OAKLAND - In some ways, Sunday’s game played out exactly as predicted. The Kansas City Chiefs came to the Coliseum with a 9-2 record, in first place in the AFC West, to take on the Raiders, who were 2-9 and in last place. Chiefs quarterback Pat Mahomes made some amazing throws, tight end Travis Kelce was open for three solid hours and the Chiefs scored 40 points while racking up 469 yards.
But really, it was a surprise. Because the Raiders were competitive throughout. They fell just 27 yards shy of Kansas City’s total and hung in for a 40-33 loss that wasn’t resolved until the visitors recovered an onside kick with 30 seconds to play.
I know you won’t believe me, but the Raiders proved to be the Chiefs’ equals in almost every capacity. They ran well, they passed well, they made some third-down stops, they even mustered the semblance of a pass rush on Mahomes. Strangely, it was fumbles that doomed Jon Gruden’s team.
I say “strangely,” because in a season full of Raiders shortcomings, the running backs had done a bang-up job of hanging onto the football prior to Sunday. Before he retreated to the injured reserve, starter Marshawn Lynch didn’t fumble once in 105 total touches. His primary backup, Doug Martin, had fumbled once in 101 touches. Jalen Richard had coughed it up once in 85 touches, but that came as a punt returner; he muffed a kick against the Cardinals in Week 11 and got it back. DeAndre Washington hadn’t fumbled in 22 touches.
That’s exactly one fumble out of the backfield in 11 games.
But the ball turned into a live carp in Game No. 12, and it was an equal-opportunity perpetrator. Martin, Washington and Richard each fumbled one time. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, it was the first time in Raiders history that three running backs had lost fumbles on offense in one game. Sunday, the Chiefs turned those three miscues into 13 points. You do the math.
“I don’t know about three running backs on the same team fumbling in one game. That’s kind of flukish,” Richard said afterward. “But we still had a chance to win the game at the end. So that made us feel a little better, that we just didn’t get our ass whupped because of us.”
No, but they did lose a close one because of the shaky hands.
Let’s review the flubs. Kansas City was up 7-0 about 3½ minutes into the game when Martin ran off left tackle and was stripped by defensive end Allen Bailey. Edge rusher Justin Houston recovered for the Chiefs at the Oakland 49-yard line, and KC drove to the 10 before kicking a field goal.
“When they saw one person fumble the ball, they smelled blood,” Martin said.
Flash forward to early in the second quarter. The Chiefs were still up 10-0, but the Raiders were driving. They had a first down at the Kansas City 28-yard line when Washington fumbled as he ran into the back of guard Gabe Jackson. Chiefs rookie linebacker Dorian O’Daniel pounced on the ball. That initiated a long Chiefs drive that resulted in another field goal and a 13-0 lead.