They may wear the same jerseys, but the offensive and defensive groupings could not be trending in more different directions. Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs, and the rest of the Raiders’ offense proved they can light up the scoreboard against just about anyone. Yet, Paul Guenther’s defense reiterated how much help it truly needs. The Raiders can’t stop anyone.
Apart from a few drops, Carr’s offense ran without a hitch. As a result, it deserves nothing but respect from the rest of the league. Glad to get that out of the way. Now, we can discuss the Raiders’ true Achilles’ heel: the defense.
A great defense receives praise and instills fear. A good defense might go unmentioned and can let their play do the talking. A terrible defense loses games and crushes teams’ spirits. At this point, no doubt as to what the Raiders did Sunday. Even after intercepting Drew Lock four times in Week 10, the unit failed Sunday night. Las Vegas clung to their performance against Lock to keep their spirits until the Chiefs took the ball.
The Raiders showed an almost impressive lack of pass rush, discipline, and tackling throughout the game. Patrick Mahomes is quite elusive and may have one of the best pocket presences in the league and the Raider defense was nowhere near enough to keep Mahomes uncalculated and out of rhythm. The lack of discipline falls predominantly on the shoulders of Johnathan Abram, who recorded an unnecessary roughness penalty for a late hit, missed multiple tackles by being far too aggressive, and left Travis Kelce wide open in the endzone as he left his zone to stop a Mahomes run. Abram is a wild, aggressive player and his inability to slow down and focus on the gameplan instead of laying the lumber is reflective of the coaching staff. Fans saw on Hard Knocks last season that Abram craves contact, yet it appears Guenther still has yet to control him.
In fact, Guenther has very little control of a majority of his defense other than the playcalling, which is terribly unfortunate considering how abysmal the playcalling has been at times. It was said last week that this game would be a major test for Guenther, and if he did not fail on Sunday night, he did not pass by much. In any other career path, Guenther would be fired for incompetence, and yet, he remains employed.
This Sunday night game showed fans everything they needed to see. Special teams and offense are locked in and firing on all cylinders, yet the defense is miles behind, aggressively spinning their wheels once more.
While the Raiders are credited with being the only team to intercept Mahomes in 2020 so far, and the only team to intercept Lock four times in a game, they do not have much more to hang their hats on as the message is clear: this defense needs more help than Guenther can provide.