This was the best the defense has played all year, right? Even with the fourth quarter?
They were fast, aggressive, fearless. Steven Nelson was terrific. Chris Jones was dominant. Reggie Ragland was fast and hard to the ball.
This has traditionally been a good matchup for the Chiefs, despite what we saw in Oakland a few months ago, so if you want to be cautious before buying in nobody could blame you.
Marcus Peters’ suspension has to be talked about in this, and everyone is so dug in on their positions here that narratives will be twisted to fit preconceived notions. Maybe you think the Chiefs played better because their minds were free of the distraction, or maybe you think they played better because they were inspired by their friend.
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The truth isn’t as clear or singular as we’d usually like it to be, and my best guess is it’s a combination of both sides being humiliated, with the added juice of revenge and a favorable matchup.
But, I don’t know. We’re all guessing here.
I’m sure if I watched this from the Raiders’ perspective I’d see a lot more that they did wrong than the Chiefs did right.
In a sentence: this is progress, but the problems aren’t fixed.
▪ For instance: Alex Smith threw an atrocious interception. Travis Kelce had too many drops. The defense held up, until the fourth quarter, and even as the game was all but totally out of reach you’d like to see a group finish better.
I do believe the Chiefs will have to play a better four quarters next week against the Chargers, because those will be the best two teams in the AFC West.
▪ The Chiefs were stronger. Surprising to watch, really, because even when the Chiefs were good early this season you never really would’ve described them as particularly strong — especially not on the offensive line.
But here they were, bullying the Raiders. That showed up most obviously on defense, perhaps best highlighted by a sack at the end of the third quarter when Justin Houston and Tamba Hali made the pocket disappear in about one second.
Again, I’m sure the Raiders had a lot to do with this, but you have to celebrate these things when they happen.
▪ The offensive line had some issues, but just as often that was because Alex Smith held onto the ball too long. They were good up front, opening holes for Kareem Hunt, and that touchdown late in the third quarter to go up 26-0 was basically the line doing bodybuilding flexes.
▪ Speaking of Hunt, for the first time this season, I thought he left some yards on the field. In the first quarter, the line gave him a huge hole on the right side. He took a six yard or so gain, which is nice, but it looked like the kind of play Hunt would’ve broken for 50 at the beginning of the season.
I think a lot of us have been concerned whether he’d hit the rookie wall, but he looked strong and consistent the rest of the way.
▪ Chris Jones played what might be his best game of the season. I wrote this a few times in the last few weeks, but the defensive line has been the single most disappointing position group on either side of the ball, when measured against reasonable expectations.
Jones is the most talented in that group, so he’s a big part of that, but he was playing angry and fast and strong today.
▪ That was the best catch of Albert Wilson’s career. Watching live, I thought for sure he only got one foot down, or maybe was juggling just enough for the NFL’s draconian catch rule to take it back, but good golly, that was an absolutely legitimate and stunning catch.
A 5-9 guy essentially beating a 6-3 guy on a jump ball, working in no space, the quarterback throwing against pretty damn good coverage.
▪ Hey, some creativity!
Misdirection screens on offense, and a few times on defense they had Justin Houston line up on the inside, letting Chris Jones go one-on-one against the Raiders right tackle Marshall Newhouse.
The Chiefs need a lot more of this going forward. Along with Terrance Mitchell’s demotion, the lack of blitz packages has been the most baffling part of the defense’s struggles.
If this is the beginning of a reset, then this is an important day for the rest of the season.
My biggest gripe with defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is that he too often lets his guys go passive, making it too easy for the defense to dictate his personnel and pressures. This is a talented, aggressive group, and they’re at their best when allowed to let that all hang out. Might give up some yards because of it, but they’ll make some big plays, too.
▪ This is encouraging, obviously, but I don’t know how you could watch this and think it’s all fixed. Depending on what the Chargers do this afternoon a win today puts the Chiefs in strong position to win the division.
But this season has never been about winning the division, never been about making the playoffs. The standard isn’t whether they fix themselves enough to play a wild card game at home.
The standard is whether they fix themselves enough to win at least a division round game.