Chiefs hold off Raiders, push run to 10
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Alex Smith looked down at his phone in the middle of the Chiefs locker room, moments after leading his team to its franchise-record 10th straight victory.
”Just checking messages,” he said with a grin.
Not checking scores.
Turns out, Smith already knew that Denver had knocked off San Diego to deny Kansas City the AFC West title.
But with their 23-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, the Chiefs managed to keep their unprecedented roll going into their playoff opener in Houston next weekend.
”This week it would have been easy, clinch last week on that emotional high, to have a lull,” said Smith, who threw two TD passes against the Raiders. ”We still came out and played good football.”
Even without running back Jamaal Charles, out for the season with a knee injury, and linebacker Justin Houston, still sidelined by an injured knee.
The Chiefs (11-5) have managed to win 10 straight on the heels of a five-game losing streak that at one point put their season on the brink.
The Raiders (7-9) accounted for two of those victories.
”We believe in each other. That’s what happens when a team and a family come together,” Chiefs running back Charcandrick West said. ”This is a super rare team. We have something special going on here.”
In perhaps their final game in Oakland, the Raiders only mustered a field goal on offense until the final minutes, when Carr connected with Michael Crabtree from 31 yards.
They did get the ball back with 1:34 left, but Carr took one final sack that helped time expire.
Carr finished with 194 yards passing, leaving him 13 yards 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.”
The Chiefs started crisply for the third straight game, driving 80 yards for a score on their opening possession. Jeremy Maclin capped it with a 25-yard touchdown reception.
After forcing a punt, the Chiefs cobbled together a creative 12-play, 87-yard drive that included a jet sweep by Maclin for a first down. Spencer Ware’s short touchdown run made it 14-0.
”We started the game great,” Smith said. ”We were rolling.”
It was still 14-3 when Smith threw interceptions on consecutive passes, though neither of them was to Charles Woodson – the veteran safety playing the final game of his sterling 18-year career.
The first was picked by TJ Carrie late in the second quarter. Then, after Carr was picked off in the end zone by the Chiefs’ Ron Parker a few minutes later, Smith tossed another pass that was caught by Amerson and returned 24 yards for a touchdown that got Oakland within 14-10.
Smith had only thrown five interceptions all season, at one point going 312 passes without one.
”It’s funny how that happens,” he said, ”back to back.”
The Raiders’ offense fared no better, though. On their first chance of the second half, Carr was sacked twice and Marquette King had his punt blocked through the end zone for a safety.
Kansas City got the ball back on the free kick and got back in synch on offense. Smith hit Maclin for a long gain on third down, and then hit Demetrius Harris in the end zone. It was the seventh catch of the season for Harris, and the first of the former college basketball player’s career.
The Raiders got within 23-17 on Crabtree’s touchdown, but their comeback ran out of time.
”I would have liked to walk off the field with a win,” said Woodson, who began his career with Oakland in the same stadium on Sept. 6, 1998. ”There’s nothing like going out there between the lines every Sunday afternoon or whatever day you play. I had such a great time doing it.”
NOTES: Maclin briefly left the game with a bruised hip. He returned to finish. … Chiefs C Mitch Morse was being evaluated for a concussion and did not return. … Woodson finished with 65 picks, tied for fifth in NFL history. … The Chiefs had 189 yards rushing. The Raiders had 48.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL