense, well, few, if any opponents are going to stand in their way.

The Chiefs rediscovered how to score in the second half after failing to find the end zone for three straight games after halftime and they left Las Vegas winners again, this time by a 31-17 count.

Mahomes would finish with 298 yards on 27-of-34 passing and a pair of touchdowns. Kelce had six catches for 91 yards while Rashee Rice really hurt the Raiders with eight grabs for 107 yards and a 39-yard TD in he fourth quarter to put the game away.

“There were opportunities there. We had guys open. You’ve got to make plays and connect with them,” Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce said. “But you know at some point Patrick and the world champs are going to make plays. They were the better team over four quarters.”

So Pierce and his players can be as frustrated as they’d like. But the Raiders, who dropped to 5-7, are probably going to miss the playoffs. They’re not officially out yet but it’s looking grim. 

They likely needed to win one of the last two games — either a week ago in Miami or Sunday against Kansas City to stay at .500 after Pierce took over for Josh McDaniels a month ago and got the team back to even at 5-5 with wins over the two New York teams in consecutive weeks.

It’s not like the Raiders haven’t played better under Pierce. They are much improved on both sides of the ball. They play with enthusiasm and courage. Aidan O’Connell is getting better as an NFL quarterback. Defensive end Maxx Crosby played despite a bad knee and was still a handful for Kansas City to deal with, even as they double-teamed him virtually all day.

But when you manage just three points in the second half, you can’t expect to come out on top. 

“We definitely didn’t play well enough in the second half,” said O’Connell, who started out 13 of 16 for 138 yards and a TD and finished 23 of 33 for 248 yards. “We kept our defense on the field too long. As an offense, we have to do a better job of sustaining drives.” 

And at 5-7 with five games remaining, including a Christmas Day rematch with the Chiefs in Kansas City, the Silver and Black appear to have too many teams ahead of them to leapfrog and make the playoffs. At least six teams are ahead of the Raiders in the wild card chase, all have winning records.

Does that mean Pierce should be cut loose by owner Mark Davis after the team’s finale vs. the Broncos the first weekend in January? He probably should call the leadership group among the players to his office at the team’s Henderson training facility and solicit their opinion before making a decision. They certainly haven’t quit on the season and I wouldn’t anticipate them doing so going forward when they return to the field against Minnesota Dec. 10 after this coming week’s bye. But CB Marcus Peters may not be part of the scene after he found himself benched late in the first half and had a conversation with Pierce.

And the day frankly didn’t start all that well as backup safety Roderic Teamer was arrested for a DUI and speeding early Sunday. He was ruled inactive for the game and the team issued a statement prior to kickoff saying it was aware of the situation, was investigating and would not have further comment.

Still, you see glimpses of what can be for the Raiders. Josh Jacobs had a great first half, including a 63-yards TD run in the second quarter, and finished with 110 yards for the day. Jakobi Meyers had six receptions for 79 yards, including an 18-yard TD. And even the defense had its moments early on, not letting Mahomes and the Kansas City offense find a rhythm.

But when you can’t do it the entire 60 minutes, it usually means you’re coming out on the short end of things. Even with Taylor Swift thousands of miles away in Brazil, Kelce, Mahomes and the rest of the Chiefs were still in good shape.

So the Raiders will take a week off, regroup, try to get healthy, both physically and emotionally, and try and finish the season with as many positives as possible and try and achieve a winning record. Players are playing for their jobs. Coaches are coaching for their jobs. The owner has some hard decisions to make in terms of finding who he wants to lead the team going forward. That includes the interim general manager. Champ Kelly may be quietly be working behind the scenes with the team’s scouts in getting ready for the 2024 draft, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be making the picks when it comes time to select.

So while things may seem better around Raider Nation, the reality is they’re playing below-.500 football and time is running out on them.

“Each and every week is a challenge,” Pierce said. “Don’t take anything for granted. We all have to get better.”