For all the turnovers, the struggles to find any big plays, the defensive breakdowns and the angst about how mediocre they looked, the Kansas City Chiefs are back in first place of the AFC West.
Even more promising than that, the Chiefs looked Sunday night like they’re back, period.
This might not have been a spot-on replica of the Chiefs juggernaut from Patrick Mahomes‘ first few seasons as starter, but it was pretty good. The Chiefs moved the ball up and down the field by playing patient, mistake-free offense, got some key plays from the defense, even hit a fake punt and won 41-14 at the Las Vegas Raiders. They’re 6-4, and in first place of the AFC West.
It’s not like the Chiefs are out of the woods and are a lock to run away with the division. But everyone should feel a lot better about the Chiefs than they did before Week 10.
Chiefs offense explodes vs. Raiders
You probably could have watched the second Chiefs drive, turned off the game and knew what the result would be.
The Chiefs had a machine-like drive to take a 7-0 lead. They went 89 yards on 11 plays. The drive included three third-down conversions. It ended with an 8-yard touchdown to Tyreek Hill. When the Chiefs are rolling, it looks like that drive.
It didn’t look like a vintage Chiefs offense, picking up 40 and 50 yards at a time with huge passes downfield. This Chiefs attack was more patient. They have gone up against defenses intent on taking away the deep plays, and often pressed when their typical chunk plays weren’t available. Against the Raiders, Mahomes was content being a surgeon. He had 406 yards and five touchdowns.
The Chiefs will always take some shots, and when the Chiefs aren’t playing that well it can look silly. Then there are nights like Sunday. Mahomes had a left-handed pass that was completed. A fake punt in the fourth quarter worked perfectly as punter Tommy Townsend hit Marcus Kemp for a first down. Mahomes threw one up for grabs shortly after that, and receiver Darrel Williams outwrestled the defensive back for the catch in the end zone. The Chiefs led 34-14 after that, and the game was done.
It’s not like the Chiefs were ever playing terribly. They just weren’t great, and we’re not used to the Chiefs being anything short of great. Sunday night looked more familiar.
Chiefs back in first place
The big-picture question after Sunday night is whether the Chiefs just had a great night and that’s a one-off, or if they’re really back.
It helped the Chiefs to be facing a Raiders team that has already been through several seasons worth of emotions, and it’s only the end of Week 10. Las Vegas came in 5-3, having lost in Week 9 at the Giants, and Sunday’s loss is a bad sign. The Raiders have started well each of the past two seasons and faded from playoff contention. This season they’re facing challenges they couldn’t have possibly foreseen, from Jon Gruden’s shocking resignation to Henry Ruggs being cut after he was charged with multiple felonies following a DUI arrest. It’ll be tough for them to rebound.
The Chiefs’ emergence makes it even tougher. The Raiders had a chance to stay ahead in the race. The Chargers could have built on a good start but haven’t, and they lost at home to the Vikings on Sunday. That has allowed the Chiefs to reclaim first place in the division, a spot they’re quite familiar with.