Blueprint for Raiders' Success Lies in 2023 Win Against Chiefs

For success in 2024, the Las Vegas Raiders can look at what they did against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs on Christmas Day.
Dec 25, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Las Vegas Raiders running back Zamir White (35) runs the ball as Kansas City Chiefs safety Mike Edwards (21) attempts the tackle during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 25, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Las Vegas Raiders running back Zamir White (35) runs the ball as Kansas City Chiefs safety Mike Edwards (21) attempts the tackle during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports / Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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The Las Vegas Raiders' win in Arrowhead Stadium on Christmas Day last season was nothing short of an old-school beatdown. The Raiders would beat the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, 20-14.

Not a blowout, in fact, far from it. A one-score game. But it was a beatdown by all accounts.

Our Hondo Carpenter Sr. and Aidan Champion were at the contest. They described the disposition of the Chiefs as frustrated, All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce left helpless, the home crowd booing their own team.

"I stood down in the bowels of the stadium and went in the locker room," Carpenter said in a recent "Las Vegas Insider Podcast" episode. "I visited with the guys ... I saw [Travis Kelce] making a fool of himself, angry because of the Raiders' coverage on him. I saw Patrick Mahomes frustrated, because the Raiders were getting so much pressure with four rushers, and had seven guys out defending the pass and he couldn't get anything open."

Champion described the Chiefs as looking "defeated."

"From that moment on, [the Chiefs] didn't lose," Champion said during his appearance on the podcast. "The Raiders were the last team to beat them, and I think that's what makes this upcoming season so exciting."

Perhaps the way the Raiders beat their rival will be the way they find success as in 2024.

The thing is, one only has to look at half the game to see how the Raiders won. At the end of the first half, the Raiders held a 17-7 lead.

The Silver and Black's offense only put up 3 points in the first half, but the nearly 9-minute drive to get on the board first at the end of the opening quarter showed a recipe for success.

Steady gains of 5 and 6 yards from running back Zamir White to open things up. Then, short precise passing from Aidan O'Connell to Jakobi Meyers. A 13-yard connection just outside the numbers. A beautifully set screen, on a fake reverse, for a Meyers first down of 21 yards.

The momentum was snuffed when Tre Tucker was caught behind the line of scrimmage, and even though the Chiefs defense received a penalty for too many men, the drive was effectively stopped just short of six. But 9 minutes off the clock and points on the board? Promising.

That drive was a micro chasm of what the Silver and Black attack can be: old-school clock management precision with short to intermediate gains through air and ground attack. The best part? It will likely be better.

The Raiders will have two explosive, playmaking tight ends in Michael Mayer and rookie Brock Bowers to go with the devastating trio of Meyers, Davante Adams and Tucker. Coach Antonio Pierce has made the vertical game, already an uncomfortable reality for opponents, even more threatening.

Essentially, the Raiders could have every throw available on the field.

White controlled the Chiefs during that game -- 22 attempts for 145 yards. 6.6 yards per carry.

White did it with an offensive line lacking its best player in right tackle, Kolton Miller. In 2024, White will have the chance to run behind a line consisting of Miller, Dylan Parham, Andre James, plug-and-play rookie Jackson Powers-Johnson and Thayer Munford. That's not including Pro-Bowl free agent acquisitions Cody Whitehair and Andrus Peat, along with tight end signee Harrison Bryant, whose purpose will likely be served in an H-back or blocking role.

It would be journalistic malfeasance to not mention Bowers' blocking ability.

The Raiders' defense scored two touchdowns, and while certainly an outlier, it signals to a greater extent how dominant the defense can be. Maxx Crosby's mere presence on the line makes everyone around him better, with both the attention he draws and his game-wrecking performance. Malcolm Koonce emerged last season, registering eight sacks, three of which were on Christmas Day.

The addition of interior defender Christian Wilkins, who is one of the best in the league at both space-eating (71.5 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus) and rushing the passer (10 sacks last season), will open up lanes for linebackers Robert Spillane and Divine Deablo to penetrate.

The defensive backfield needed upgrades this offseason, and the Raiders got big, fast and physical with their selection of cornerback Decamerion Richardson in the draft.

A lot of the Raiders' success will hinge on the quarterback play, whether it is O'Connell or offseason signing Gardner Minshew under center. O'Connell has the starting job and the team behind him, along with getting more athletic this offseason, per Carpenter. Minshew is a proven starter, with stats in the ballpark of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Lawrence has only played in one more game than Minshew, and Minshew has 59 touchdowns to Lawrence's 58. Lawrence has 39 interceptions while Minshew only has 24. Minshew is not on the level of Lawrence, especially when it comes to talent or potential -- but the numbers at least prove competence.

If Raiders can take the mentality and approach they had against the Chiefs and apply it to every opponent, there is no question they can be a formidable foe and compete for a playoff spot.

The Silver and Black established an identity under Pierce last season. In 2024, the Raiders can find success in embracing that identity.

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Michael France

MICHAEL FRANCE