KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs had lost four straight games, suspended arguably their best defensive player and reached such a nadir offensively that Andy Reid recently turned over play-calling duties to his coordinator.
Makes perfect sense this would be the week they’d turn everything around.
Kareem Hunt churned for 116 yards and a touchdown in a performance reminiscent of earlier this season, the Kansas City defense fared just fine without star cornerback Marcus Peters, and the Chiefs beat Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders 26-15 on Sunday in a crucial AFC West showdown.
”To play the way we know we can play early, then to get challenged and get a rough patch and find our way out of it, I think guys have that confidence now,” said Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who threw for 268 yards. ”All three phases were playing off each other, all three playing good team football.”
The Chiefs (7-6) entered the game tied atop the division standings with the Raiders (6-7) and the Chargers, who played Washington later Sunday and visit Kansas City on Saturday night.
Now, they have some momentum heading into another important game.
”Any time you have a divisional game, you know you’re going to have to come out and play. That’s just the accountability factor,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said. ”You know if you win the division, you get a ticket to the dance.”
The Raiders likewise knew the importance of Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium.
”There’s definitely a moment when you say, ‘What’s going on here?”’ said Carr, who was 24 of 41 for 211 yards with a touchdown and two picks. ”Was there a moment when we thought we didn’t have it? No.”
Carr’s performance was a far cry from when the teams met in October. He threw for 417 yards and three touchdowns that day, including the winning toss to Michael Crabtree on the final play of the game.
That loss was part of a midseason swoon for Kansas City, which started 5-0 but lost six of seven to fall into a tie for the division lead – and put its once-solid playoff prospects in peril.
They’re looking a lot better now.
The Chiefs should also have Peters back next week. The volatile young star was suspended by Reid this week for a series of embarrassing incidents, including the throwing of an official’s flag into the stands in the Meadowlands. And while the trio of Steven Nelson, Darrelle Revis and Terrance Mitchell more than made up for him, Peters at his best offers unique game-changing ability.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ offense produced for the second straight week with offensive coordinator Matt Nagy calling the shots. The Chiefs got four field goals from Harrison Butker with their two TD runs, and they didn’t have to punt until the fourth quarter.
”They executed better than us,” said Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin, who had two sacks. ”Our objective is to win the game and that was unfortunate. So we have to keep pushing.”
The Raiders did make it interesting late, recovering an onside kick after Lynch’s TD run. Carr connected with Jared Cook on fourth down for another score, and the 2-point conversion trimmed what had been a 26-0 deficit to 26-15 in a matter of minutes.
But after receiving the kickoff, the Chiefs’ Albert Wilson made a juggling catch to convert a third down, and that allowed the reigning AFC West champs to mostly run out the clock.
”We need to control the things we can control. Get ready for the Cowboys,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. ”That’s what we do. That’s what you do in this business. It’s a tough one today. We obviously came in with high hopes. Everything we wanted to accomplish in our season was in front of us. It was a big day and big moment, and we did not play well.”
Hunt’s performance gave him 1,046 yards rushing for the season, making him the second Chiefs rookie to top the 1,000-yard. Joe Delaney, whose career was cut tragically short when he drowned while trying to save three kids in a Louisiana pond, accomplished the feat in 1981.
Raiders WR Amari Cooper was active after he was cleared of a concussion and a sprained left ankle was deemed OK. But he left in the second quarter with a right leg injury when he was blocking downfield on a run by DeAndre Washington, and a defender rolled into the back of him.
The Raiders also were missing two defensive starters in CB David Amerson (foot sprain) and LB Cory James (knee), while DE Mario Edwards Jr. (ankle) left early in the second quarter and TE Clive Walford went down in the fourth. The Chiefs missed starting C Mitch Morse with a sprained foot.
Raiders: return home to face the Cowboys next Sunday night.
Chiefs: get another AFC West contender when the Chargers visit Saturday night.
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