Raiders

Raiders takeaways: What we learned in 35-3 season finale loss to Chiefs

Raiders

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Raiders' season ended with a whimper. They didn't play spoiler Sunday by beating the Chiefs. They didn’t finish strong like they’d hoped.

The Silver and Black were worked 35-3 at Arrowhead Stadium, where they have struggled mightily in recent seasons.

This game wasn’t competitive. The Raiders turned over the ball on their first four drives, and were down 21-0 in less than 21 game minutes. The paragraphs above were written then, with no worry over whether they’d hold true at game’s end.

The Raiders finished the season at 4-12, equal to the worst campaign of coach Jon Gruden’s 12-year career.

This game featured a few individual bright spots, but it brought a proper end to a disappointing season that started with high hopes before turning into a full-scale roster rebuild.

Here are three takeaways after Sunday’s loss to playoff-bound Kansas City (12-4):

Nowhere close to catching KC

The Chiefs are the AFC West’s gold standard. They have won three consecutive division titles, while the Raiders are mired in last place and in the midst of a full-scale rebuild. The Raiders have lost eight of their last nine games to Kansas City, and they must reverse that trend to start consistently competing for playoff positions. The Chiefs are vastly superior, especially with Pat Mahomes at quarterback. That was clear Sunday, when a talent chasm was on full display.

 

Gruden has a major project ahead, one that must include several quality drafts and free-agent signings, to leapfrog the Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers and rate among a talented division’s best teams. The Raiders finished 1-5 in the division, and improving that mark will be the first sign of progress in reconstructing the franchise.

Draft pick remains high

The Silver and Black acquired two 2019 first-round draft picks by trading Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. Those selections have lost serious value. The Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys won their respective divisions, meaning those picks will be in the 20s at best.

The Raiders will have a high pick, however, thanks to their own disappointing season. Their loss to Kansas City, combined with other results across the NFL, locked the Raiders into the No. 4 overall selection. That’s high enough to draft a premium defensive player, even without a deep quarterback class and a possible early run on pass rushers.

That also means the Raiders would have the No. 35 overall pick. By rule, teams with equal record flop positions every other round. The first-round tiebreaker is determined by strength of schedule.

Derek Carr’s no-interception streak snapped

The Raiders quarterback threw 322 consecutive passes without an interception. Only three quarterbacks in NFL history have gone that long without a pick.

Carr’s streak didn’t go any further, though, after tight end Jared Cook stopped running a route when he was targeted, resulting in Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen's pick-six.

While Carr has had three picks dropped during the streak, the one that counts wasn't his fault. The ball was in the air when Cook’s route halted.

The next interception, however, was on Carr. He didn’t see Reggie Ragland sit on Jordy Nelson’s route, and the Kansas City linebacker cut it off and rumbled well downfield on the return.

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Picks weren't Carr’s only issue with ball security. He held onto the ball a smidge too long, and rookie left tackle Kolton Miller was beat off the edge, allowing Justin Houston in for a strip-sack.

Carr had a few positive milestones Sunday, exceeding 4,000 passing yards for the first time in his career and breaking the NFL record for most completions in a quarterback’s first five seasons.

A rough finish to the year -- Carr never plays well at Arrowhead Stadium -- doesn’t change the fact that the signal-caller run Gruden’s offense well, especially as the year progressed. Another offseason in the system, and some upgrades at receiver, should help Carr take another positive step in 2019.