Entering their Week 5 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Las Vegas Raiders stood 2-2 and questioning their identity. The Raiders had beat the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints. Then, lost to the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills. The Raiders struggled to finish off the Panthers but beat the Saints by double digits. On the other hand, Las Vegas fell to the Patriots but lost to the Bills by one possession.
Ups and Downs
If a trendline was drawn for the Raiders’ first four games, it would be quite complicated, with two straight weeks of impressive rising, followed by a steep downturn and a plateauing in Week 4, bringing them right back to where they started: middle of the pack.
Then, on October 11, their identity could not have been more obviously revealed: the Las Vegas Raiders are a playoff team. With a 40-32 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead, snapping not only the Chiefs’ 13-game winning streak carrying through the 2019 postseason and Super Bowl, but Derek Carr’s six-game losing streak in Kansas City as well. In what was clearly a statement win, Carr would throw for 347 yards, complete 70 percent of his passes, and throw for three touchdowns.
Although the astronomical stats instill hope, this level of offensive production cannot be expected or relied on. The Raiders found holes in the Chiefs’ defense and exploited them to perfection in a tip-of-the-hat to their coaching staff. Head Coach Jon Gruden is crafty but does an impeccable job of not letting on that he has a team playing into his hand until the opportunity presents itself.
This level of coaching is an aspect of the Raiders’ game that can be expected. Gruden knew shutting down the Chiefs was a heavy task for his team. As a result, the goal became to hang around until halftime. At halftime, despite not being in the locker room, it became clear to fans that Gruden had a plan. The offensive playcalling dialed up the aggressiveness and the defense followed suit. Despite neither team scoring in the third quarter, the Raiders outscored the Chiefs in the second half 16-8.
Build on Arrowhead
The adjustments made midgame by coaches and players alike show the Raiders’ potential. The Raiders are a football version of an amphibian, they can win on the ground or through the air, it just depends on what the terrain calls for. Regardless, the precedent exists. Although it seems unlikely knowing the Raiders’ history of hot and cold seasons, expectations of a 10-win seem reasonable. After beating a team like Kansas City, the remaining opponents appear to weaken while the Raiders’ confidence thrives. Sunday, the Raiders welcome the Buccaneers to Vegas.