The Kansas City Chiefs scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter behind Jeremy Maclin’s two touchdowns and a pick-six interception by Tyvon Branch and beat the Oakland Raiders 34-20 to win their sixth straight game. The victory guarantees the Chiefs (7-5) will maintain their hold on a playoff spot for at least one more week and put what might be the final nail in the coffin of Oakland’s (5-7) playoff hopes for this season.
Alex Smith had a quiet game statistically – throwing for 162 yards and two touchdowns on a 16 for 22 day as well as scoring a rushing touchdown on his five carries for 23 yards. However, he extended his streak of passes without an interception for one more game, passing Hall of Famer Bart Starr to move into third place all time behind Tom Brady and Bernie Kosar.
Spencer Ware rushed for 26 yards on seven carries and scored a touchdown as well on a day when the Chiefs could not get their running game untracked. But the big offensive force for Kansas City was once again receiver Jeremy Maclin, who caught his two touchdowns on nine receptions for 95 yards. Maybe more important, Maclin let his fiery personality shine though all day long.
Defensively, the Chiefs intercepted Oakland quarterback Derek Carr three times in the fourth quarter with linebacker Josh Mauga and Oakland native Marcus Peters getting the first two before the ex-Raider Branch sealed the win with his pick-six that gave the Chiefs their final margin of victory. Derrick Johnson added 14 tackles and was a big part of shutting down Oakland’s running game in the second half.
For the complete box score from NFL.com, click here.
The semi-comfortable final score could not have been imagined by even the most optimistic Chiefs fan in the first half as KC reverted back to the sloppy mistake-filled play that marked their five game losing streak earlier in the season. Turnovers, stupid penalties that extended Oakland drives, and mental lapses that allowed the Raiders to move up and down the field sometimes at will should have put the Chiefs in an insurmountable hole on the scoreboard, but the Raiders could not take advantage and only led on the scoreboard 14-7 at halftime.
When the Chiefs took the second half kickoff and drove 80 yards in nine plays and running back Spencer Ware bulled into the end zone from 10 yards out, the score was 14-14 and the Chiefs had new life and a chance to redeem their first half performance. However, as fans would discover by the time the game ended, redemption didn’t mean the contest would not have its wacky moments.
The game opened like it was going to be a 41-38 shootout as each team had nine-play scoring drives that were almost unaffected by the opposing defense on the field. The Raiders used short passes from quarterback Derek Carr and long runs by running back Latavius Murray to go 80 yards for their score. Murray rushed five times for 50 yards on the drive and he capped it off with a 2-yard touchdown plunge.
But the Chiefs answered right back with a 56-yard drive of their own, Quarterback Alex Smith showed an early rhythm in his passing, highlighted by a 16-yard strike to Maclin on a third-and-9 play that picked up a key first down. Smith tied the score at 7-7 when he scrambled untouched up the gut of the Raiders defense for a 3-yard touchdown.
The Raiders seemed unstoppable on their next drive as well, but for the Chiefs defense suddenly woke up and stuffed Murray on a third-and-1 carry. Raiders coach Jack Del Rio decided to go for it on fourth down, but rookie wide receiver, Amari Cooper, dropped a wide-open pass and the Chiefs took over on downs – and that’s when things got weird for KC.
Maclin caught a nice pass over the middle from Smith for a good gain, but fumbled the ball as he was being tackled and the Raiders 98-year old cornerback, Charles Woodson, recovered. It was the first turnover of any kind for KC since their 16-10 loss to Minnesota, seven weeks and five games ago. And while Woodson only seems like he’s been around long enough to be 98 years old, he would have an even bigger game-changing play later in the half.
After the Raiders failed to take advantage of Maclin’s fumble, Frankie Hammond, Jr., fumbled the ensuing punt and nearly had another turnover on the Chiefs 10-yard line. Luckily, Hammond recovered the ball but put the Chiefs in the same miserable field position they would have for much of the first half.
Defense ruled for both teams for the rest of the half as each team struggled to move the ball. However, just before halftime with 1:15 left on the clock and the game tied at 7-7, Hammond took off 29-yards down the sideline on a punt return and set up the Chiefs for potential score to take the lead. Smith misfired deep downfield to Albert Wilson who had beaten his man, but his next throw was a strike to tight end Travis Kelce who caught his first pass of the game.
Kelce raced to the Oakland 26-yard line before being tackled by Woodson. Unfortunately, Woodson reached in and wrested the ball away from Kelce as the receiver was going to the ground. Then the future Hall of Fame cornerback took the ball back 38 yard the other way, giving Oakland new life. Four plays later, Oakland had the lead when Carr found Michael Crabtree from 25 yards out with a perfect strike that split Sean Smith and Eric Berry.
At that point, remote controls around the Kansas City metro area undoubtedly became airborne in frustration as the Chiefs seemed to be replaying last year’s disappointing loss to the Raiders in Oakland.
After the Chiefs tied the score with their opening drive of the second half, the Raiders answered with a businesslike 13-play drive that saw them convert three third down plays. A questionable roughing the passer penalty on Derrick Johnson after a third down stop allowed the drive to continue and it ended when Carr hit tight end Lee Smith with a 5-yard touchdown pass. However, Sebastian Janikowski missed the extra point and the Raiders only led 20-14 at that point.
Little did anyone realize that would be the last score for the Raiders who saw their second-year franchise quarterback melt down. Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton began to dial up blitzes to rattle Carr and the defensive front seven shut down the Raider running game, which took away the play action fakes that had worked so well in the first half.
Then in the fourth quarter, the ball-hawking turnover-producing defense fans had gotten used to seeing reappeared and the Chiefs left the Raiders players, coaches and fan base silent with their efficient tsunami of points that probably keeps Oakland from getting a winning record this season.
The win Sunday gave Kansas City a road sweep of the AFC West division, something the team has not accomplished since 1995. They play the reeling San Diego Chargers next week at Arrowhead and close out the season at home against these same Raiders. Should they win those two games, it would give KC a 5-1 record against the division and a lot of confidence moving into the playoffs.