By Dave Thomas
With first place on the line in the AFC West, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs locked heads on a frigid evening at Arrowhead Stadium Thursday.
When the dust had settled, it was the home team coming away with a hard-fought 21-13 victory, making it a season sweep of their arch-rivals. In the process, Kansas City tied Oakland at 10-3, though the Chiefs lead the division by having won the head-to-head series.
So, how did Kansas City get its second win of the season against an Oakland team that has only lost to the Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons this year? They won in part by the play of Chiefs’ quarterback, Alex Smith, in the first half. Plus, they relied on the ground game. The Chiefs accomplished enough early to survive the second half when their offense all but stalled.
Holding a 21-10 lead at intermission, Kansas City was held scoreless in the second half, with only a Sebastian Janikowski field goal preventing it from being a double shutout over the final 30 minutes of play.
With both teams off now until Dec. 18, the AFC West race comes down to three remaining games, with Denver still lurking at 8-4.
You don’t win too many games in the NFL scoring a mere 13 points. For the Raiders, they simply failed to generate a consistent passing game. MVP candidate Derek Carr had a night to forget, finishing 17-of-41 passing for a mere 117 yards (no TDs).
It was Oakland’s running game that kept the contest relatively close. Star running back Latavius Murray gained 103 yards on 22 carries. Murray also accounted for Oakland’s lone touchdown by punching it in from a yard out just before halftime. Oakland’s inability to put together a passing game prevented the run game from fully developing and ultimately cost the team points.
Despite giving up 21 first half points, Oakland’s defense clamped down on Smith and the Chiefs over the last 30 minutes of the game and forced a pair of turnovers. On the down side, the Raiders only managed three points from those two turnovers. Overall, Oakland was led by Nate Allen with nine solo tackles, while Malcolm Smith added seven. Oakland did hold running back Spencer Ware to 56 yards on 20 carries, but tight end Travis Kelce had a good night against the Raiders’ defense, catching five balls for 101 yards.
Special Teams: (B)
On a night when the temperature was below freezing, kicking could have become an issue. Despite the frigid conditions, Janikowski hit on two field goal attempts and an extra point. He was unable to attempt a third field goal due to a mistake by holder and punter Marquette King, who was quite busy. King had eight punts on the evening, averaging 50.8 yards per punt. However, King’s most notable play of the night was the juggled snap on Janikowski’s field goal attempt that would have drawn the Raiders to within five points. Finally, the special teams unit gave up a 78-yard touchdown return (punt) to the always dangerous Tyreek Hill in the second quarter.
It wasn’t that Oakland’s head coach Jack Del Rio had a bad game plan, it was simply that his team didn’t fully execute. Oakland had some dropped balls that could have went for decent pass plays, along with a critical false start in the fourth quarter when they faced a fourth down on the one yard line. All-in-all, the Raiders had some chances to either tie the game or even forge ahead, but miscues and missed opportunities ended up being the second-half storyline.
The weather should be a tad bit warmer for Oakland’s next game, a Dec. 18 meeting in San Diego against the rival Chargers. In their first meeting this season up in the Bay Area, Oakland hung on for a 34-31 victory. In that game, San Diego bobbled the snap when they went for a game-tying field goal late. Division games are always difficult and the Raiders will face another tough matchup in week 15.