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Raiders teetering on edge of collapse after Chiefs hand down second straight loss

Blowout defeat leaves Raiders sitting outside of playoff spot, looking for answers

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Associated Press

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) catches a pass for a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Hysteria prevailed as Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby pulled out of Allegiant Stadium with the windows rolled down in his orange Porsche SUV three weeks ago after a victory over the Eagles. One woman in a Raiders’ jersey teared up while several others hollered and cheered as Crosby turned and acknowledged the crowd.

Crosby took the same road out of the player’s parking lot with about the same amount of time having elapsed since the end of the game Sunday night and a similar number of fans stopped on the sidewalk for traffic. But no one seemed to notice him or his garish vehicle that became a running joke in training camp, as Crosby sat in the driver’s seat looking straight ahead with the windows rolled up.

Fortunes flip quickly in the NFL, a fact the Raiders are all too familiar with after suffering a 41-14 beatdown at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football for their second straight loss.

“It sucks because it’s a rivalry game, we’re at home, the score got out of hand pretty fast at the end of the game,” Crosby said. “We were in it, and it slipped away. Everyone is going to look at it and have their take, but we just have to keep doing what we’re doing and get better every day.”

The last time Las Vegas played at home before the Kansas City walloping, the aforementioned Philadelphia win, things couldn’t have been better. It headed into a bye week towing a two-game win streak and a first-place standing in the AFC West having successfully navigated the e-mail scandal that caused the resignation of coach Jon Gruden.

That’s all gone now. The Raiders have since dealt with a tragedy and another controversy while slipping into third place in the division with Sunday’s loss heading into arguably the toughest part of their schedule.

Now, a little more than halfway through the season, is not the time for an NFL team to have an identity crisis but that’s what the Raiders are facing after falling to 5-4 on the year.

“I don’t know,” quarterback Derek Carr said when asked if he saw any indications of a poor performance coming on Sunday. “It didn’t feel like anyone was stressing out or anything like that. I’ve been around guys where you can feel it a little bit, but I didn’t feel that. We were just so close, you think about it, I don’t know.”

The Raiders got off to strong start to the season, going 3-0 and then 5-2, by relying on a rebuilt, hard-nosed defense that kept them in games even while the offense was inconsistent. And the offense was usually inconsistent, but too talented and speedy not to eventually hit on enough explosive plays.

But they got neither dependable defense nor steady, game-breaking plays against the Chiefs. Las Vegas forced Kansas City to a three-and-out on its first possession, and then never really stopped it again.

The Chiefs scored on seven of their final nine drives. The two exceptions were the end of the first half when they ran out of time and missed a field goal, and the end of the second half when they kneeled out the clock.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes torched the Raiders’ pass defense for 406 yards and five touchdowns on 35-for-50 passing. Tyreek Hill caught the first two touchdowns and had a total of seven catches for 83 yards, while longtime sidekick Travis Kelce compiled 119 receiving yards on eight receptions.

The Raiders’ offense had only three plays of more than 20 yards and the longest one, a 38-yard reception for DeSean Jackson’s first catch with the team, ended with a fumble when Chiefs cornerback Rashad Fenton punched the ball out.

“This is the kind of game where you have to play well in all three phases against a team like this,” Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia said. “We really didn’t play well in any of the three phases.”

Las Vegas had only 85 yards at halftime and was lucky to be in the game facing only a 17-7 deficit. Punter A.J. Cole forced a fumble on a punt return that Foster Moreau recovered to give Carr a short field he ultimately capitalized on with a six-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow.

Las Vegas then came out of halftime and showed a flash of how it’s looked at its best this year with a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that took just less than three minutes. Bryan Edwards caught a 37-yard touchdown pass over the middle from Carr to make the score 17-14.

The defense couldn’t do its part, however, as Kansas City quickly answered with a touchdown drive of its own — aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Crosby. It felt like the Raiders might be destined to get into another shootout with the Chiefs like last year’s two games in the series, but Jackson’s fumble on the next possession ended those hopes.

Jackson got too cute, moving backwards trying to evade Fenton after the catch and his fumble made for the “turning point” of the game according to Bisaccia.

“It kind of snowballed on us a little bit,” Renfrow said.

Once the Raiders got the ball back, following the second field goal of the night by kicker Harrison Butker to put the Chiefs up 27-14, Carr heaved a deep pass attempt to Zay Jones into double coverage. Kansas City safety Daniel Sorensen came down with an interception.

“I’m trying to throw a bomb to Zay and my arm gets hit, it gets picked,” Carr said. “There was another one later in the game where we didn’t get one of their blitzers and it’s Zay (open) again.”

Las Vegas’ offensive-line issues, which had plagued it early in the season but diminished in the last three weeks, surfaced again.

Rookie right guard Alex Leatherwood put an end to their first drive with a false-start penalty. Struggling right tackle Brandon Parker got a late touchdown wiped off the board with a holding call.

Carr, who went 25-for-35 for 261 yards, often didn’t have much time and the run game produced only 50 yards on 14 carries.

“We were just shooting ourselves in the foot all game whether it was pre-snap penalties or just not doing the right things assignment-wise,” Edwards said.

No obvious bounce-back spot is coming, as Las Vegas next plays a pair of teams with winning records in hosting Cincinnati (5-4) and going to Dallas (7-2) within a span of four days.

It’s been a trying, all-too-eventful season for the Raiders, but at one point not too long ago, it may have appeared like they had gotten past their biggest challenges. Circumstances change fast in the NFL, however, and the Raiders are now right back trying to find themselves once again.

“There’s a lot of things to improve on,” Crosby said. “We’ve just got to be better in every phase. We didn’t play well tonight. We know that.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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