LAS VEGAS -- No deficit has seemed too large for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' quick-strike offense during a four-season run that includes two Super Bowl titles.
Now, Kansas City is in position to defend its championship -- because of its defense.
The Chiefs (7-3) enter today's game against the host Las Vegas Raiders ranking in the top four in total, scoring and pass defense. They must hope that kind of defensive effort isn't wasted by an offense that's oddly still trying to find itself.
The Chiefs have been shut out in the second half of their last three games and scored 53 points total after the break this season, both of those the worst in the league. At fault are myriad issues: penalties, blown assignments, execution, dropped passes and poor play-calling, all of which have put tremendous pressure on the defense.
"We have a lot of hope in Pat Mahomes and Andy Reid and this offense," defensive tackle Chris Jones said. "They've scored a lot of points. We've never once doubted them. We'll always have their back."
On the other side, the last thing the Raiders (5-6) would do is underestimate a Mahomes-led offense.
"They've got a lot of weapons, a lot of guys on both sides of the ball that are impact players," Las Vegas wide receiver Davante Adams said. "They are the champs for a reason."
MAHOMES VS. CROSBY
One of the more anticipated matchups is between Mahomes and Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby, provided Crosby plays. Crosby, who has 10 1/2 sacks this season, didn't practice Wednesday because of a knee injury.
If he plays, that could bring back memories of the Oct. 10, 2022, meeting between Crosby and Mahomes captured in the Netflix documentary "Quarterback." Mahomes took offense in the doc to Crosby giving him some extra attention. After throwing a touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce, Mahomes yelled at Crosby that he "woke up the wrong [guy]!"
"I don't like playing against him because I know what type of player he is and the mindset that he comes in with," Mahomes said this week. "I don't talk a ton of trash. I just try to stay fired up and go out there and win. He's the same way. He wants to win as much as anybody, and that's why I have so much respect for him, but at the end of the day we're competing. That's what competitors do."
The Chiefs-Raiders rivalry has traditionally been one of the NFL's fiercest, but Kansas City has won 15 of the past 17 meetings.
SEA OF RED
When the Chiefs visited last season, so much red in the stands made Allegiant Stadium more like a home game for them.
The stadium offered more of a home-field advantage for the Raiders in recent victories over the New York Giants and Jets.
"I came here with the intention to make it tough on teams coming in this building and not making it a friendly place to play," Adams said. "In Oakland, that's how it's been historically. Everybody coming there already knew they were going to have to deal with the fans, and we're starting to feel that from our fans now."