Game Grades: Raiders at Chiefs

Pass Offense: Derek Carr had 21 completions in 33 attempts, for 194 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and two fumbles. Carr finished the season just 13 yards shy of becoming the first Raiders QB to reach 4,000 yards since Rich Gannon in 2002. Offensive line issues continue to define the final part of the season for the team, as Carr took six sacks today, ending the season with a respectable total of 31 sacks. However, 19 of those sacks came in the final five games, and 10 of those were in the two Kansas City games. In both Chiefs games, Carr showed difficulty in figuring out Bob Sutton’s aggressive, man-coverage defensive scheme. Michael Crabtree once again proved to be the reliable outlet for Carr, with a great 31-yard grab for the team’s only offensive touchdown. Amari Cooper was still banged up, held to just 20 yards on two receptions.
Grade: D

Rush Offense: Normally we don’t add in Carr’s scrambles to the rushing yards total, because they are usually not designed runs, but broken passing plays. Might as well add Carr’s two runs for 12 yards this time around, since even then the Raiders’ grand total comes to a measly 48 yards on 16 total carries. Latavius Murray was rarely used and mostly shut down, gaining 31 yards on his 11 carries, with a long of 9 yards. Roy Helu was the only other ball carrier, with 3 carries for 5 yards and a long of 3 yards.
Grade: F

Pass Defense: Alex Smith ended his 2015 season with just 7 interceptions, but two of them were in this game, and David Amerson took his in for a pick-six. With Charles Woodson retiring, Amerson is the best remaining player on the Raiders’ secondary right now. The Raiders held Smith to just 14-24-154, but he also had two passing touchdowns. Considering the Raiders defense was on the field for almost 35 minutes, it could have been worse.
Grade: B+

Rush Defense: When Alex Smith couldn’t damage the Raiders with his arm, he victimized them with his legs, racking up 61 rushing yards on just nine carries, frequently at critical third-down points. Spencer Ware also had a field day, going 16-76 with a touchdown. Charcandrick West got into the festivities as well, gaining 34 yards on 13 carries. Jeremy Maclin’s 18-yard end-around pushes the grand total up to 189 rushing yards, a real step back for what had been an improved run defense. But again, 35 minutes on the field and very little offense, and that’s what happens.
Grade: C

Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski made his lone 29-yard field goal attempt, and both extra points. Marquette King had a (for him) off day, averaging just 35.6 yards on his 6 punts, although one of them was a 57-yarder. Taiwan Jones had a 70-yard kickoff return. Kick coverage continues to be solid, giving up nothing longer than 14 yards.
Grade: B-

Coaching: While the Raiders this season have shown themselves to be much more competitive in general and against division opponents, both Kansas City games were by far their weakest division efforts. For whatever reason, they appear unable to handle Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s scheme and packages. As Denver and San Diego appear to be fading in the AFC West for at least the next couple seasons, it becomes even more critical for the Raiders to figure out the Chiefs and adapt. This will require developing a much more balanced rushing attack, and a complementary back to Latavius Murray. The days of the 35-carries-per-game workhorse running back are over; ideally Murray should get around 20-25 carries max, and the other RB should get 10-15. The 2:1 pass-run ratio today (33 pass plays, 16 running plays) is a surefire indicator of where the offense’s deficiencies lie. An adaptive game plan, especially after what happened in the first Raiders-Chiefs matchup on December 6, would have taken some of the load off Carr and spread it around in a jumbo-formation running package, to slow down the Chiefs’ front seven.
Grade: C-

Week 17 Final: Chiefs 23, Raiders 17

Full game stats here.

Derek Carr is probably going to have nightmares about Frank Zombo during the off-season. The Chiefs LB, who barreled through the Raiders’ o-line twice to end the game in Oakland last month, made his presence felt today in Kansas City as well, forcing a Carr fumble on the game’s final drive that was just barely recovered by the Raiders, to no avail.

At the very end of both a lost season and a Hall of Fame career, the Raiders at least managed to make it interesting, but only after a lot of dullness and derp. Charles Woodson’s NFL career ended in the same stadium where it began, at Kansas City’s Arrowhead. On the Chiefs’ first two offensive drives, the Raiders pass defense made Alex Smith look like Randall Cunningham, scrambling and passing and scoring at will, racking up an early 14-0 lead.

The safety in the third quarter happened on a blocked punt from the end zone, when Ben Heeney missed his block, allowing King’s punt to be blocked trough the end zone. The Chiefs scored a touchdown easily after the safety free kick, opening up a 23-10 lead. Bad play on Heeney’s part, but overall throughout the season, he’s proven himself to be a player with huge potential, and with top-notch LBs like Del Rio and Norton as his HC and DC respectively, there’s no reason Heeney can’t be groomed into a premier linebacker as well.

On the other side of the ball, Chiefs DC Bob Sutton seems to have just the thing to halt the Raiders offense dead in its tracks. Derek Carr managed some nice throws here and there, but Sutton’s constant pressure kept him on his heels, unable to generate consistent, productive drives. David Amerson’s pick-six in 2nd qtr got the Raiders back in the game, but the offense was unable to capitalize. With Woodson retiring, Nate Allen’s status up in the air going forward if he can’t stay healthy, and DJ Hayden on the verge of being permanently demoted to nickelback, Amerson is turning out to be one of the players (along with TJ Carrie) they can rebuild the secondary around.

Game Preview: Raiders at Chiefs

It’s the end of an era, as Charles Woodson suits up for his final NFL game. And of course the Raiders will strive to send him out on a high note. The Chiefs are already in the playoffs, so there’s no spoiler role to be had in this final game of the 2015-16 regular season. But that doesn’t mean that Oakland can’t use this game as a barometer of the direction the team is heading, and how quickly and effectively. Kansas City is red-hot, winning nine in a row after a 1-5 start, and will win the AFC West with a win against the Raiders, and a loss by Denver.

The Chiefs have continued their winning ways with the steady play of Alex Smith, the next-man-up approach of the running back corps, and the usual tight defensive play. Defensive back Marcus Peters is a legitimate contender for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Kansas City is top-10 in their rushing attack, and second in the league in defensive points allowed.

There are some noteworthy parallels between this game and the season-ender in KC in 1999, for what that’s worth. Probably the main key to victory for the Raiders is to generate a strong running game and ride it for all it’s worth. If they do that, and own the clock enough, they can actually pull this one off and end the season at a respectable 8-8, more than the last two seasons combined.