Paul Guenther has taken more than enough flak this season to know his seat is heating up at a scalding pace. Coming into the game against the Kansas City Chiefs, many assumed this would be the game that showed the Raiders how much help they needed on defense.
An old Japanese proverb goes: “A cornered mouse will bite the cat,” meaning an individual with their back against the wall knows they are fighting for their lives and, in turn, will fight back harder. At kickoff, Guenther was the mouse, fighting for his job against the most ferocious cat the NFL has to offer, Patrick Mahomes. Very similar to the story of David and Goliath, very few expected Guenther’s defense to be slowing the Chiefs down to a pace the Raiders offense could match, but that is exactly what he did. No one can expect ANY defense to hold Mahomes under 250 or to hold the Chiefs to less than 20 points, it is simply illogical to believe that.
Rough Start, Smooth Finish
Mahomes would go to throw 340 yards on 43 attempts. This marked the third game this season the former Super Bowl MVP had thrown over 300 yards, so the defense was far from “lockdown.” In fact, the Chiefs would score 17 points in the second quarter alone. Again, expecting the Raiders to shut out the Chiefs is incredibly overzealous. Allowing 24 points in the first half was not entirely a surprise as well. But the eight total points the Raiders allowed in the entire second half was enormous. Guenther figured out how to slow Mahomes and the Chiefs to a dreary pace and his defense executed perfectly.
The biggest adjustment the Raiders made after halftime was applying pressure to Mahomes combined with incredible coverage downfield. Las Vegas pressured Mahomes quickly enough to record a sack three times. However, a less shifty quarterback could have allowed the Raiders to run up the stat sheet. Guenther’s defense would also force Mahomes to throw his first interception of the season, with the previously mentioned pass rush forcing Mahomes to rush a pass and overthrow his intended target.
When the Chiefs come to town, a shootout is almost guaranteed. If you were told the Raiders would beat the Chiefs, you might expect Mahomes’ statline to look like what it did today. By no means did Guenther pull out all the stops, and scheme anything new. He simply altered his thought pattern.
Now, Guenther has shown his hand on national television. The Raiders, the fans, and the rest of the NFL now know what Guenther is capable of. Why this was not happening in the first four weeks is certainly beyond me. Yet, now that it has been shown, it cannot go away. Today’s defensive and coaching intensity must continue to resonate throughout the rest of the season.
Guenther’s job is by no means saved, but he did buy himself some time. But this is now the standard (this goes for the offense too). This is what the Raiders must do every week. If they can slow down the Chiefs, they can slow down anyone. Stymied lesser teams will not score anything close to the 32 points the Chiefs did.