What KC learned in rout of Raiders

Kansas City routed the Raiders this past weekend. It seems like the Chiefs are hitting their stride as the playoffs loom on the horizon. The Chiefs defense has stepped up in recent weeks.

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Sports

December 14, 2021 - 9:38 AM

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark sacks Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr during the first half on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Photo by (Rich Sugg/The Kansas City Star/TNS)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A year ago, the Raiders took a victory lap around Arrowhead Stadium.

This time, their gesture was a bit premature.

About 15 minutes before kickoff Sunday, Raiders players gathered on the Chiefs’ midfield logo — an unwritten no-no — for their pre-game pep talk.

It was not a good omen.

The Chiefs destroyed the Raiders in a 48-9 victory Sunday, scoring the first 35 points of the game.

They have won six straight games ahead of Thursday’s showdown with the Chargers in Los Angeles.

Here are five observations from immediately after the blowout of the Raiders:

1. Peaking at the right time

Through a turbulent opening two months — and we’re being kind there — the Chiefs once fell to last place in the AFC West. Outside of the playoff picture. Losers of four of six.

And yet on Dec. 12, still nearly a month left in the season, here they sit — atop the AFC West, battling for the No. 1 seed in the conference and the look of a team that nobody will want to see in late January.

This was the Chiefs’ most complete game of the season — you’re not quite sure whether the offense or defense deserves the most credit.

The offense looks like it hasn’t missed a beat since 2018-2020 (it has, of course). The defense looks as though it’s been one of the best all season (though it hasn’t).

2. The defense

The reason for the midseason defensive turnaround can be debated — the pass rush, Melvin Ingram’s addition, Juan Thornhill’s insertion to the secondary, more playing time for the young linebackers — but there’s no doubt which effect has the biggest consequence.

Turnovers.

The Chiefs have forced multiple turnovers in five straight games, and they topped that number Sunday before halftime. Heck, they were halfway there on the first snap.

The Raiders turned the ball over five times — that will usually get you beat.

Mike Hughes, Tyrann Mathieu, Armani Watts and Juan Thornhill recovered fumbles. Mathieu also picked off a pass.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is now 1-7 in his career at Arrowhead Stadium.ek Carr is now 1-7 in his career at Arrowhead Stadium.

3. That offense looked pretty good, too

The Raiders have probably seen enough of Patrick Mahomes.

Four weeks ago, he threw for 406 yards and 5 touchdowns in Las Vegas. OK, this wasn’t quite that good, but after the previous two outings, it’s significant improvement.

The offense scored touchdowns on four straight drives and tacked on field goals on the following two for good measure. The Chiefs found the synchronization that has mysteriously disappeared for long stretches this season.

Mahomes threw just four incompletions. His 83.3 completion percentage is his best of the season. So was his 139.2 quarterback rating.

Hey, good things happen when you catch the football, it turns out.

4. Oh, hello, Mecole Hardman and Josh Gordon

In a crucial third season, wide receiver Mecole Hardman has fallen out of favor, his playing time dwindling with each passing week. It dropped a season-low nine snaps last week — when he also lost his job as the punt returner … which follows him losing his job as a kick returner.

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