Raiders' in-flux secondary taking positives from torching by Chiefs

Travis Kelce caught one of the Chiefs' four second-quarter touchdown passes against the Raiders this past Sunday. Ben Margot/AP

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The second-quarter explosion by Patrick Mahomes was less than 24 hours old when a boisterous Johnathan Abram, his surgically repaired left shoulder in a sling, was holding court in a corner of the locker room at Oakland Raiders' team facility.

The rookie safety's booming drawl was bouncing off the walls as he and other members of the Raiders' secondary, still singed from the torching administered by the reigning NFL MVP and the Kansas City Chiefs, tried to make sense of what had gone down. That is, Mahomes making like Doug Williams in the second quarter of Super Bowl XXII in passing for 278 yards and four long touchdowns in one quarter of play, and how the Raiders' in-flux secondary can avoid a repeat this weekend against Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings.

The lesson learned in the 28-10 defeat?

"It doesn't matter who the opponent is," nickel cornerback Lamarcus Joyner said after Abram departed.

"When you're beating yourself, when you're defeating yourself by miscommunications, then you can lose to any team in this league. I feel like that's what we did."

Whistling past the graveyard? Perhaps, but Oakland's defensive backs are looking at it as a glass-half-full situation after pitching a shutout in the game's other three quarters (even if the Chiefs might have taken a foot off the pedal late).

"If you go turn on the film, man, and you show me a play where they just physically dominated us to, you know, score a touchdown, or just beat us single-handedly," Joyner said, "then, you know, hats off to them."

On each of the Mahomes' four touchdown passes -- 44 yards to Demarcus Robinson, 42 yards to Mecole Hardman, 27 yards to Travis Kelce and 39 yards to Robinson -- there was blown coverage on the back end. Extreme blown coverages that ended with Raiders DBs often looking at each other in exasperation. The Chiefs also had two other plays of at least 25 yards in the quarter.

Surely, the Raiders doing so much in-game swapping at safety -- Erik Harris started alongside Karl Joseph, but Oakland also used cornerback Daryl Worley on the back end -- contributed to some miscommunication.

If it did, the Raiders weren't ready to acknowledge it as a culprit.

The substitution patterns were made necessary not only by the Chiefs' high-flying attack, but by the absence of Abram, who has played all of one game in his nascent NFL career but has already established himself as a hard hitter.

"We definitely know he's a factor when he's out there with us," Joseph said. "I think the physicality he plays with ... when you're a receiver, you're a little timid coming across when he's out there with us."

Still, one of the lessons being imparted upon Abram, who hurt himself in the season-opening victory over the Denver Broncos, was that he doesn't need to go for the knockout on every play.

As such, Oakland's secondary remains a work in progress that might have benefited from adding, say, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. But he was dealt by the Miami Dolphins to the Pittsburgh Steelers this week.

What about cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who has asked to be traded from by the Jacksonville Jaguars? It makes too much sense to not at least ponder.

Consider: The Raiders saved themselves some $30 million by ridding themselves of the Antonio Brown experience. And they have a pair of first-round picks next year, so they have draft capital to play with should they decide to chase Ramsey to add to a corner crew of Worley, who could conceivably move to safety, Gareon Conley and rookies Trayvon Mullen and Keisean Nixon. Wait, Derek Carr wasn't among the quarterbacks Ramsey ripped in GQ article a few years back, was he?

In any event, as devastating as Mahomes was to the Raiders in that fateful second quarter, Oakland's run defense was just as impressive ... over the whole game.

The Raiders limited LeSean McCoy to 23 yards rushing on 11 carries, and the Chiefs had 31 yards on the ground on 22 attempts. The Vikings, meanwhile, feature Dalvin Cook, who leads the NFL in rushing with 265 yards and is averaging an eye-popping 6.5 yards per carry after carving up the Atlanta Falcons for 111 yards and two touchdowns and the Green Bay Packers for 154 yards and a score.

"That's good," Joyner said. "So now we know as a secondary we just have to master our techniques and fundamentals and practice, knowing that we can hang our hats on the D-line and linebackers stopping the run so now the game will be on us."

Somewhere, Al Davis had to smile when Joyner harkened back to the likes of Willie Brown, Lester Hayes, Mike Haynes and Charles Woodson by saying the Raiders had their most success against the Chiefs when they played single-high (safety), man-to-man coverage.

"But when we did a few different zone things where they kind of schemed us up to make us communicate, they got big chunk plays," Joyner said. "But like I say, anybody can go turn on the film and look at us going man-to-man with that speed that they have. They only scored those big touchdowns in zone coverages. That's just something we have to get better at."

So nothing but bump-and-run and man-to-man from here on out?

Joyner laughed.

"We got the guys that can do that," he said. "I'll tell you one thing, man, me and my guys are running the mile every day after practice, man. We are going to get our cardio together and we are going to go get after people.

"Guys are excited. Guys are encouraged from the loss that we suffered ... it shows how great a team we are."