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Too much Mahomes, too little defense topple Raiders

Updated November 22, 2020 - 10:16 pm

In the end, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had a little too much time and the Raiders too little defense to stop him.

While the difference between the Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs might be narrowing, the Raiders’ inability to close out the Super Bowl champions Sunday night in a 35-31 loss at Allegiant Stadium shows there is still growing to do before they pull even with their AFC West rivals.

Contemplating how close they came to sweeping the Chiefs was almost too much to bear for the bitterly disappointed Raiders (6-4), who coughed up a three-point lead over the last 1:43.

“This is hard to swallow right now,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said.

Added Raiders quarterback Derek Carr: “Today, it wasn’t enough. It’s so unfortunate.”

That is all the more so considering they pushed Kansas City (9-1) as far as possible in a back-and-forth shootout that came after the Raiders had defeated the Chiefs 40-32 in their first meeting in Kansas City.

When Carr found Jason Witten on a 2-yard touchdown throw, the Raiders led 31-28 and the AFC West was beginning to shift.

Under normal circumstances and against a lesser team not led by one of the NFL’s great young quarterbacks, the Carr -Witten connection would likely have been enough for a win.

But it was not enough against Mahomes, especially with a defense that was down three starters and practiced all week without seven key players because of COVID-19 protocol.

The defense was pushed around all night by Mahomes and the Chiefs on a handful of long, time-consuming drives measuring 16 plays and 93 yards, 14 plays and 85 yards, seven plays and 73 yards and nine plays and 73 yards.

Each forced the undermanned Raiders to muster every bit of energy they could find, only to be left gasping for air in the closing minute.

The final shove came when Mahomes orchestrated a thrilling game-winning drive in which he carried the Chiefs 75 yards over seven plays, culminating with a scrambling throw to a wide-open Travis Kelce for a 22-yard touchdown to put Kansas City ahead 35-31.

The Raiders had one last chance, but Carr’s desperation heave fell into the arms of Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen for a game-ending interception.

Rather than pulling one-game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West and owning the tiebreaker over Kansas City, the Raiders fall three games off the pace with six games to play. Instead of pushing higher in the AFC wild-card race, they fall to the seventh and last spot and must deftly navigate their way through the rest of the season to punch their ticket to the postseason.

The pain of a major opportunity lost was keenly felt by the Raiders. The key now is picking up the pieces in time to make sure Sunday’s devastating loss doesn’t spiral into a losing streak.

“We’ve got a lot of football ahead of us,” Witten said. “Disappointing loss. We got to watch that tape with a critical eye and get better.”

Said Carr: “There’s film to be watched. There’s all these things. And it sounds repetitive, but if you just do your job on game day, do your job during the week, things take care of themselves on game day. For me, I have my process. and that’s not going to change.”

Carr finished 23 of 31 for 275 yards and three touchdowns, nearly matching Mahomes blow for blow.

But a run game that couldn’t get out of first gear rendered the Raiders too one-dimensional. After three straight weeks of rushing for more than 160 yards and eclipsing 200 yards twice, the Raiders managed just 89 yards on 26 carries.

The run game woes left the Raiders unable to win the time-of-possession battle. The Chiefs kept the ball for 32:05 to the Raiders 27:55. It wasn’t a huge difference, but the Raiders would have been better served flipping that and keeping Mahomes on the sideline longer.

That was true Sunday more than ever with starting defensive end Cle Ferrell, linebacker Cory Littleton and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner all unavailable while on the COVID-19 list.

“We gave a great effort,” Gruden said. “We’ve got to get some people back out on the field playing. Hopefully, we can. We’ve got six more weeks guaranteed to us. Hopefully, we can take advantage of it.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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