The Raiders traveled to Kansas City on a short week, undermanned, and unprepared for the cold weather. All the factors proved to be too much for the young Raiders to overcome and they were humbled and knocked out of the lead for the AFC West crown. All they could do now is look back and learn from the experience, but the story is a familiar one with the Chiefs and that story is one of missed opportunities.
Playing the Chiefs seems to be a mental hurdle that Derek Carr can’t quite get over. Last week against the Bills, he played what I thought to be his best game as a pro. He was in total control, he knew exactly what the defense was doing and how to counter it. Against the Chiefs, it was quite the opposite, everything looked difficult for the offense and when they did have their opportunities, they blew it.
Carr did miss some passes but the failure against the Chiefs wasn’t all on him. The Raiders receivers didn’t help him by dropping passes.
Carr misfired on five passes throughout the day. The biggest one is obviously the miss to Cooper in the fourth quarter, which looked like it could have been an easy touchdown. There doesn’t seem to be viable evidence that the ball hit a camera wire. Based on their post game comments, Amari Cooper and Del Rio agree that the ball moved at the last second. So for now, we’ll have to count it as a missed pass.
Blatantly Dropped Passes
After getting a gift turnover in the first quarter, the Raiders were in Chiefs territory facing a third and eight. The Chiefs were 2-man and the Raiders had a nice play called with a Sail concept, in which Roberts would run an out from the left slot. The defender had inside leverage on Roberts and Roberts ran a nice out route. Carr put the ball on the money but Roberts just flat out drops it.
The Raider receivers blatantly dropped five passes. Three of which would have been first downs.
Dropped Passes on Errant Throws
This category of dropped passes are on passes that were difficult to catch because of bad ball placement or if a defender makes a play on the ball immediately after the ball gets to the receiver. The quarterback and receiver are both to blame for these types of drops.
On the first possession of the second half, the Raiders defense forced a quick turnover. Offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave, calls the perfect play and Seth Roberts gets wide open for what looked to be a touchdown.
The Chiefs attempt to disguise a blitz by having the defender over Roberts blitz, while the strong safety has to pick Roberts up, but he can’t get to Roberts in time. Roberts is wide open, but instead of gunning a pass into Roberts, Carr lofts the ball into the red zone. The pass does lead Roberts into the end zone and hits him the chest but the high arching pass allows the safety to recover and jar the ball loose with a big hit.
The Raiders only had one dropped pass on an errant throw, but it was a big one. Being able to score a touchdown right after a huge turnover to start the half would have been a huge momentum swing.
Credit the Chiefs for the Raiders Miscues, their aggressive style of defense made it very difficult to execute and might have gotten into the heads of the offense. The Chiefs game plan was to play press man coverage and challenge the Raiders receivers to beat them. Last year, the Raiders struggled mightily against press coverage, but they’ve been excellent against man to man this year in large part because of how well they’ve been executing the fade route, but the Raider receivers were having a tough time separating against the Chiefs.
The Chiefs played some form of man to man coverage on 39/45 pass plays. When a team is playing you man to man as much as the Chiefs did, you have to remain patient, but you have to capitalize on your opportunities when you get them. It could be frustrating because a good bump and run teams can throw off the timing of an offense.
Not all man to man schemes or even techniques are the same. Richard Sherman wrote an excellent piece for the Players Tribune called What You Don’t Know About Playing Cornerback, in which he talks about two press techniques he calls “soft shoeing” and “true bump”. The Chiefs used both and mixed both techniques to keep the Raiders out of rhythm throughout the game.
Sherman describes soft-shoeing, “It’s where you stand at the line of scrimmage — in press — and slowly shuffle back off the line at the snap and mirror the receiver.”
Here you could that Peters backs off of Cooper before the ball is even snapped. He gives up the underneath pass but does a good job of breaking towards it and making a tackle for a minimal gain. When the Chiefs corners didn’t have help over the top, they used the less aggressive soft-shoeing technique to avoid getting burned by a fade route.
Sherman says, “The real difference is that [true bump technique is] more aggressive than soft-shoeing. Instead of backpedaling and mirroring the receiver, we stand in there. We don’t give. We don’t take a step until the receiver’s first movement, and then we kick back in the direction the receiver releases.”
On this play, the corner has help over the top and is much more aggressive and uses the true bump technique. The corner’s feet doesn’t move until Cooper takes an outside release, he then kicks his outside foot back back, makes contact with his hands, and shoves Cooper out of bounds.
Mixing it Up
Down 21-13, the Raiders had one final chance to tie the game. They drove all the way down to the fringe red zone. After a false start, the Raiders had to convert a fourth and six.
Cornerback, Marcus Peters, who is lined up at the bottom of the screen with Cooper plays a true bump technique because he knows he has help over the top. Michael Crabtree is lined up in the slot and is also getting double-teamed by the safety.
Roberts has a true one on one with the corner to the top of the screen but since he has no help over the top, the corner uses the soft-shoe technique and starts backpedaling out as soon as the ball is snapped. The depth he gets with his back pedal helps him stay over the top to defend the fade, which ultimately ended the game.
Looking back at the game, there is plenty of blame to go round to the players and coaches. If they were to do it again, coach Musgrave would probably have ran the ball more. Although it was a bad game for him, he still has been superb all season and continues to grow as a coach. This team has to learn from their mistakes, regroup, and move on. Peyton Manning had his struggles with the Patriots early in his career and it seems like the Chiefs present the same type of challenge for Carr. He’ll have to find a way to get over this mental hurdle soon because a third meeting with the Chiefs in the playoffs is a real possibility.