The Kansas City Chiefs fell to their most hated rival, the Oakland Raiders, Thursday Night in one of the most unbelievable finishes in NFL history 31-30. The look of shock and bewilderment on Marcus Peters‘ face in the photo above basically sums up how all of the Chiefs Kingdom feels today. This was a game that, before the season, I had picked the Chiefs to lose. Traveling 2 time zones away after a hard fought, highly physical and emotional game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, on extremely short rest already put this team behind the 8 ball. Add to that, this one being against your most heated division rival, and it was going to take a Herculean effort to win it. For that reason alone, I thought they’d lose before the season started. However, we get to the actual week of the game, and it felt like one the Chiefs would find a way to win. The game started out with a good first drive for Kansas City, they marched down the field, moving the ball pretty much at will before stalling and having to settle for 3 points. The Raiders, to their credit, responded with a TD of their own on an extremely controversial missed offensive pass interference call putting them on top 7 to 3. The Chiefs would respond to take the lead as Alex Smith hit Travis Kelce for a TD on their ensuing possession. The officials bailed out the Raiders a 2nd time on their following drive, as the Chiefs managed to strip Derek Carr of the football and recover it. However, a phantom “illegal contact” penalty was made up on the spot giving the ball back to the Raiders and they were able to find the endzone for a 2nd time to take a 14-10 lead, still in the 1st Quarter. The back and forth nature of the contest continued from there and it really felt like an old school Chiefs vs Raiders game. Bad blood was brewing, there were a couple of fights, an ejection, and a lot of high powered scoring plays. Until ultimately it came down to the final moments, when the Chiefs had a 30-24 lead and gave the Raiders not one, but TWO untimed downs to get the game winning score. This game was unspeakably heartbreaking for Kansas City, and it revealed a lot of fears that the Chiefs Kingdom has had about this team since the season started. My personal takeaways from this one, first I’ll list some positives because there were a few:
- Alex Smith has turned a corner – 342 yards, 3 TDs, no interceptions. That was Alex Smith’s line. In 7 games this season the much maligned Chiefs quarterback has had a line with 300+ yards, multiple TDs, and 0 ints 4 times; in his previous 12 NFL Seasons, he’d done that once. He’s throwing deep consistently, and truly having an MVP season. He’s already matched his TD total from last season, and we’re not even half way through this one. All the props in the world to Alex and what he’s done.
- Demarcus Robinson can play some football – Robinson was drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 draft out of Florida and due to the injury to Chris Conley is finally getting an opportunity to get some playing time. He made some tough catches, he made some clutch catches, and he did a great job blocking in the run game on the outside. He’s also a very fast receiver with a lot of upside. Very exciting to see him developing into a legitimate weapon for this Chiefs offense.
- Kareem Hunt is special – I can’t even put into words how special this player is. Last night, Hunt became the first player in NFL history to accumulate over 100 total yards in each of his first 7 games to begin his career; and the first since Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson to accumulate over 1,000 total yards in his first 7 games. The Chiefs traded up to grab this guy in the 3rd round, and he has been more than worth every bit of that move. Wow is all I can say about his skill set.
The offense is amazing, I can’t say enough about it. Not since the Dick Vermeil era have the Chiefs put up offensive numbers like we’ve seen this year. Heck, during the 2nd quarter Thursday night, the Chiefs pulled off their 1st 99 yard TD drive since the 2006 season, and they did it in just 3 plays! Smith deep to Robinson, a quick handoff to Hunt, and then Smith 64 yards to Tyreek Hill for a TD. It was amazing! The Chiefs offense is back to being a truly elite unit in the NFL. Which finally brings me to the negatives from Thursday night’s game:
- Bob Sutton has seemingly lost his way as the Defensive Coordinator – Since Sutton came to Kansas City the Chiefs defense has been known for 3 main things – Creating turnovers, Rushing the passer, & Keeping teams out of the endzone – so far in 2017, they’ve done none of those things very effectively. The Chiefs defensive scheme has become predictable. I understand they’re missing Eric Berry in the secondary, I get that you’re missing Tamba Hali in the pass rush, but can anyone explain why this team is consistently dropping the best pass rushing player they have, Justin Houston, into coverage and not letting him rush the passer? Marcus Peters locks down the right side of the offense, however, he never moves from that side of the field, so teams are abusing the corners on the other side! They aren’t blitzing at all, and they’re not disguising coverages. After 5 years, teams are figuring that out and they’re exploiting it in a major way. Something has to change on the defensive side of the ball.
- Terrance Mitchell has reached his limit – Mitchell was a revelation when he came on late last season and really helped this defense. He was perfect for coming in and filling that 3rd corner roll and playing the outside against taller receivers. However, this year, with the injury to Steven Nelson, he’s been asked to start opposite Peters. While he’s had his moments of greatness, he’s also had his struggles, and the last 2 games now, he’s been abused by the opposition. The only way to solve this is to A) Start blitzing to create a pass rush and take pressure off of these DBs or B) Get Nelson back from injury. Hopefully we see both in the next couple of weeks.
- Phillip Gaines needs to be cut – Gaines has been a pet project of the Chiefs since the day he was drafted. Whenever he’s shown flashes of brilliance, it’s usually immediately followed by either a serious injury or a completely inexcusable play. He was burnt to an absolute crisp multiple times against he Raiders, and he has honestly just reached the end of the rope at this point.
- Eric Murray can’t cover super big and physical players – The 2nd year player out of Minnesota has been decent at times, but it was painfully obvious last night that Jared Cook was way too big and physical for him to handle. Why he wasn’t given help when that was discovered goes back to the Defensive Coordinator issue, but Murray still has to be better. He also was the player called for defensive holding to give the Raiders the extra untimed down that won them the game.
At the end of the day, it’s just 1 game in a long season, if you add in the Steelers game, it’s 2 games, but no matter. The last 5 days have taken the Chiefs from 5-0 to 5-2, and that is extremely disconcerting. This team is still very good, one of the best in the NFL. They just have to re-learn how to play like it, because they’ve forgotten it somewhere in the past week. On a bright and happier note, the Chiefs have what amounts to a mini bye week following their Thursday Night contest before coming home next Monday to face the Denver Broncos. That gives the team time to re-group, hopefully get a little bit healthier, and get things back on track. Andy Reid has been brilliant throughout his coaching career whenever he’s given extra time to prepare for a team, and that works to the Chiefs’ advantage coming up next Monday. As always, you’ll be able to hear that game on Topeka’s Rock Leader V100. Pregame will be October 30th, 6:00 PM with Kickoff at 7:30 live from Arrowhead Stadium on Monday Night Football! Until then, I’ll leave you with the words of the Chiefs’ all time leading tackler following the loss to Oakland. “This one hurts, but we’ll respond the right way” – Derrick Johnson