OAKLAND – The saga of running back Kareem Hunt – released by Kansas City on Friday after a newly revealed video showed him shoving and kicking a woman in February – added intrigue to the Chiefs’ matchup Sunday against the woebegone Raiders.
Would the loss of the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher slow down Kansas City’s high-octane offense? How would the AFC West-leading Chiefs, who had not played since Nov. 19, react to the controversy surrounding their now-former teammate? Could the Raiders, playing at home for just the second time since late October, take advantage and pull off the upset after coming in as two-touchdown underdogs?
No. Chiefs 40, Raiders 33.
Here are three things we learned from the game at the Oakland Coliseum:
Patrick Mahomes still rules: Hunt’s absence will put more pressure on Kansas City’s gifted second-year quarterback to make more plays, which is saying a lot considering he entered the game with the most touchdown passes in the NFL at 37.
Mahomes was up to the task, throwing for four more TDs and 295 yards with no interceptions. His quick-strike ability came into light toward the end of the first half when, right after Oakland scored its first points to get within 13-7, Mahomes directed a five-play, 82-yard drive in 57 seconds, capped by tight end Travis Kelce’s second touchdown catch, to boost the Chiefs’ advantage to 19-7 (they missed the PAT).
Without Hunt to lean on as an outlet, Mahomes went to Kelce time and again. They connected 12 times for 168 yards, including a critical 25-yarder on third down to set up the final Chiefs touchdown late in the fourth.
K.C.’s running game is adjusting: The numbers were outstanding, with 174 yards on the ground in 30 attempts. But that was a bit deceptive. It was Mahomes scrambling for 52 yards to lead the teams,and wide receiver Tyreek Hill accounting for another 33 on an end-around.
The Chiefs came in averaging nearly 116 rushing yards a game, a middle-of-the-pack figure but a nice counterbalance to their explosive aerial attack. The lion’s share of that number – 74.9 yards – was delivered by Hunt. In his absence, Spencer Ware drew the start, and Damien Williams got some carries as well. They combined for 85 yards on 19 carries.
With the second-place Chargers just a game behind entering Sunday, the Chiefs can’t afford a drop-off in any phase. The division’s top two teams meet Dec. 13 in Kansas City.
The defense has room to grow: Though they boast the AFC’s best record and hold the to seed as of now, the Chiefs have some defensive concerns. They went into Sunday with an average of nearly 415 yards allowed a game, the third-highest figure in the league.
Some of that can be blamed on spending so much time on the field because the offense often scores so quickly, but Kansas City’s defense – which relies on several young players – has also been vulnerable in the red zone.
Embattled Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had one of his best games of the season, throwing for 285 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. And jitterbug running back Jalen Richard piled up 95 yards. This from an Oakland offense that ranked 24th in the league in total yards.
After taking a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Chiefs yielded two touchdowns as the Raiders closed to within 33-30 before Mahomes found Chris Conley for a 2-yard score with 1:54 left to put the game away.
Kansas City did recover three Raiders fumbles, but it’s hard to rely on those consistently.
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