They were down to start, up in the middle, and then down at the end.
For the first time in the last two months, the Chiefs rode the football roller coaster Thursday night and by the time the Oakland Raiders posted a 24-20 victory, Andy Reid’s team was sick to its stomach over inconsistent play, missed opportunities and the end of their five-game winning streak.
“I didn’t have the team ready to go the way we should have,” Reid said afterwards. “We obviously started way too slow, and we didn’t finish strong enough. They outplayed us and outcoached us.”
The Raiders picked up their first victory of the season because they ended up controlling the line of scrimmage for more minutes than the Chiefs did. They punched out 179 rushing yards, provided rookie quarterback Derek Carr with solid pass protection and spent a lot of time on defense squeezing the running lanes and making it difficult for Jamaal Charles to find significant running room.
Reid’s idea for an offensive game plan against the Raiders was no surprise â€“ he wanted to establish the running game with Charles. Oakland was prepped to stop the Chiefs on the ground, but because of a rain and a constant downpour in the second quarter, Reid was reluctant to open up his offense for the passing game.
“I was probably too conservative all the way around early in the game,” said Reid.
Across the statistical board, the offenses played on even terms. Oakland had an edge in the running game (179 yards) while the Chiefs owned an advantage throwing the ball (234 yards). The only turnover was on special teams and there were a total of three sacks between the teams.
But what killed the Chiefs on offense and defense was third down. They had played so well on third down entering the game ranked No. on offense and No. on defense. But on this Thursday night, they converted just 2 of 14 third-down snaps, while the Raiders moved the sticks 8 of 16 times.
“We certainly didn’t start the way we wanted too,” said quarterback Alex Smith. “Then in the second quarter it got nasty out there and you are limited a bit with the weather.”
The first half was the worst 30 minutes of football the Chiefs have played since that inexplicable loss to Tennessee in the season opener. They got nothing done on offense, even though they held a time of possession advantage and ran 10 more plays than Oakland. Seven possessions produced just three points and 120 offensive yards.
Defensively, the Chiefs were gashed by Latavius Murray, a second-year running back out of the University of Central Florida who missed all of the 2013 season due to a foot injury suffered during the pre-season. The 6-3, 225-pound former sixth-round pick has been gradually working his way into what had been an anemic Oakland running attack over the first 10 games.
There wasn’t anything gradual about his effect on the Raiders offense Thursday night. The teams traded the ball four times before the Raiders finally got Murray into the game. His first carry went for six yards. His second was an 11-yard touchdown run, the first of the season against the Chiefs defense. Along with Sebastian Janikowski’s PAT kick, Oakland owned a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
On the Raiders first offensive snap of the second quarter, they pushed their lead to 14-0, as Murray ripped off a 90-yard touchdown run through the Chiefs defense. He was touched by just a single player, as inside linebacker Josh Mauga got a glancing arm blow on his legs as he chugged through a hole on the right side of the formation, then cut back and ran away from the Kansas City defense.
It’s the longest run recorded against the Chiefs in the club’s 55-season history, topping an 87-yard run by Paul Lowe of the San Diego Chargers in 1961.
Momentum was wearing only silver and black at this point, and Smith tried to get the Chiefs offense moving and did not with a possession that produced a pair of first downs. But ultimately they stalled and Dustin Colquitt came on to punt. With a pretty good rain falling at the time, Colquitt’s high punt for field position was muffed by Oakland returner Denarius Moore; the wet ball went through his hands and bounced off his right shoulder, and Chiefs linebacker Frank Zombo fell on the fumble at the Oakland 11-yard line.
Presented with a gift to get back in the game, the ran three plays that produced just 6 yards on a 1st-down run by Charles. They were stuck at 4th-and-5 at the Oakland 5-yard line and settled for a 24-yard field goal by Cairo Santos. That 14-3 score is what the teams carried to the locker room at half-time.
The pace of the rain slackened a bit in the third quarter, but all the Raiders were able to produce was a 40-yard field goal from Janikowski that gave them a 17-3 lead with 5 minutes to play in the period.
It was at this point where Reid effectively abandoned the early game plan. Without the rain, he decided to open things up and called plays designed for Smith to get the ball down the field.
That proved to be the fuse that lit the offensive match for the Chiefs. It was just 6 plays and 60 yards for Smith to find tight end Anthony Fasano wide open near the goal line for a 19-yard touchdown play. Santos made the PAT kick and the Raiders lead was now 17-10.
Early in the fourth quarter, Smith and the offense tied the score, overcoming a pair of holding penalties and producing a 4-play, 65-yard scoring drive topped by a 30-yard touchdown connection between Smith and Charles. The next time the Chiefs had the ball, they picked up another Santos FG, this one from 25 yards.
With 9 minutes to play, the Chiefs held the lead for the first time. Considering the way they had played on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter this season, Reid’s team appeared to be in the driver’s seat for another victory.
But the Raiders did not go away. After losing Murray to a concussion in the second quarter, and watching veteran backs Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew struggle to produce anything in the run game, Oakland’s coaching staff put the ball in the hands of fullback Marcel Reece, who they moved to the running back position.
Starting a possession at their 20-yard line, the Raiders kept feeding the ball to the 6-1, 250-pound Reece. Two runs produced 16 yards and a first down. Some passes were mixed in as the Raiders continued picking on left cornerback Ron Parker. They strung together six first downs and picked up yards on a pass interference call against Parker. More importantly, they were running the clock and holding onto the ball.
Eventually, on the second play after the two-minute warning, Carr and Jones hooked up for the 9-yard touchdown pass that proved to be the winner. Jones beat Parker in the end zone on the play. With Janikowski’s PAT kick, the final score was set at 24-20.
The Chiefs had one more possession, but they weren’t able to make any headway against the Oakland defense and the winning streak was over.
After a few days off, the Chiefs will begin preparations to host the Broncos next Sunday and the game becomes oh so important to the Chiefs since they need a victory to get back into a tie for first place with Denver.
“We’ve got another big division game; we’ve got to handle this in the right way,” Smith said of the aftermath of Thursday night’s loss. “We have to build on it.”