The Kansas City Chiefs surely made a statement on which team is the best in the AFC West on Sunday. Kansas City dominated the Oakland Raiders from start to finish in a 40-9 rout. The performance allowed the Chiefs (8-4) to take a commanding two-game lead in the division with four games to play (with a sweep of the Raiders, giving them the head-to-head tiebreaker).
The Chiefs didn't need Patrick Mahomes to perform at an MVP level to win this one, especially playing in sub-40 degree temperatures with winds over 30 miles per hour. Mahomes was just 15 of 29 for 175 yards and a touchdown, but used his legs to get the Chiefs where they needed to be. The reigning MVP looked 100 percent back from his knee injury suffered on October 17, rushing for a 13-yard touchdown to give Kansas City a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. Mahomes finished with three carries for 25 yards and was the Chiefs' leading rusher until midway through the fourth quarter.
Oakland had a strong first quarter from running back Josh Jacobs (eight carries for 55 yards), but three first half turnovers doomed the Raiders. Derek Carr threw an interception on Oakland's first possession, which led to the Chiefs' first touchdown of the game. He also threw an interception to Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill, who returned the pass 46 yards for the score to give Kansas City a commanding 21-0 lead with 3:42 left in the second quarter, which is all the Chiefs needed to take total control of the game.
The Raiders (6-6) finally were able to score a touchdown, their first since 1:44 left in the second quarter in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals, with 39 seconds left in the game. Carr still is winless in "cold weather" games (sub-40 degree temperatures at kickoff) at 0-5.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid improves to 18-3 after a bye week as Kansas City has the AFC West nearly wrapped up (they can win the division with a win and Raiders loss next week). Here are key takeaways from the Chiefs dominant win and why the raiders were a no-show in their biggest game of the year.
Why the Chiefs won
On a day when the Chiefs offense had just 259 yards of offense, their defense make life miserable for Carr and the Raiders. Carr completed 66.7 percent of his passes, but the Chiefs didn't give him any options to throw to outside of tight end Darren Waller until the game was way out of hand. Oakland wide receivers had just one catch for seven yards (Zay Jones) until 4:51 remaining in the game, when the Chiefs were up 38-3. No options to throw to on the outside limited Carr, forcing him to throw two interceptions in the first half and fumble the ball (which was recovered by the Raiders).
Oakland did not have Hunter Renfrow in this one, and it was obvious from the start of the game the Raiders badly missed him. Give Kansas City credit for taking Tyrell Williams out of the game and forcing three turnovers in the first half, making Raiders running back Josh Jacobs ineffective after halftime.
Why the Raiders lost
Three turnovers in the first half doomed the Raiders on a cold and windy afternoon that was perfect for Jacobs to control the game on the ground and keep it close. Thanks to Carr's two first-half interceptions and Trevor Davis's fumble on a kickoff return, that didn't happen. Carr threw an interception to Tyrann Mathieu on the Raiders' first possession of the game, which led to a Patrick Mahomes touchdown to Darryl Williams to put the Chiefs up for good (7-0).
Even though the Raiders were averaging over six yards per play and Jacobs had over 100 yards rushing (lost it twice in the first half), Carr threw an inexcusable interception to Thornhill that was returned for the touchdown to put the Chiefs up three touchdowns heading into halftime. For a team that went 25 possessions without scoring a touchdown, the Raiders had no chance to win after the Thornhill pick-six.
The Raiders were trailing 7-0 with 9:53 left in the second quarter and were on the Chiefs' 30-yard line, facing a fourth-and-1 when Gruden decided to keep his offense on the field. Jacobs, who had nine carries for 55 yards at this point in the game, was not on the field for the play as wide receiver Trevor Davis received the carry on a wide receiver reverse.
Gruden out-thought himself on this one as Davis took the handoff outside, where tight end Foster Moreau had to block two defenders. Moreau picked up one, but not Thornhill, who stuffed Davis at the line of scrimmage for the turnover on downs. The Chiefs scored on the ensuing drive to take a 14-0 lead, putting the Raiders in a hole they couldn't dig out of.
Play of the game
Thornhill had a dominant day on defense, finishing with three tackles and the interception that essentially put the game away for the Chiefs. The Raiders were facing a second-and-8 in their own territory when Carr threw an underneath route to Tyrell Williams, a throw Thornhill read the entire way.
Thornhill jumped the route and picked off Carr, taking the ball into the end zone for the touchdown and putting the Chiefs up 21-0. Raiders wide receivers were ineffective throughout the game, with Thornhill's interception demonstrating how much Carr struggled to get the ball to players not named Darren Waller and DeAndre Washington.
"We had an interception we thought we did intercept that was turned over by the Wizard of Oz or somebody. I don't know what happened on that. That was a big play in the game no doubt." -- Raiders head coach Jon Gruden on a Mahomes interception overturned because of a pass interference call in the third quarter, via Anthony Galaviz of the Fresno Bee.
Gruden had every right to be upset with the ruling on the field being changed, especially with the Raiders still being down 24-0 when Mahomes threw the interception. Trayvon Mullen's interception off Mahomes in the end zone was overturned when Andy Reid challenged, saying that he interfered with Chiefs wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, which led to the turnover. The officials ruled there was contract and the Chiefs were handed the ball at the Raiders' 3-yard line. LeSean McCoy scored on the next play to put Kansas City up 31-0.
The Chiefs will battle the New England Patriots in an AFC Championship rematch next Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET on CBS) in Foxborough. The Raiders will look to end their two-game losing streak at home against the Tennessee Titans (4:25 p.m. on CBS). Oakland is a game behind Tennessee and Pittsburgh, who are tied for the final playoff spot in the AFC.