The Las Vegas Raiders were able to overcome one of their biggest hurdles throughout the last few years on Christmas day against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead.
The build up to this game just felt different than it has this season, but it’s apparent that it is due to the fact that Antonio Pierce has created a completely new identity for the Las Vegas Raiders, and they were ready to showcase that against one of their longest rivals. The game featured Aidan O’Connell’s second career matchup against Kansas City, but this time it was with different look Las Vegas Raiders team.
Raiders were coming into Arrowhead, after defeating the Los Angeles Chargers in a historical 63-21 victory, and they were coming in with all the confidence they could have. Different players were speaking to the media earlier in the week describing that they felt like they left a lot on the field and their previous matchup against Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City Chiefs. The quote that went around the media was of cornerback Jack Jones, who has been making an immediate impact, after being recently released by the New England Patriots“ simply stating that “Mahomes is the magician. You stop the magician, you stop the act.“ This was the plan from beginning of the week, in preparation, in which Antonio Pierce Made it their mission to “make their own noise.”
It was a an apparent that the Raiders were looking to have a different approach, as they were really aggressive on the defensive side and seem to have gotten Patrick Mahomes flustered. What they were able to do on their early drive seemed to be the tone that the Kansas City Chiefs were going to endure for the remaining of the game. The Raiders jumped out to an early lead with a field goal by kicker Daniel Carlson, and were able to burn a lot of the time early in the first quarter. Once the Chiefs were able to start building momentum at the beginning of the second quarter that is when things started to go away from what they are normally used to. The Chiefs immediately suffered from mistakes as the Raiders defense were able to cash in on takeaways and score two touchdowns within seven seconds. They were able to finish the second half with getting their total points up to 17.
After the 17-7 scoresheet both teams struggled to find their rhythm, but surprisingly although the Chiefs had the ball for majority of the 3rd quarter the Raiders defense were a road block for them. Maxx Crosby was a constant presence in the backfield, and he made things difficult for Patrick Mahomes, but he wasn’t the only one who was making their way towards the Kansas City quarterback.
Malcom Koonce has been making an impact on the defensive line, and in the new look, Patrick Graham defense. he was a player was seeming to be moved all around while Josh McDaniels was still the head coach, but he is really been able to solidify himself on the defensive line and as a member of the linebacker core. Koonce himself how to standup game against the Kansas City Chiefs as he became the first player to ever sack Patrick Mahomes three times in a single game. His performance against Kansas City really just put an exclamation point to what he’s been able to build all seasons so far as this has been his third week in a row that he has put on a good performance. Koonce has been a solid pairing to Maxx Crosby creating a duo that has been really making noise, and will continue to be a pair of defensive ends that teams should be on the lookout for. With the way that he has been playing, he is somebody that is becoming staple on the Raiders defense.
The reason for all the more recent success has been because of the culture that has been established by head coach Antonio Pierce. He has really brought a whole new culture into the Las Vegas locker room, and has a lot of support in the building. He even has endorsements from former teammates, and other media figures saying that he has earned the title of head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, and that he should remain as the head coach moving into the 2024 season. He described that the team stated that “enough was enough“ and that the team was tired of losing to this Kansas City Chiefs team. Over the last few regimes that the Raiders have had both in Las Vegas and Oakland, they haven’t had a lot of success against KC. The wind really puts into perspective how much this team has grown with his leadership over the last few weeks. Of course, there is areas that they can improve on, but you can only imagine where they could’ve been. You can tell there’s a lot of passion from everybody within the Las Vegas lock, and what they’ve been doing on the field, and how they react after a game is over. Antonio Pierce held back tears in his post game interview, but you could see the passion that he has for this group of men every single time he talks about his team. The players have responded in a way that I haven’t seen from a Raiders team in a long time. Had this been the way things were at the beginning of the season, this raider team is different, and I truly believe that we are on the start of something special brewing in Las Vegas.
With all of that being said, the Raiders are still currently in the playoff hunt, and their percentage has jumped to around 13%. They need a lot of help to make it into the playoffs, and that includes winning the rest of their games. For the remaining two games of the season, they play the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos. As of today, the Indianapolis Colts have been playing without their starting quarterback, but have yet to miss a step with quarterback, Gardner Minshew. The Colts have played themselves into a spot where they currently are still also in the mix for the playoff hunt. The Denver Broncos, however, have announced that they are benching their quarterback Russell Wilson have to report that make the road clear that Denver will be taking a new direction in the upcoming year. It appears that the combination of Sean Peyton and Russell Wilson has not been able to create a winning formula.
The Raiders have a chance to make it in, and as of right now it is an intriguing possibility that they make it.