The Chiefs’ Thursday night game against the Raiders presented yet another opportunity for the Chiefs to prove, one way or another, whether they had a good run defense.
On one hand, entering the game, the Chiefs were the only team in the NFL that had not yet allowed a rushing touchdown this season. That’s good. On the other hand, they entered the game allowing 124 yards rushing yards per game — ranked 25th in the NFL. That’s bad.
But considering the Raiders entered the game ranked dead last in the league in rushing with an average of 63 yards per game, it was reasonable to think that if the Chiefs had a good run defense, they would have been able to stifle the scuffling Raiders, right?
Well, it didn’t take long to see what kind of night it would be for the Chiefs against the run. The Raiders ended up rushing 30 times for 179 yards (a robust average of 5.97 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.
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“That’s a lot of yards rushing the ball,” linebacker Tamba Hali said. “We do a good job of stopping the run and not letting people score, but for some reason this team ... it reminded me of a couple years ago when we came up here and they just ran the ball. They played well. It’s always a tough game. I have to give credit to that team.”
Hali was referring to the Chiefs’ road game against the Raiders in 2012, when the Raiders rushed for 203 yards in 45 carries. And like they did Thursday, the Chiefs lost that game, albeit by the score of 15-0.
The Raiders established the run early Thursday. On their second drive, speedy rookie running back Latavius Murray took a handoff in the red zone, sped around the left corner and cruised 11 yards into the end zone, snapping the Chiefs’ 10-game shutout streak against rushing touchdowns.
That wasn’t the Raiders’ biggest TD run of the night. Early in the second quarter, Murray broke through the line of scrimmage, eluded linebacker Josh Mauga and outran safety Eric Berry and the Chiefs’ secondary 90 yards for a touchdown.
“He hit the seam and he was pretty quick,” Mauga said. “I overplayed it. If I would have just sat back a little bit longer, I would have been sitting right there.”
Murray’s next carry, though, was costly for the Raiders. He ran for 5 yards but sustained a concussion and had to leave the game after rushing for 112 yards in only four carries.
Oakland would soon learn that the drop off from Murray to struggling veterans Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew was steep, as Jones-Drew and McFadden rushed for 28 yards in 15 carries combined.
But when the game was on the line, the Raiders didn’t put the ball in their hands — they put it in their quarterback’s.
Trailing 24-20 with 5 minutes left, the Raiders faced fourth and 1 at the Chiefs’ 43, and decided to have quarterback Derek Carr carry it on a sneak, which he converted. A few plays later, facing third and 1 at the Chiefs’ 11, Carr again carried it on a sneak and converted with a 2-yard gain.
One play later, the Raiders scored on a touchdown pass from Carr to receiver James Jones, putting a finishing touch on their first win of the season, and a disappointing loss for the Chiefs, who dropped to 7-4 with a big AFC West home showdown against Denver looming.
“We can play the run better,” Hali said. “I’m not going to make excuses for our guys. We didn’t play well today, we didn’t get the job done. We’ve got to find a solution, learn from this game and move forward. We’ve got the Broncos, next.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid reinforced this fact.
“They had a few different plays they were running,” Reid said. “They did a good job with their run game. We’ve obviously go to do better. Stating the obvious here. We’ll learn from it and be a better football team because of this.”