Under Pressure: Looking at the Chiefs pass rush against the Raiders
How the Chiefs' complementary pass rush made Derek Carr miserable, and what that might mean moving forward.
Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders were a major test for Steve Spagnuolo’s defense. No, that wasn’t a joke.
All one has to do to know the truth of that statement is to look at the results from 2020’s Chiefs/Raiders matchups. While the teams split the games in terms of wins/losses, Las Vegas (largely via the passing game) scored 40 points and 31 points in their contests last year, with heroics by Mahomes being the only reason Kansas City eked out a win in their second matchup.
It’s an interesting thing to think about, because in the previous year Spagnuolo’s group had Carr’s number, holding the Raiders to a grand total of 19 points in two games. So what changed? Why did the 2020 squad struggle so much against the Raiders’ offense?
Without going into too much detail, in 2020 the Chiefs had a problem generating pass rush when they were only rushing four players against the Raiders, with only Chris Jones having much success (and even him being more limited than normal). Because of that issue of getting pressure with four, they were forced to blitz frequently, and the Raiders did an excellent job anticipating those blitzes and getting shot plays out of them. This was true in both matchups.
The pass rush was noticeably present Sunday against the Raiders, marking a drastic shift from last year.
(We’ll come back to this play, where the pressure came so quickly and from so many spots I thought it was a screen initially, a little later)
It was easy to see that things were different in terms of making Carr uncomfortable, but what’s more interesting to me is how it occurred. Were the Chiefs getting pressure through aggressive blitz packages? Was the coverage dictating the game? Or was the front four of the Chiefs generating heat all on its own, something we haven’t seen nearly enough of the last 2 seasons?
To look deeper, I charted all 26 of the Chiefs’ pass rush snaps prior to the game becoming a laughingstock (so all of them up until the Chiefs took a 41-14 lead deep in the 4th quarter). I looked at the down and distance, the number of players the Chiefs rushed, whether they got pressure on the play, and how it occurred.
Let’s look at the numbers, and then talk about what might be a wildly important development down the stretch, particularly against good offenses.