KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Another December, another embarrassing collapse. It’s becoming an annual event for the Raiders, whose 2021 season was perfectly encapsulated on Sunday in a bumbling, fumbling and thoroughly humiliating 48-9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Their most recent swoon includes five losses over their last six games, which completely negates the three straight wins they started this season with and renders any late-season playoff push essentially obsolete.
Resurrecting their barely detectable postseason pulse requires a complete about-face over their last four games and an implausible amount of outside help that can only be described as highly unlikely.
Especially after the inept showing they delivered against the Chiefs, which began horribly when a Josh Jacobs fumble on the first play of the game was returned for a 23-yard touchdown.
It inexplicably got even worse as the Raiders (6-7) failed to get a physical push up front, turned the ball over five times, dropped passes and could not find any defensive consistency while surrendering 506 yards of total offense to the Chiefs.
That it all occurred in a virtual must-win situation made it even more glaring.
“Embarrassed by the performance we put on the field” is how wide receiver Hunter Renfrow described the state of the Raiders’ locker room afterward.
Said interim head coach Rich Bisaccia: “It was bad in all phases.”
Jacobs’ fumble was one of three first-half turnovers for the Raiders, each of which led to Kansas City touchdowns and became the foundation of the Chiefs’ 35-3 halftime lead.
Worse, all three were essentially the result of carelessness. Foster Moreau bobbled a perfectly thrown pass into the arms of Kansas City defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, and Renfrow didn’t secure a pass tightly enough to prevent the ball from being poked from his possession.
Just for good measure, Carr’s fumble on a fourth-quarter scramble set the stage for a 51-yard touchdown run by Derrick Gore. And while Zay Jones’ fourth-quarter fumble didn’t lead to any points for the Chiefs, it negated an opportunity for the Raiders to cap one of their best drives of the game with a touchdown.
“No chance of winning a football game when you turn it over five times,” said Bisaccia. “The last turnover, going down on the last drive, was probably a microcosm of what the whole game looked like.”
The turnovers, coupled with an offensive line that was overwhelmed while surrendering four sacks, completely sabotaged a feeble Raiders offense that managed just 293 yards.
“I didn’t expect that outcome,” a visibly frustrated Carr said.
All of which played perfectly into the hands of the 9-4 Chiefs, who are predictably ascending just as the 6-7 Raiders descend.
As if any further data is required to explain the gap that exists between the AFC West rivals, consider this: Over their last two meetings, the Chiefs have outscored the Raiders 89-23.
Scaling that formidable mountain to draw eye to eye with the Chiefs likely requires the Raiders to hit the reset button again.
That means identifying a brand new football leader to replace Jon Gruden, who resigned in October after a slew of disparaging emails he penned became public, and perhaps even Mike Mayock, whose three-year stint as general manager has not led to any discernible improvements.
It might also mean moving on from Derek Carr, whose eight-year run as the Raiders quarterback has resulted in just one playoff appearance and a 53-70 record.
Carr can’t be blamed for all the Raiders’ ineptness over the years, and Sunday clearly showed that he was mostly an innocent bystander to the overall dysfunction. On the other hand, he clearly isn’t capable of being the force needed to lift the Raiders from their futility, and maybe a change is needed.
For both Carr and the Raiders.
“There’s a lot of things I’m thinking,” Carr said. “But I try my best to stay positive. It sucks, but what other choice do I have? Go in the hole and just be depressed with everybody? I’ve still got a job to do.”