The Oakland Raiders used the game plan the Kansas City Chiefs have used all year in winning their first game of the season, 24-20 on a miserable, rainy night in Oakland, California. Well, it was miserable for everyone other than Raiders fans, the Denver Broncos or the San Diego Chargers.
Raiders fans got to celebrate the team’s first win in more than a calendar year, while the Broncos (7-3) took back first place in the AFC West by a half game over Kansas City (7-4), and the Chargers (6-4) suddenly are back in the middle of the AFC West race after going through a slump over the last month.
Chiefs fans will use the extra time off before the next game replacing the TV remote controls that were undoubtedly smashed against the wall in frustration and anger after their team let a golden opportunity to win the AFC West slip-slide away on a soggy field.
Oakland used two touchdown runs by Latavius Murray – the second, a 90-yard dash through the Chiefs defense where he was virtually untouched – and a Sebastian Janikowski 40-yard field goal, to take a 17-3 lead in the third quarter and put KC in a big hole that it showed no signs of being able to escape. But that was before the 5-minute mark of the third quarter when Kansas City realized that it IS legal in the NFL to throw passes more than four yards downfield.
Behind the passing of Alex Smith (20-36, 236 yds 2 touchdowns), who had been suffering through one of his worst nights as a professional quarterback (8-18 for 48 yards in the first half, with 20 of those yards coming on one pass), the Chiefs rallied with 17 unanswered points in less than eight minutes to take a 20-17 lead on the Raiders midway through the fourth quarter.
The first of Smith’s touchdown passes came on a floating toss to tight end Anthony Fasano for a 19-yard score with 1:52 remaining in the third quarter.
The Raiders managed to move the ball near midfield before stalling on their next drive, and the Chiefs answered with a four-play, 65-yard drive that was made more difficult by a pair of holding penalties.
Jamaal Charles beat a rejuvenated Charles Woodson (who played like a league MVP again for much of the game) out of the backfield to catch a short pass and weaved through Oakland’s defense for a 30-yard score that tied it at 17. It was Charles’ fifth touchdown catch in his past two games at O.co Coliseum.
The play was identical to one the Chiefs used in the first half, but on that play, Woodson blew past Charles to sack Smith for his first quarterback sack of the season. Woodson, 17-year veteran of the NFL, played most of the night like a man 15 years younger as he led a dominating Raiders defense that seemingly was prepared for everything the Chiefs wanted to do in the first half.
Frankie Hammond’s 28-yard punt return after the Raiders’ next possession set up Cairo Santos’ second field goal of the game, giving the Chiefs their first lead of the night at 20-17 but then the Chiefs defense wilted at the most critical part of the season.
The Raiders used the same power running game, clutch passing, and mobile quarterback play that the Chiefs had been using on opponents all year, to embark on an impressive 17-play, 80 yard drive that ended when rookie QB Derek Carr hit receiver James Jones in the end zone with a 9-yard TD pass to give the Raiders a 24-20 lead. It was an offensive show that the Raiders had not seen all year long on their way to an 0-10 start.
It took an impressive drive by the Carr and some power running by Oakland running back Marcel Reese to win it. Carr twice had to sneak for first downs. He also threw an 8-yard pass to Mychal Rivera on third-and-6 and capitalized on a pass interference penalty against Chiefs cornerback Ron Parker on another third down before finding Jones for the go-ahead score.
The game ended when the Chiefs could not convert on a fourth-and-13 from the Raiders 48-yard line. But even this did not come without some more tense moments for Raider fans who had waited 12 long months to see their team win a game.
On the third-down play immediately preceding the incompletion, Khalil Mack and Sio Moore sacked Smith and celebrated in the backfield while the Chiefs ran up to the line to snap the ball on fourth down. Veteran Raiders lineman Justin Tuck barely called a timeout before the Chiefs snapped the ball to avoid a penalty that could have given the Chiefs a first down and kept the potential winning drive alive. After he called timeout, Tuck ripped into his younger teammates on the field.
But after the fourth-down incompletion and one QB kneel-down in victory formation by Carr, the Raiders could celebrate winning a game while the Chiefs will spend the extra time off before their next game playing an incredibly frustrating game of “What if?”
Much like the Tennessee Titans loss that opened the season for Kansas City, the Chiefs lost to a team that they were clearly superior to on paper, but began both games looking as if they didn’t know how to play football. The Raiders and Titans are a combined 3-18 on the season (pending Tennessee’s probable loss Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles) and even a mediocre effort in the first half of both games might have led to two more wins for KC.
One stat that won’t make Chiefs fans feel any better that was flashed on television is that the Chiefs fell to 1-4 all-time against teams with a record of 0-10 or worse. They’ve lost the past four such games they’ve played, with the other three coming against the 0-11 Chargers in 1975, the 0-10 Oilers in 1984 and the 0-11 Chargers in 2000. The rest of the NFL has a record of 37-16 when playing teams that bad.
The Chiefs gave up 179 yards rushing to a Raiders squad that was on pace for the worst season-long rushing performance by an NFL team since 1946 – that’s not a typo – the year after World War II ended. This comes four days after giving up 208 yards rushing to Seattle in their last game. But at least the Chiefs won that contest.
Kansas City has ten days to figure it all out before welcoming the first-place Broncos to Arrowhead Stadium on November 30th for another nationally televised prime-time game on Sunday Night Football on NBC. Hopefully they’ll play better than they did on Thursday night.