NFL Wire News

Chiefs’ defense was key to getting even with Raiders


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When the Chiefs and Raiders played back on Nov. 20 in Oakland, the home team racked up 351 yards, including 172 rushing, in a 24-20 victory. Things were quite different three weeks later at Arrowhead Stadium.

The most important difference was the final score, as the Chiefs kept alive their hopes for the playoffs with a 31-13 victory. K.C. got touchdowns from its offense and special teams, but it was the defensive effort that keyed the victory, especially when compared to their performance in the first game between the teams:

–The Raiders gained 280 yards, including just 78 rushing. They averaged 3.6 yards per play.

–Oakland had 16 possessions, and 12 of those lasted less than two minutes on the game clock.

–On eight of those possessions, they gained minus-6, minus-3, 0, 0, 2, 2, 3 and 4 yards.

–Before they scored on their final possession, the Raiders reached Chiefs territory only three out of 15 possessions. One of those came on a fumble by Travis Kelce that gave Oakland the ball at the K.C. 15-yard line.

“I thought the guys played downhill, aggressive (football),” coach Andy Reid said. “I was impressed by the fundamentals of squeezing gaps and, when you see it, you attack and hit it. I don’t think there was any hesitation there.”

When the Chiefs scored three touchdowns in the third quarter, it put the Raiders in catchup mode and they went away from the run. Still, it was a step forward for a Kansas City defense that had given up an average of 184.5 rushing yards in the previous four games.

Oakland running back Latavius Murray gashed them for a 90-yard touchdown run in the first game. Murray got away on a 25-yard run in the first half, but after that the Raiders found little room to move on the ground. They had 53 yards on the 16 other carries.

All this was very important for the Chiefs defense because they know what’s coming: a Pittsburgh Steelers running game that ranks among the top 10 in the league behind feature back Le’Veon Bell.

“We have to continue to prove and build on confidence each week by stopping the run,” outside linebacker Tamba Hali said. “Going in there, we know this team runs the ball. They do play action off it, but we’ve got to go in there with the same mentality, to do whatever it takes to win the game.”

NOTES: RB Jamaal Charles played in just 39 of 67 offensive snaps on Sunday against Oakland, specifically due to the knee and ankle injuries he carried into the game. On Monday, coach Andy Reid said the team’s trainers were able to do treatments after the game and then overnight at Charles’ home that kept the swelling down in his knee and ankle. “He felt pretty good today,” Reid said. … LB Josh Mauga suffered a strained oblique muscle against the Raiders and missed the last dozen snaps. Coach Andy Reid said Monday his status for the next game won’t be known for several days.


–PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus — The Chiefs tinkered with their starting group on the offensive line, moving Jeff Linkenbach into the left guard spot replacing Mike McGlynn. The move paid dividends, as protection of quarterback Alex Smith improved dramatically; he was sacked once and hit on only one other pass. Smith completed 60 percent of his throws for an average of 9.9 yards per attempt. He spread the ball around, completing passes to 10 receivers, with a pair of touchdown throws.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C — A big hit in the third quarter basically ended Jamaal Charles’ day, even though he was cleared under the NFL concussion protocols to return. He did for one play but was then pulled from the game. After he went out, the Chiefs ran Knile Davis, who scored on a 3-yard run but ended up with just 11 yards on nine carries. K.C. averaged just 3.4 yards per carry.

–PASS DEFENSE: B — Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was under constant pressure by the Chiefs defense as it sacked him four times and got hands on him on 11 plays. Carr was able to complete just 48 percent of his throws and averaged less than four yards an attempt. Just two completions went for more than 20 yards.

–RUSH DEFENSE: B — The Raiders were down by multiple touchdowns in the second half, so they went away from the run game that had provided them with so much success in the first meeting on Nov. 20. Latavius Murray gashed them for 25 yards in the first half; but, after that play, the longest run for the Raiders was eight yards.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: A — Any time the kicking game can produce a touchdown that sets the tone for the game, it’s hard to give the special teams anything but a top grade. De’Anthony Thomas’ 81-yard punt return was the jumpstart the Chiefs needed to get out of their three-game losing streak. He went on to have one of the best punt return days in club history, averaging 19.5 yards on eight returns.

–COACHING: B — Andy Reid spoke to his players last week about relaxing, letting their personalities show or, in the words of quarterback Alex Smith, “letting it loose.” That approach seemed to work, along with a strong defensive game plan by coordinator Bob Sutton that threw multiple defensive looks at the Raiders’ young quarterback.

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