Raiders defense swarms Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs in upset win: 'Enough is enough' (2024)

Seven seconds.

That’s all it took for the Las Vegas Raiders to flip their Christmas Day matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs on its head. It was made even more stirring by the fact that, just a few moments earlier, it looked like the Raiders might be in trouble.

After all, the Chiefs had just put together a 74-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-3 lead and forced a quick Raiders punt to get the ball back with five minutes to go in the second quarter. Kansas City’s offense had gotten off to a slow start — the Raiders’ defense opened the game by forcing three straight punts and held the Chiefs to minus-18 yards in the first quarter — but their apparent breakthrough brought their home crowd in Arrowhead Stadium roaring to life and seemingly set the scene for the Raiders to fade away.

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Instead, the Raiders rapidly swung the game back in the other direction. On the Chiefs’ first snap of the drive, running back Isiah Pacheco caught a direct snap — he’d just scored a 12-yard touchdown on a trick play that started the same way — but mishandled a handoff to quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes scrambled to recover the loose football, but defensive tackle John Jenkins pounced on him. That cleared a lane for fellow defensive tackle Bilal Nichols to scoop the ball off the ground, lower his shoulder and barrel into the end zone for a touchdown.

BIG MAN TUDDY!!!!#LVvsKC | 📺 CBS pic.twitter.com/JZ9ma56Pyc

— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) December 25, 2023

While the Raiders botched the ensuing extra point, a massive shift had occurred. And when cornerback Jack Jones jumped a late pass from Mahomes on the next play, caught an interception in stride and returned it 33 yards for yet another defensive touchdown, the Raiders firmly took control of the contest. Following a successful two-point conversion on a short run by running back Brandon Bolden, the Raiders suddenly possessed a 10-point lead in a must-have road game against the defending Super Bowl champions.

JACK JONES. PICK 6!!!!!#LVvsKC | 📺 CBS pic.twitter.com/bbgBQLORn6

— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) December 25, 2023

For the Raiders, the jarring chain of events was déjà vu in multiple ways. On one hand, it was reminiscent of a 37-second sequence against the Los Angeles Chargers last week where Jenkins returned a recovered fumble for a touchdown and then Jones had a pick six on the succeeding play in what ended in a 63-21 Raiders win. On the other hand, it was also reminiscent of two games against the Chiefs this November and last October where the Raiders built double-digit leads only to come away with losses. Holding a 10-point lead over the Chiefs at halftime, interim coach Antonio Pierce was determined to avoid a repeat of the latter.

GO DEEPERRaiders defense leads upset win vs. Chiefs

“We got to squeeze them by their throat,” Pierce said in a halftime interview on the CBS broadcast about his halftime message to the Raiders locker room.

It’s a mantra that Pierce has reiterated ad nauseam since the Raiders’ Week 13 bye, but it was especially a point of emphasis this week. The Raiders knew they could compete against the Chiefs because they had done it before. Pierce’s challenge to his team was to show it could finish Kansas City.

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Boy, did the Raiders ever. The Raiders fended off the Chiefs in the second half on their way to a 20-14 upset win.

“We said enough is enough,” an emotional Pierce said after the game.

Coach AP stood on business. #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/pc5puMR9YL

— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) December 25, 2023

It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t need to be.

“By any means necessary,” Pierce said.

Despite the Raiders’ offense consistently doing a whole lot of nothing — they scored only six points all game and didn’t complete a pass over the final three quarters — their defense allowed just two scores on 11 possessions. They pressured Mahomes constantly all game, played excellent pass coverage on the back end and stymied the run game on their way to holding the Chiefs to a meager 4.2 yards per play. It was their best performance to date under defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who’s work to turn the Raiders’ defense into a legitimately good unit for the first time in years this season may make him a head coaching candidate elsewhere this offseason.

For now, though, the Raiders aren’t thinking about anything besides what’s immediately in front of them. First and foremost, their triumph over the Chiefs kept their 2023 season alive.

If the Raiders (7-8) win their last two games and the Chiefs (9-6) lose their next two games, Las Vegas will win the AFC West for the first time since 2002. That’s probably unlikely — even if the Raiders beat the Colts (8-7) and Broncos (7-8), they would need the Chiefs to be upset by the Bengals (8-7) and Chargers (5-10) — but it’s not the Raiders’ only path to the postseason. They would need help elsewhere, but there are multiple scenarios where the Raiders could punch their ticket to the playoffs as long as they win out.

The fact that the Raiders are in this position at all is nothing short of incredible. Despite enduring a midseason regime change and significant injuries to multiple starters, they remain in the hunt.

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Looking ahead, the Raiders’ victory over the Chiefs is the strongest statement yet by Pierce (4-3 as interim head coach) that he deserves to be hired as the full-time head coach this offseason. Whether they make the playoffs or not doesn’t change the fact that he’s obviously galvanized the locker room, managed to cultivate consistent effort on game days and given them the chance to win every time they’ve suited up in his seven games at the helm.

“I think the one thing everybody is seeing with this Raider team is a group that’s playing together, having fun with one another and loving one another,” Pierce said. “(We’re) playing with a bigger purpose and a will to win and a fight to win and not ever giving up.”

Owner Mark Davis has made it clear that his preference is to promote both Pierce and interim general manager Champ Kelly. As long as the Raiders finish strong in the final two games of the season — and maybe even if they don’t — it looks like that’s exactly what’ll happen.

(Photo: Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today)

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Raiders defense swarms Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs in upset win: 'Enough is enough' (2024)
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