Raiders

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

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

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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.

[RELATED: Raiders' 2019 opponents finalized]

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.

NFL trade deadline: How Raiders might look to fill positional needs

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NFL trade deadline: How Raiders might look to fill positional needs

The NFL trade deadline is coming up fast. Not like the NFL needs it to spurn deals, with Marcus Peters moved to Baltimore and Jalen Ramsey taking his place in the L.A. Rams' secondary earlier this week.

NFL trades used to be rare, especially around the deadline. Pre-draft deals were more common, but now we’re seeing moves at several points in the calendar, including big names upset with their current lot and teams tired of dealing with disgruntled stars despite holding all the leverage.

The Raiders certainly have needs and the NFL draft capital to go get any player they want heading toward the Oct. 29 deadline. Just because they can, however, doesn’t mean they will.

They’ve already acquired Trevor Davis (2020 sixth-round pick) and Zay Jones (2021 fifth-round pick) this season and gave up two picks on the Antonio Brown experiment. They aren’t averse to making deals, but this team remains in the midst of a rebuild. They’d like young foundation pieces, with cheap controllable contracts, added via the NFL draft. Can’t do that by giving all your selections away in an attempt to win now.

The Raiders were interested in Ramsey but were never willing to give up what the Rams did to get him. They’re willing to deal, but it has to be the right guy at the right price.

The Raiders have needs aplenty, and midseason acquisitions could be more attractive if they manage to beat the Packers in Green Bay and find themselves (gasp!) atop a compacted AFC West entering midseason. Patrick Mahomes got hurt in Thursday’s game against Denver, a blow that could significantly hurt the front-running Chiefs and give the Raiders a window to take the whole division if they continue playing well.

Here's a look at the Raiders' prospects of making a trade

Chris Simms impressed with Raiders, who have been 'kicking some butt'

Chris Simms impressed with Raiders, who have been 'kicking some butt'

If you're impressed by the Raiders' recent turnaround, you're definitely not alone.

NBC Sports' Chris Simms is at a loss for words when it comes to describing what Oakland has accomplished after what only can be described as a hellish start to the season.

"Wow. I mean, I can't really say enough right now about what I've seen from the Oakland Raiders," Simms told NBC Sports California on Wednesday. "My old coach, Jon Gruden, has been kicking some butt, and I'm not saying that because he's my old coach. Trust me, I've talked crap about him before when he hasn't been good. I just think the way he is managing the football game right now is phenomenal."

Simms believes part of the 3-2 Raiders' recent surge can be attributed to Gruden putting his players in the right position to succeed.

"[The team] is playing extremely hard and physical on both sides of the football, but he's managing the offense the right way and managing it in a way that is giving it realistic expectations," Simms continued. "[He's] not asking it to do things that some of the players have not been able to do, and it's playing to their strengths. 

"They're running the football. [The offense is] playing smash-mouth football. When they drop back to pass, it's high-percentage passes. Let's take care of the football that way. And then when they look to strike deep or something like that, it's usually through a play-action pass or something Jon Gruden has designed in the chemistry lab in the week before through his film study."

The Raiders' consecutive wins over the Colts and Bears, in particular, really caught Simms' eye.

"I just really can't say enough about the Raiders and what they're doing right now," he said. "Those were two surprise victories for me, and they did it in a physical way."

[RELATED: Could Raiders be AFC West favorites after Mahomes injury?]

If the Raiders keep playing like they have the last two weeks, only more praise will follow.