KANSAS CITY (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs scrapped and fought for more than two months to piece together a franchise-record 10-game winning streak, allowing them to return to the playoffs after a one-year absence.
“It doesn’t mean anything now,” safety Ron Parker said.
The Chiefs kept their run going with a 23-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, though they were denied the AFC West title when Denver beat San Diego. And now they’ll head to Houston next weekend to face the same team they beat in their opener knowing that a loss ends their season.
“Our mindset has changed a lot since then,” Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe said. “We have a certain grit about us. That’s big, I think, why we’re on the winning streak we’re on now.”
That grit showed through once more on Sunday.
The Chiefs raced to a 14-0 lead on the Raiders on a touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Jeremy Maclin and short TD plunge by Spencer Ware. But then Smith threw a couple of interceptions, one that was returned by David Amerson for a touchdown, and the Kansas City offense slowed to a crawl.
The Chiefs (11-5) got back on track in the second half, when Smith connected with tight end Demetrius Harris for another touchdown. But Derek Carr led Oakland back with a touchdown pass of his own to Michael Crabtree, and Oakland had the ball with 1:34 left and a chance to win the game.
Kansas City’s defense sacked Carr for the sixth time to help put the game away.
“We didn’t win this game but there was no lack of determination or grit,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “I love that about how we developed, how we can stay in it.”
It was the final game of Charles Woodson’s sterling 18-year career, and came in the same stadium where Oakland’s star defensive back made his debut. It was also quite possibly the final game for the Raiders (7-9) representing Oakland; the team is expected to file for relocation this week.
Carr finished with 194 yards passing, leaving him 13 short of 4,000 for the season. Latavius Murray, the AFC’s rushing leader coming in, carried 11 times for just 31 yards, while David Amerson had a pick-six late in the first half for their only other touchdown.
“We sputtered,” said Carr, who hurt his right hand during the game. “Sometimes when we needed it the most, we looked like ourselves. But other times we just looked sloppy.”
Not a good thing when the Chiefs are looking so sharp.
Some things to know from Kansas City’s win over Oakland:
INJURY FRONT: Chiefs C Mitch Morse was evaluated for a concussion and did not return to the game, which caused more jumbling along the offensive line with offensive tackle Jah Reid inactive with a knee injury. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin also left with a bruised hip when he landed hard while leaping for an overthrow, though he did return to the game after a visit to the locker room.
SPEAKING OF MACLIN: He had three receptions for 54 yards, breaking the franchise record for catches by a wide receiver of 86 set by Dwayne Bowe in 2008. Maclin has 87 catches — fifth-most in Chiefs history behind a quartet of seasons by tight end Tony Gonzalez.
UNDER PRESSURE: Not only was Carr sacked six times, a career-high, he was relentlessly hounded by Kansas City’s defense. “You can’t stand back there and hold it,” Del Rio said. “When the ball comes out on time, guys are getting open on time, the protection holds up.”
MACK’S MISSES: The Raiders’ Khalil Mack had 10 tackles, two of them for loss, but narrowly missed on a couple of sacks. He needed one to match the franchise record of 16 set by Derrick Burgess.
RUN, RUN, RUN: The Chiefs finished with 189 yards rushing, getting production from Charcandrick West along with Smith and Ware. Oakland managed just 48 on the ground. “The offensive line, those guys are playing great,” West said. “We’ve got a great fullback, the coaches are calling great plays. We just have to go out there and execute.”
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