After a game in Pittsburgh when almost nothing went right for Kansas City, the Chiefs bounced back against Oakland with their most impressive win of the year.
The importance of this win cannot be understated, as a loss would have put Kansas City two and a half games back of first place in the AFC west.
Now at 3-2, they sit even in the loss column and just a half game back overall.
The win also helps KC’s playoff chances, as teams that start 3-2 have made the playoffs 50 percent of the time since 1990, compared to 2-3 teams, who make the playoffs only 21 percent of the time.
The Chiefs knew their defense would have to step up against the fifth highest scoring offense in the NFL, but they also knew the offense needed to step up as they entered Sunday with touchdowns in only four of their 16 quarters played this year.
Fortunately for Chiefs fans, both sides of the ball stepped up in a big way.
The main keys to the game defensively were to force turnovers and keep Marcus Peters’ emotions in check. The Chiefs passed both tests in flying colors with two turnovers and a quiet but impressive day from Peters.
Along with Peters solid play was the surprise contribution from linebacker Dee Ford.
The third-year pro out of Auburn finished with two sacks and five tackles on the day, the second multi-sack game of his career. One of those sacks was accompanied by a forced fumble that all but sealed the win in the fourth quarter.
Ford’s emergence, alongside multiple big plays from rookie Chris Jones, took some pressure of the secondary.
Starting corner Phillip Gaines left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury and would not return, so an inexperienced secondary could have been in trouble if it weren’t for a strong front seven.
The offense also excelled, as quarterback Alex Smith threw the ball downfield more frequently than in previous weeks and finished with four 20 plus yard completions.
Smith completed 19 of 22 passes for 224 yards and no interceptions, which was his most efficient performance of the season.
Smith was able to test the Raider secondary because of the great run game that Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West provided. The three backs combined for 183 yards rushing and averaged exactly five yards per carry.
This balanced offense was able to keep the high-powered Oakland passing game off the field, as the Chiefs dominated time of possession 36 minutes and 45 seconds to 23 minutes and 15 seconds.
KC also finished on top in total yards, as the offense churned out 406 yards on 10 drives, compared to Oakland’s 286, on 10 drives.
The most important statistical victory came on third down, as Kansas City had their best conversion percentage so far this season, going 7-13. This helped propel the Chiefs to three red zone touchdowns.
A win improves Andy Reid’s record to 16-2 all-time coming off a bye week, and 3-1 following a bye with Kansas City.
The extra week of preparation was clear as KC utilized several new formations and saw increased action out of Tyreek Hill and D’Anthony Thomas.
Whether or not the game in Oakland is the turning point to the Chiefs season remains to be seen, but, Smith looking farther down the field, Charles finding the end-zone and Ford showing potential off the edge is a welcomed improvement.
The Chiefs need to build off their performance in Oakland if they wish to regain possession of first place in the AFC west.
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