Asked about the Kansas City Chiefs’ recent mastery over the AFC West, Jack Del Rio couldn’t supply an illuminating explanation for the first-place club’s 12 consecutive wins over divisional neighbors.
“They’ve executed well,” the Raiders head coach said during his Wednesday news conference. “Really, not to oversimplify it, but they have played well and they’ve earned it.”
With the Raiders’ season teetering on the brink amid a four-game slide, Del Rio’s squad confronts an opponent that has not only bulldozed the division at large but the Silver and Black in particular.
The Raiders have dropped five in a row to Kansas City — a streak that stretches back to Nov. 20, 2014 when Derek Carr was a rookie.
The most glaring difference between the AFC-leading Chiefs and the last-place Raiders is that the former have made a habit of moving the ball at will. The Raiders have not.
Piloted by Alex Smith, the Chiefs have stacked up the second-most yards per game. The Raiders check in at No. 30.
“Well, he’s good,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said of Smith during his midweek news conference. “That helps. He’s very talented, mobile, smart [and] has really good talent and good players around him.”
The two most dynamic members of that supporting cast are Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce. The rookie Hunt leads the NFL in rushing. Kelce has hauled in 33 passes for 390 yards, which is third-best among players at his position.
They also play running back and tight end, respectively — a couple of positions that the Del Rio era Raiders have never been adept at corralling.
One boon for the slumping Raiders is that Del Rio and Norton will have a new defensive toy to deploy, the newly signed NaVorro Bowman.
“Probably,” Del Rio said with a grin when asked about the ex-49er’s status for the Chiefs. “He’s looked good. He’s a veteran.”
“We have not tried to install the entire playbook,” Del Rio continued. “But specific game plan things and he’s had a good week and even though it’s a short week, we feel good and he’ll play.”
While Bowman and the defense endeavor to slow down the high-powered Chiefs attack, the offense will be aiming to improve that No. 30 ranking. Not that offensive coordinator Todd Downing is overly focused on the numbers.
“Stats aren’t everything,” Downing said at the team’s Alameda headquarters on Tuesday. “But they are often an indicator of areas that you might be struggling a little bit and we know that there are some areas that we have identified that we want to get better at quickly.”
Carr hasn’t produced a 200-yard game since Week 3. The Raiders have amassed 36 points since that date.
Downing dubs it an offense-wide issue — not a Derek Carr problem.
“We all own this together,” he said. “And there’s no one guy who’s going to save it or break it or anything in between.”