49ers’ defense will have their hands full against Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City’s offense in Super Bowl LIV

ap file photo: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes drops back to pass in the first half of their game against the Chicago Bears on Aug 25th in pre season play. Little did Mahomes know at the time he and the Chiefs would wind up in Super Bowl LIV 

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

SANTA CLARA–The San Francisco 49ers made winning the NFC Championship over the Green Bay Packers, 37-20, to advance to Super Bowl LIV on Sunday night look like a walk in the park. It will be San Francisco’s first trip to the Super Bowl since 2013, where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31.

For the franchise to claim its sixth Vince Lombardi trophy in seven trips to the Super Bowl, the 49ers are going to have to take down Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, who are returning to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years after defeating the Tennessee Titans, 35-24, to capture the Lamar Hunt trophy, named after the Chiefs’ late owner as the winner of the AFC.

The Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7, in Super Bowl IV.

The play of San Francisco’s defense will be critical when the football is kicked off at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Feb. 2. If San Francisco’s defense plays anywhere near it did against both the Vikings and Packers respectively, than the 49ers will be in primed position to win the game.

In two playoff games, the 49ers stood head and shoulders above the rest on defense, finishing first in points (15.0), total yards (252.2), rushing yards (41.5), takeaways (5), and third down percentage (23.8).

But neither Minnesota or Green Bay can match Kansas City’s offense, which can go nuclear within a blink of an eye with the aforementioned Mahomes as the trigger man. The third-year quarterback has a stacked offense, a track team of wide receivers in Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman, and an electrifying tight end in Travis Kelce at his disposal.

In the AFC Championship Game, Kansas City found itself down 10-0 and 17-7, but Mahomes and that high-powered Chiefs offense didn’t flinch, building a 35-17 lead over the Titans thanks in large part of controlling the clock with a strong ground game. Mahomes, who finished the game throwing for 294 yards and three touchdowns, his final touchdown came on a 60-yard strike to Watkins for the Chiefs’ 28th straight point midway through the fourth quarter.

That’s the type of offensive explosion that the 49ers must avoid if they have any shot at winning this football game. That means the 49ers, who may arguably have the NFL’s best defensive line, featuring Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Dee Ford and Arik Armstead must make life difficult for Mahomes every time Kansas City has the football.

The 49ers have the league’s best pass defense and ranked fifth with 48 sacks during the regular season. They have nine more this postseason, largely by taking opponents off schedule and setting up favorable pass-rush situations.

That’s huge against a quarterback that has the penchant of eluding would-be tacklers like Mahomes. Especially in a game with so much on the line like the Super Bowl.

 

Raiders review: Chiefs vs. Raiders game ball goes to Mahomes

Photo credit: vivathematators.com

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

OAKLAND — After scoring on their first two possessions of the game to take an early 10-0 lead, the Raiders couldn’t survive a 28-point swing in the second quarter by the Chiefs, as Kansas City pummeled Oakland 28-10 to improve to 2-0 and dropping the Raiders to 1-1 on the young season.

Patrick Mahomes earns my game ball for his performance against the Raiders in Week 2.

The Kansas City’s signal-caller was unfazed by Oakland’s fast start to the game. After registering the first scoreless opening quarter of his career, Mahomes owned the second quarter, lighting up the Silver and Black for 278 yards and four touchdowns on four-straight possessions.

The Raiders didn’t know what hit them once the Chiefs took control of the game midway through the second quarter.

Mahomes’ 278 yards were the most in a quarter since Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 294 yards in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 9, 2008, per the Elias Sports Bureau.

Just like in last week’s 40-26 victory for the Chiefs over the Jacksonville Jaguars in northeast Florida in which Mahomes threw for 313 in the first half, Mahomes threw for 313 yards again in the first half against the Raiders.

It was the seventh-straight road game that Mahomes has thrown at least three touchdowns. Each of Mahomes’ last five completed passes in the second quarter, went for at least 27 yards, with touchdowns to wide receivers Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman and tight end Travis Kelce.

Robinson, who started the game in Hill’s place and just as hard to cover, hauled in six catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson caught Mahomes’ first and last touchdowns of the second quarter, a 44-yarder and 39-yarder respectively.

Hardman, a rookie speedster from Georgia, was on the other end of a 42-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes (his second of the period). Hardman finished with four catches for 61 yards, but could’ve had a 72-yard score in the third quarter (Mahomes’ fifth TD of the day) had it not been nullified by a holding penalty on running back LeSean McCoy.

Kelce added a 27-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter to his team-leading seven-catch, 107-yard day.

Mahomes finished the game completing 30-of-44 passes for 443 yards and four touchdowns to go with a 131.2 passer rating for the game. The reigning NFL MVP and the Chiefs didn’t skip a beat on offense: tallying 464 yards total and winning the time of possession battle 32:35 to 27:25 for Oakland.

With the win, Mahomes improves to 3-0 against the Raiders and has now thrown for 1,021 yards with 10 touchdowns, one interception and a 123.6 passer rating.

Raiders set to finish the 2018 season in KC on Sunday against the Chiefs

Photo credit: raiders.com

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

The Oakland Raiders will finish up the 2018 regular season on the road this Sunday where they will take on their most bitter AFC West rival, the Kansas City Chiefs. This Week 17 matchup will be the 117th meeting between the two clubs, with the Chiefs holding a 62-52-2 advantage over the Silver and Black and are currently riding a two-game winning streak in the series.

Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. PT from Arrowhead Stadium on CBS. Sunday’s contest will mark the fifth-straight season that the Raiders and Chiefs will conclude the regular season.

The Silver and Black finished out their 2018 home schedule in convincing fashion with a 27-14 win over another AFC West rival in the Denver Broncos on ESPN’s Monday Night Football in Week 16. With the idea that Monday night’s game could be the final home game ever for the Raiders in Oakland stuck in everyone’s mind, Raider Nation was treated to a much needed victory on Christmas Eve by its football team.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr extended his club-record streak of passes without an interception to 325, a mark that currently leads the NFL. His last interception came all the way back in Week 5 against the Chargers.

Carr completed 19-of-26 passes for just 167 yards against the Broncos, and is just 136 yards shy from his first career 4,000-yard passing season. For the season, Carr has thrown for 3,864 yards with 19 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.

Running back Doug Martin, an Oakland native, had his biggest game of the season in front of his hometown crowd carrying the ball 21 times for 107 yards and one touchdown. After Martin’s 24-yard run down the Raiders’ sideline that gave the Raiders a 14-0 lead, Martin threw up an “O” to the Oakland crowd.

Wide receiver/kick returner Dwayne Harris provided the biggest play of the game, returning a punt 99 yards for the game’s first score in the first quarter. Harris’ punt return tied for the second-longest in NFL history with Patrick Peterson’s 99-yarder back in 2011. Robert Bailey has the NFL’s longest punt return, a 103-yarder set in 1994 per the Elias Sports Bureau.

Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Harris ran 157.5 yards on his touchdown return, the longest distance covered by any ball carrier in the last three season. The play earned Harris AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time in 2018.

Defensively, the Raiders put the clamps on the Broncos in the first-half, forcing Denver to punt five times in six possessions. The Broncos missed a 58-yard field goal right before halftime, allowing the Raiders to carry a 17-0 lead into the locker room.

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the 17-first-half points were the most by the Raiders since scoring 21 points in the first-half against the New York Jets in Week 2 of the 2017 season.

Broncos quarterback Case Keenum did throw two touchdowns to rookie wide receivers DaeSean Hamilton and Courtland Sutton, but also two interceptions to safeties Marcus Gilchrist and Erik Harris.

Both interceptions came in the fourth quarter that sealed the victory for Oakland, who improved to 4-11 on the season. In their last six games, the Raiders are 3-3.

Oakland surrendered just 202 yards on 23-of-37 passes, marking the 10th-straight game that the Raiders have held opposing quarterbacks to less than 300 yards passing. The last quarterback to throw for over 300 yards against the Silver and Black was Philip Rivers (339) for the Chargers in Week 5.

After starting the season 11-2, the Chiefs (11-4) have dropped back-to-back games in recent weeks.

Last week, the Chiefs traveled to Seattle and left with a 38-31 loss to the Seahawks on NBC’s Sunday Night Football from always noisy CenturyLink Field.

With a win over the Raiders Sunday, Kansas City will win the AFC West title for the second-straight season (their third division crown in four seasons), and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

In the first meeting of the year in Week 13, the Chiefs narrowly escaped the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum with a 40-33 victory in what turned out to be an offensive explosion for both teams. Defense was an afterthought, with both offenses combining for 911 yards of total offense and scoring nine touchdowns.

Chiefs starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw four touchdowns and no interceptions in the contest with 295 yards passing. Mahomes, who completed 23-of-38 passes, connected with tight end Travis Kelce for 12 receptions for 168 yards and two touchdowns.

Not to be outdone, the duo of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and tight end Jared Cook were spectacular on that Sunday afternoon in the Black Hole too, with Carr completing 29-of-38 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns.

Cook hauled in seven of Carr’s passes for 100 yards and one touchdown in the game.

Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes will be a longtime problem for the Raiders

Photo credit: chiefswire.usatoday.com

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

OAKLAND, Calif. — There’s no question that after watching quarterback Patrick Mahomes in his first head-to-head matchup against the Raiders, he will be a thorn in the Silver and Black’s side for years to come.

Mahomes, who completed 23-of-38 passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns, led the Chiefs to a wild 40-33 victory over the Raiders on Sunday that moved Kansas City to an AFC-best record of 10-2. Mahomes did miss a couple of deep passes to blazing wide out Tyreek Hill at various points of the game that could’ve really put the game away early for the Chiefs, but didn’t seem rattled by the 54,255 paid crowd at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum.

Oakland’s 31st ranked defense couldn’t find any answers in stopping Mahomes and the Chiefs’ 2nd ranked offense all day, as the Raiders allowed 442 yards of total offense to the Chiefs and didn’t generate a sack against Mahomes in the contest.

After the Raiders cut Kansas City’s lead to 13-7 behind running back Doug Martin’s 1-yard touchdown shortly before halftime, Mahomes and Chiefs would run five plays in 57 seconds to drive the length of the field.

Mahomes found wide receiver Demarcus Robinson for a 38-yard catch, scrabbling the entire width of the field before going out of bounds with 12 seconds remaining in the second quarter. On the next, Mahomes would find tight end Travis Kelce on a 6-yard score for Kelce’s second touchdown of the day. Arden Key would block the extra point, keeping the score 19-7.

Kelce was the main beneficiary of Mahomes’ passes, hauling in 12 catches for 168 yards, eclipsing 1,000 yards receiving for the third-straight season.  Kelce joined Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (2014-16) as the only tight ends in NFL history to accomplish that feat per the Elias Sports Bureau.

The sixth-year tight from the University of Cincinnati rebounded nicely after fumbling on Kansas City’s first play of scrimmage following a 24-yard catch-and-run.

Mahomes has now thrown 41 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions on the season through 12 games played for Kansas City, joining future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning (44 in 2004, 41 in ’13) and Tom Brady (44 in 2007) as the only quarterbacks with at least 40 touchdowns in the first 12 games this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information Research.

With 4,207 passing yards on the season, Mahomes became the fastest quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 4,000 yards through 12 games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

As he continues to grow under head coach Andy Reid, one of the NFL’s best creative offensive minds,  the second-year pro in Mahomes will only get better and that much harder to stop.

The Raiders will continue to see Mahomes’ progression for years to come, having to play the Chiefs twice a season. The two teams wrap up the regular season at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City in Week 17.

Raiders get set for crucial AFC divisional game with Chiefs in Kansas City

Photo credit: @RAIDERS

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

OAKLAND — After back-to-back wins at home over the Broncos and the Giants, the Raiders head on the road to take on the Chiefs in Kansas City Sunday in a critical AFC West matchup. The Raiders are looking to complete the season sweep over the Chiefs after dispatching Kansas City, 31-30, in Week 7 at Oakland that halted Kansas City’s 11-game divisional win streak.

Kickoff is at 10:00 a.m. PT from Arrowhead Stadium. With both teams–along with the Los Angeles Chargers–sporting identical 6-6 records, the winner of this game would be in the driver seat of the division with three games to go in the regular season.

For the second straight week, Oakland’s defense held the opposing team to under 300 yards of total offense in limiting the Giants to 265 yards in Week 13. Defensive lineman Denico Autry recorded one of Oakland’s three sacks, his third in the last two games. Defensive end Khalil Mack and linebacker Bruce Irvin each posted a sack off of Giants starting quarterback Geno Smith.

Middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman led the team with eight solo tackles (one assisted).

Running back Marshawn Lynch carried the offensive load for Oakland, running for a 100 yards in a game since October 2015 as a member of the Seattle Seahawks. Lynch rushed for 101 yards on 17 carries, including a 51-yard touchdown run on Oakland’s first drive of the game. It was Lynch’s second-straight 100-yard game for Oakland this season.

Lynch owes the Raiders a big performance against the Chiefs, after getting ejected from the previous game for making contact with an official after coming off the bench to aid in defusing an altercation between Kansas City cornerback Marcus Peters, and the Raiders offensive line.

Lynch and Peters are “cousins” with the two having close ties from growing up in West Oakland.

With Oakland’s wide receiver corps depleted with Michael Crabtree serving a one-game suspension for fighting with Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, and Amari Cooper out with a concussion/left ankle injury, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson step up for the Silver and Black leading the team with 79 yards receiving on four receptions. Patterson’s 59-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter, helped seal Oakland’s victory over the Giants.

Crabtree is expected to be ready to go against the Chiefs, but Cooper is a different story. Cooper did clear the league’s concussion protocol, the team announced Wednesday, but has yet to practice on the sprained left ankle. If you’re part of Raider Nation, you better take a wait-and-see approach with Cooper.

Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr completed 22-of-36 passing for 287 yards and a touchdown, a nine-yard toss to wide receiver Johnny Holton in the fourth quarter.

Carr’s biggest performance of 2017 came against the Chiefs in front of a national audience on NBC’s Thursday Night Football, throwing for a ridiculous 417 yards on 29-of-52 passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Carr and Cooper were in perfect harmony that night, with Cooper having a career night with 11 receptions (on 15 targets) for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper scored on touchdowns of 38- and 45-yards respectively.

In seven career games against Kansas City, Carr is just 2-5 against the Chiefs, his worst record against one team. Carr is just 3-4 against the Broncos in seven career games, his second-worst record against one team.

But Sunday’s game is essentially a playoff game for Oakland’s signal-caller, who sports a 0-3 record at Arrowhead Stadium. Carr knows that he must play well in order for the Raiders to leave Kansas City with a win.

Speaking before Wednesday’s practice, Carr acknowledge that the Silver and Black have their work cut out for them facing the Chiefs.

“Definitely number one right now, especially this week,” Carr said via the team’s official website. “It’s definitely up there. It’s something that we have not been able to do since I’ve been here. We have to get on that.

“We have a tough task ahead of us because, although their record is the same as ours, we’re both pretty good football teams. We have to go out there and play hard.”

After starting the season 5-0, including an impressive 42-27 win at New England in Week 1, Kansas City’s season has fallen into a tailspin. The Chiefs are just 1-6 in their last seven games and are currently riding a four-game losing streak after falling to the New York Jets, 38-31, at MetLife Stadium in an offensive shootout last Sunday.

Kansas City’s offense racked up 474 yards of total offense against the Jets, with starting quarterback Alex Smith having a huge day throwing and running the football. Smith threw for 366 yards on 19-of-33 passing, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. The former Utah quarterback also had a 70-yard run in the game.

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill erupted for six receptions for 165 yards and two touchdowns, while tight end Travis Kelce finished with four receptions for 94 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, Kansas City was shredded by the Jets allowing 488 yards of total offense to Gang Green. Journeyman quarterback Josh McCown threw for 331 yards on 26-of-36 passing and a touchdown. Kansas City’s secondary allowed wide receivers Jermaine Kearse (9 receptions for 157 yards) and Robby Anderson (8 receptions for 107 yards) to run uncovered for most of the game.

The Jets converted 13-of-20 third downs and hogged the time of possession, controlling the clock for 42:49 and didn’t allow the Chiefs to get near McCown. Justin Houston, Kansas City’s most feared pass-rusher, was held to just one tackle for the game.

That won’t cut it for a team who has a rich history of getting to the quarterback with guys named Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith and Tamba Hali just to name a few.

In Kansas City’s biggest game of the season, the team will play without the aforementioned Peters, who was suspended by the team Wednesday for leaving the field while the game was still being played against the Jets. Peters also threw a penalty flag in the stands after a Jet touchdown.

With Peters out against the Raiders, the Chiefs already leaky secondary has gotten weaker and that could be a place where Oakland could attack. Teams are averaging 252.8 passing yards a game against the Chiefs this season. Kansas City ranks 28th in the league against the pass.

Oakland averages 241.2 passing yards per game this season, good for 15th in the league. Overall, the Silver and Black rank 21st in the league averaging 20.8 points per game.

Following Sunday’s game, the Raiders will host the visiting Dallas Cowboys at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum in Oakland’s final home game of the regular season, while Kansas City hosts the Chargers in another pivotal AFC West matchup in Week 15.

Raiders try to wrap up AFC West title in Denver without Derek Carr in regular season finale

Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, left, watches as quarterback Derek Carr, bottom, is tended to by trainers during the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — With a playoff spot already in their back pocket, the Raiders have a chance to clinch the AFC West title with a win in Denver (or a Kansas City loss in San Diego) Sunday at 1:25 p.m. to close out the 2016 regular season at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

But the 12-3 Raiders are going to have to go out and win the division (and the AFC’s No. 2 seed) without franchise quarterback and MVP candidate Derek Carr. Carr fractured his right fibula during Oakland’s 33-25 win over the visiting Indianapolis Colts in Week 16 on Christmas Eve.

The third-year quarterback completed 21-of-31 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns before being helped off the field following a sack by Colts defensive end Trent Cole in the third quarter. Carr’s leg got stuck in the Oakland Coliseum turf as Cole spun Carr around, fracturing his right fibula. On the season, Carr passed for 3,933 yards, 28 touchdowns, and just six interceptions.

The loss of Carr is devastating for the Silver and Black as they embark on their first postseason appearance since 2002, but Carr’s backup Matt McGloin is a guy that is ready for the challenge of leading a very talented team.

“I feel great,” McGloin said this week via CBSSports.com. “I know this team, these guys around me, this staff and this organization will do a great job of helping me out, embracing me, and making sure we keep moving in the right direction.”

McGloin, who threw for 1,547 yards, eight touchdowns, and eight interceptions in six starts for Oakland in 2013, will have the same offensive unit that took down the Broncos 30-20 in Week 9 in front of the country on NBC’s Sunday Night Football in the first matchup.

In his career, McGloin has thrown for 1,847 yards with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing 58.3 percent of his passes.

Starting running back Latavius Murray bludgeoned one of the league’s best defenses on 20 carries for 114 yards and three touchdowns that night in front of a sold out Raider Nation crowd at the Oakland Coliseum.

Rookie running back DeAndre Washington had career-day against the Colts, carrying the ball 12 times for a career-high 99 yards and two touchdowns, both for 22-yard scores that capped off four straight touchdowns for Oakland.

The tandem of Amari Cooper (78 catches, 1,110 yards, 4 TDs) and Michael Crabtree (84 catches, 956 yards, 8 TDs) are great weapons for the former Penn State quarterback to throw to.

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio believes in the closeness of his team and the coaches.

“We’ve got a good group of guys and a good group of men and a good group of coaches and players,” Del Rio said via CBSSports.com “who are going to work hard to put together a good plan, and we go out and expect to win.”

Denver (8-7), who will miss the playoffs this year after winning the Super Bowl last year, is coming off a 33-10 loss to Kansas City (11-4) on Christmas Night at frigid and rainy Arrowhead Stadium.

Kansas City racked up 484 yards of total offense and held a 21-7 lead in the first quarter against the once vaunted Broncos defense, highlighted by a 70-yard touchdown run by rookie speedster Tyreek Hill and an 80-yard catch-and-run score by tight end Travis Kelce.

Both Hill and Kelce were named to the AFC Pro Bowl team as starters with Hill being named as a return specialist for his first selection of his career.

Hill, who has superb hands is second on the Chiefs with 56 catches for 547 yards and six touchdowns, has 497 yards on 38 returns including a 78-yard punt return for a score against Oakland in a 21-13 victory on Dec. 9 in Kansas City.

Hill also has an 86-yard kickoff return for touchdown that helped Kansas City take the Broncos in overtime,  30-27, in Denver on Nov. 27.

Kelce earned his second-straight Pro Bowl nod by having another impressive year for Kansas City  with 84 catches for 1,117 yards and four touchdowns.

The playoff-bound Chiefs are hoping that Denver can knock off Oakland because a Raider loss would give Kansas City the No. 2 seed and the first-round bye, and knock Oakland to the No. 5 seed where they would open the playoffs on the road in either Pittsburgh or Houston on Wildcard Weekend.

But the Raiders have shown that they can win on the road this season going 6-1 (well 7-1 if you count playing in Mexico City that was technically considered a Raider “home” game), but that was with Carr under center, not McGloin.

Second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian has surpassed the 3,000-yard passing mark for the first time in his career with 3,195 yards, but has engineered a Broncos offense that scores just 20.6 points per game, 20th in the league.

Siemian has thrown for 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a 83.9 passer rating.

But according to Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak, Siemian will share some snaps this Sunday with former  first round draft pick Paxton Lynch.

“I think Trevor deserves the right to go back out there as a starter,” Kubiak said via the Denver Post. “He’s done a lot of good things this year. He’s a young player that needs to keep going.

“I want him to get the Kansas City taste out of his mouth. It was a tough outing. Paxton is also going to play. I’m preparing both and you’ll see them both in the game.”

Just like Oakland, Denver have a premiere wide receiving corps with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders leading the way.

Thomas leads the team with 86 catches for 1,036 yards and Sanders is second with 79 catches for 1,032 yards.

Both are tied for the team lead with five touchdowns a piece.

After starting the season 7-3, Denver is just 1-4 since.

Oakland won last season’s game in Denver on Dec. 13, 15-12, behind the dominate performance of defensive end Khalil Mack who tied a franchise-mark with five sacks off former Broncos quarterback now Houston Texas  high-priced backup, Brock Osweiler that day.