Raiders may need to repeat aggressive style to beat Chiefs
The Las Vegas Raiders needed to alter their style when they finally broke through last month with their first win in Kansas City in eight years.
Derek Carr delivered the most prolific deep passing game of his career, coach Jon Gruden called for two successful fourth-down gambles and a much-maligned defense came up with a couple of key defensive stops to outpace Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Pulling off the season sweep against the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs (8-1) will be an even taller task for the Raiders (6-3) on Sunday night.
"They're the world champions. You have to do whatever it takes to try and win the game," Gruden said. "That particular day, it just seemed to be a shootout. There's no guarantee we're going to make a first down this time. We'll see how it goes."
Carr, who has been criticized throughout his career for being too quick to check the ball down, was as aggressive as ever during the 40-32 win in Week 5. His 219 yards passing on deep throws were 79 more than his next biggest game of his seven-year career as he connected on long scoring strikes to Henry Ruggs III and Nelson Agholor, as well as two other deep throws to Ruggs and Hunter Renfrow.
The ultra-aggressive approach appeared to catch the Chiefs by surprise that day as their defensive backs seemed to jump at underneath routes and leave room to operate deep.
"They made some good plays, they came out on fire," cornerback Charvarius Ward said. "They had a good game plan. They had an answer for the things we were doing, but this week we're going to make sure it doesn't happen again."
The Raiders' defense is playing its best football in years heading into this game, allowing 14.7 points per game and a 68.1 passer rating the past three weeks after forcing five turnovers in a win over Denver last week. Slowing the Chiefs will be much harder, especially since most of the defense missed practice all week on the COVID-19 list.
Starting defensive end Clelin Ferrell tested positive early in the week, joining linebacker Cory Littleton on the list. Eight other defensive players were placed on the COVID-19 list as "high risk" close contacts, including starters Lamarcus Joyner, Maliek Collins, Johnathan Abram and Johnathan Hankins. Those players could return by Sunday if they keep testing negative, but won't be able to practice all week.
LINE 'EM UP
It remains to be seen who will start on the offensive line for Kansas City with right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and left tackle Eric Fisher joining Martinas Rankin on the COVID-19 list this week. Schwartz also has been out with a back injury.
"I'm just going to take it day by day, but we'll see how that goes, see how they feel and everything else," said coach Andy Reid, who did say he'd be willing to play someone who missed an entire week of practice. "We'll just see how everything works out."
WIDE OPEN SPACES
The Chiefs also could be without wide receiver Mecole Hardman because of COVID-19, but his absence should be offset by the return of Sammy Watkins. The former first-round pick has been dealing with a hamstring injury since the early part of October, but he returned to practice before the bye and was involved in game prep this week.
"He's someone who is a threat in every way," Mahomes said. "Hopefully he'll be back out there."
The Raiders have gone to a throwback style during their three-game winning streak, rushing for 190.7 yards per game, while gaining only 138 per game passing. That's the second highest rushing total and second lowest passing total in the league in that span. This is the fifth time in Raiders history they have run for at least 150 yards and passed for fewer than 200 in three straight wins in a season.
"If we have to do that to win, awesome. If we don't, awesome," Carr said. "There have been times against the Chiefs where it's been shootouts. I've done it against Alex (Smith), with Patrick, and there's been games like that. There's also times where the running game is there, so it just really depends. Whatever we have to do to win, that's what I'm ready to do."
For the fourth time in five seasons, the Chiefs will have a bye before playing the Raiders. Kansas City won all four of those contests, part of Reid's 18-3 record in the regular season after a week off. The Raiders haven't had a bye before playing the Chiefs since but then again it might not be an advantage if they did. They are 3-15 following a week off since 2003.
"I'm sure that's just a coincidence," Gruden said. "I don't know. I don't think about it. The schedule is the schedule. You have to adapt to it and that's what we'll do."
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report
WHAT — Kansas City Chiefs (8-1) at Las Vegas Raiders (6-3)
WHEN/WHERE — Sunday, 7:20 p.m. CT, Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas
TV/RADIO — NBC (KSHB 41, Comcast Cable channel 8, HD 808)/WDAF-FM (The Wolf) (106.5 FM)
OPENING LINE — Chiefs by 6 1/2
RECORD VS. SPREAD — Chiefs 6-3; Raiders 6-3
SERIES RECORD — Chiefs lead 67-54-2
LAST MEETING — Raiders won at Kansas City 40-32 on Oct. 11
LAST GAME — Chiefs had bye, beat Panthers 33-31 on Nov. 8; Raiders beat Broncos 37-12
AP PRO32 RANKING — Chiefs No. 2, Raiders No. 10
CHIEFS OFFENSE — OVERALL (2), RUSH (14), PASS (1).
CHIEFS DEFENSE — OVERALL (14), RUSH (29), PASS (8).
RAIDERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (13), RUSH (7), PASS (21).
RAIDERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (21), RUSH (13), PASS (25).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — The Raiders are looking to sweep the season series for the first time since 2012. ... Kansas City has won 17 of its past 18 games, including the playoffs, with the only loss coming last month to Las Vegas. ... The Chiefs have won 17 of their past 19 road games in the AFC West, losing only to the Raiders in 2014 and '17. ... Kansas City had a bye before playing the Raiders for the fourth time in the past five seasons. ... Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes has 25 TD passes and one INT. Drew Brees in 2018 is the only QB to throw more TDs before his second INT with 26. ... Kansas City looks to score at least 23 points for an NFL-record 24th straight game. ... The Chiefs have gained 807 yards passing and only 86 yards rushing the past two games. ... Las Vegas leads the NFL by converting on 50.4% of third downs. The Chiefs are tied for second at 50%. ... Derek Carr threw for 347 yards and three TDs in the first meeting with the Chiefs and could become first QB with two 300-yard passing, three-TD games against Kansas City in the same season. ... The Raiders ran for 203 yards last week, while allowing no sacks. It was their 15th game since the merger with at least 200 yards rushing and no sacks and first since 2012 vs. Kansas City. ... The 44 points allowed by the Raiders over the past three games are their fewest in a three-game stretch since they allowed 41 in the final three games of the 2012 season. ... Josh Jacobs (112 yards rushing, two TDs) and Devontae Booker (81 yards, two TDs) became the second pair of Raiders to each top 80 yards rushing with at least two TD runs in the same game last week. Tyrone Wheatley and Napoleon Kaufman did it in 1999 vs. Tampa Bay. ... The Raiders have run for at least 150 yards in three straight games. They haven't done that four in a row since an eight-game streak in 1985. ... The Raiders have 22 scoring drives of at least 10 plays, tied with Falcons for the most in NFL this season. ... Fantasy tip: Chiefs TE Travis Kelce has 68 catches for 953 yards and six TDs in 13 games vs. the Raiders. He can become the 10th player and fourth TE (Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Kellen Winslow) to reach 1,000 against the Raiders.
– The Associated Press