Updated: Jan 7
With a chance to play spoiler, the Las Vegas Raiders squandered the chance, losing to the Kansas City Chiefs to close the regular season, losing the season series in the process.
Kansas City rolled into Allegiant Stadium and bounced Las Vegas, 31-13, Saturday, Jan. 7.
“They earned it today for sure,” head coach Josh McDaniels said. “They got off to a good start and we never could really get much rhythm going in the game [...] We’ll learn a lot from this – we know who we’re chasing, that’s for sure.”
This contest marked the first played by the NFL since safety Damar Hamlin’s medical emergency during the Buffalo - Cincinnati game Monday night. Raider players warmed up in t-shirts recognizing their support for Hamlin in addition to a blue border along the No. 3 as part of the 30 yard-line hash marks.
With the regular season now finished for Las Vegas, the door closes with a 6-11 overall record for the team after closing Allegiant Stadium 4-4 on the year. The team will miss the playoffs after making it to the postseason last year.
Subsequently, McDaniels’ head coaching record for his career now stands at 17-28.
“[I’m] blessed, extremely blessed,” McDaniels said. “Grateful and thankful for the opportunity myself. I appreciate the guys in the locker room, our team. Adversity is part of the journey and part of our story. I've been on a lot of teams before that hasn’t ended perfectly. And a lot of times, those are the moments, years and games that propel you into improving and then you have an opportunity to go farther and do more.”
Whenever the Chiefs are on the schedule, keeping up with their offense is at the top of the list.
“There is no timeline on that,” McDaniels said when asked about chasing Kansas City’s standard of recent success. “You take the best day you can have and you continue to produce those over the offseason and improve the football team in every way that you can.”
From the start, quarterback Patrick Mahomes had the Raiders’ defense on their heels. After Las opted to defer to the second half, Kansas City picked their spots early and often.
Mahomes found receiver Justin Watson for 67 yards, putting the visitors in prime field position. He would later finish the drive with a two-yard touchdown flip pass to running back Jerick McKinnon.
That opening drive covered 75 yards on five plays in 2:08. Not long after, the Chiefs put up another touchdown drive in just three plays, covering 44 yards in just 68 seconds.
Just before halftime, Mahomes helped engineer a 98-yard drive that ended with a touchdown by receiver Kadarius Toney to put KC up, 21-3. Two plays prior to that touchdown, head coach Andy Reid displayed some of his trickery as a play-caller as Kansas City’s offense was seen doing its best ‘Ring-Around-The-Rosie’ imitation while in the huddle.
“Coach Reid has some of those things each game,” McDaniels said. “Look, at that point of the game we were still competing in it. They were trying to score, if they felt like that was the play that could give them the opportunity to score them a touchdown – which it almost did [I didn’t have a problem with it].
“Just because the game was in the fourth quarter doesn’t mean it was out of hand yet.”
Before leaving the game in favor of backup Chad Henne, Mahomes left the game with 202 yards through the air on 18-of-26 passing with a touchdown pass. His play stayed steady as the Las Vegas defensive front couldn’t get to him early.
In fact, defensive lineman Maxx Crosby was whistled for roughing the passer during the Chiefs’ 98-yard scoring drive. On the next play, Crosby was flagged for lining up in the neutral zone.
Eventually, Crosby would get through and sack Mahomes early in the third quarter for sack No. 12.5 of the year. Fellow defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell also picked up a sack before the end of the contest. Ferrell now has 10 sacks in his career.
The Raiders didn’t have much success keeping quarterback Jarrett Stidham upright in his second career start.
“We may have had one or two assignments [missed],” McDaniels said. “They played some coverages that kind of dictated that we ended up holding the ball a little longer by taking the first read away.”
After not being sacked last week against San Francisco’s No. 1-ranked defense, Stidham went down on Las Vegas’ first drive of the game. He’d suffer a second sack on the very next drive. Moments after, he’d throw an interception, his third in two weeks.
Late in the second quarter, Stidham went down again via sack, this time a strip sack.
“Honestly, I think we just shot ourselves in the foot,” Stidham said. “My interception, my fumble, I think was more self-inflicted.”
Stidham helped facilitate some long drives but couldn’t come away with a touchdown but rather two field goals from kicker Daniel Carlson through the first three quarters. This includes a 13-play drive that elapsed more than eight minutes with the team down 24-3.
On two separate occasions, Stidham had near-touchdowns, first to receiver Davante Adams and then to tight end Darren Waller. In the second quarter, Stidham targeted Adams on a 4th and goal from the two-yard line but to no avail. McDaniels and company opted to throw back-to-back plays on 3rd and 4th down from two yards out.
In the second half, Stidham appeared to have his first touchdown pass of the day but as Waller went up to high-point the pass in the back of the end zone, he came down out of bounds.
Shortly after that missed opportunity, Stidham would stick one to receiver Hunter Renfrow for the score. Renfrow picked up his second touchdown reception of the season with that grab.
Stidham wrapped up the season with a 2-for-36 passing performance with 219 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception. Stidham will be heading into this offseason as a free agent.
“Quite honestly, I haven’t thought much about it,” Stidham said of his pending free agency campaign. “This entire year I’ve just been focused on whatever my role was. Whether that was being a backup to [quarterback Derek Carr] or preparing as the starter.”
Running back Josh Jacobs was held to just 45 yards on 17 carries for a 2.6 yards per carry average. He entered the game as the league’s leading rusher and now leads the next closest rusher (Cleveland’s Nick Chubb) by 205 yards with the rest of the Week 18 games to be played Sunday, Jan. 8.