In another must-win situation, the Las Vegas Raiders survived an intense divisional battle on Christmas Day to remain mathematically eligible for the playoffs.
After 10 days off and having scored 63 points in its last outing, Las Vegas relied on its defense en route to a 20-14 win over Kansas City Sunday, Dec. 25 from GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. It's the franchise’s first win against the Chiefs since 2020.
Previously, KC had scored at least 30 points in the last eight contests between the rivals.
“That was actually one of our mantras: By any means necessary,” interim head coach Antonio Pierce said. “We knew it was going to be a gritty game, it wasn’t going to be high-scoring – we didn’t want it to be a high-scoring game.”
While keeping the Chiefs from wrapping up the AFC West, the Raiders’ win kept the team alive for postseason contention. Now sitting at 7-8, Las Vegas will prepare for its final road game of the season.
“Obviously, it’s a huge game,” rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell said. “It’s a rivalry game, we play them twice a year every year and for us to come into Arrowhead and win a game like this is pretty awesome.”
On New Year’s Eve the team will match up with the Indianapolis Colts from Lucas Oil Stadium in a third straight must-win scenario. Kickoff is scheduled for 10 a.m.
In fitting fashion, the game against the Chiefs was iced by second-year running back Zamir White with back-to-back big runs to finish off the Raiders’ final drive. He powered through for a game-long 43-yard run before punching forward for another 15 yards on the very next play.
White would finish with a career-high 145 yards on a career-high 22 carries. His previous career-high was 69 yards which was tallied last week at home against another AFC rival, the Los Angeles Chargers.
Starter Josh Jacobs missed a second straight game with a quad injury.
“I think it’s the offensive line,” O’Connell said. “They knew exactly what we were going to do, we weren’t really hiding anything. Sometimes there’s a lot of strategy in football and then sometimes it's just being physical and that’s what I thought our guys did up front.”
The finish from White punctuated a game largely dominated by the team’s defense. An opening drive tackle-for-loss by defensive end Maxx Crosby followed by a sack and forced fumble by defensive tackle Adam Butler served as early omens for things to come.
Las Vegas would sack quarterback Patrick Mahomes four times while forcing him into one of the team’s two turnovers on the night. In addition, Kansas City forked the ball over on downs two times during the game.
“We talked about it all week,” Pierce said. “Ill intent, violence, physicality, pain. Enough is enough, I think that was displayed just right there.”
Defensive end Malcolm Koonce tracked down a career-high three sacks on the night to go along with five tackles and four for loss.
Fellow defensive lineman Bilal Nichols picked up a loose ball on a fumble and returned it eight yards for a touchdown. On the next defensive snap for the team, cornerback Jack Jones intercepted Mahomes and took it to the house for the second Raider touchdown in a seven-second span.
Jones has pick-sixes in back-to-back weeks after intercepting Los Angeles’ Easton Stick last Thursday. Since entering the league in 2022, Jones now has three interception-turned-touchdowns which is now tied for the most in league history among players in their first 22 games played.
“There’s a lot of misfits in that room,” Pierce said. “Bunch of Raiders – misfits. That’s something we live by and we’re okay with that.”
Mahomes finished with 235 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 27-of-44 passing during the loss.
Along the way he picked up his first loss against a rookie quarterback in his career with Purdue product O’Connell under center. Even with the win, O’Connell didn’t complete a pass in his last 10 attempts of the game.
“You want to be aggressive but at the same time you want to understand the flow of the game,” he said. “Good teams can win a lot of different types of games.”
O’Connell best drive of the game was the team’s second of the first quarter as he led the team 87 yards converting on six first downs along the way. It was during that opening frame that he threw for all of his 62 yards before finishing with a 9-for-21 mark through the air.
That glimmering drive was capped off by a 24-yard field goal by kicker Daniel Carlson who went two-for-two on the day on field goals on a day where the offense went without a touchdown.