Former Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer was honored at halftime as the newest inductee into the franchise's Hall of Fame. It was no surprise that the ceremony came on this day, being that Schottenheimer had always been verbally passionate about his disdain for the silver and black. He led the Chiefs to an 18-3 record over the Raiders, and was also 62-18 all-time at Arrowhead during his ten-year stint as head coach.
An emotional Schottenheimer stood at midfield during an on-field ceremony and was accompanied by members of his family, former Chiefs players, and Chiefs chairman of the Board Clark Hunt. A video montage recalling Schottenheimer' time in Kansas City was shown on the video screens for those in attendance; it especially highlighted the Chiefs' success over the Raiders and the success of Schottenheimer and his most talented pupil, former Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas.
Archive footage of Schottenheimer speaking to his team in the locker room stood out the most. In the video Schottenheimer declared, "If you play with your heart and work with your heart, there's nothing you can't accomplish."
For ten of the previous 15 games of the season, the Chiefs largely stood by that mantra, and it resulted in the team's first playoff berth since 2006. However, the more important thing was that the Chiefs didn't play with their hearts against the Raiders on Sunday, and it showed in every facet of the game.
Those stellar achievements and inspiring words didn't seem to matter all that much to this current Chiefs team. With the AFC West division title wrapped up, Kansas City fell flat and let the Raiders win their fourth straight game in the Chiefs' house. Oakland finished the season with an 8-8 record, and a surprising 6-0 record against their AFC West foes. It was the first time in league history where a team finished undefeated in their divisional games and missed the postseason.
There was plenty of talk entering the game about many things concerning the Chiefs.
First and foremost, the Chiefs were caught in a media frenzy concerning their offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. In the days before the game reports emerged that Weis agreed to leave the Chiefs and join the football staff at the University of Florida. The speculation was confirmed and surely couldn't have come at a worse time.
Secondly, there was talk about how the Chiefs needed to win the game in order to secure the third seed in the AFC playoffs. A sure-fire matchup at Arrowhead against the New York Jets was in the works before this game started, but those plans quickly changed when it was all said and done.
Sunday's game was something that both Matt Cassel and Todd Haley need to forget quickly.
There was just as much chatter about how much playing time the starting lineup would get, especially if the team needed to rest up for a possible afternoon game on Saturday. A notable roster move was Tyler Palko's ascension to the number two quarterback slot, and Brodie Croyle's demotion to be the emergency third-stringer. Palko's promotion gave us a hint that Matt Cassel could have very well sat out for the second half of the game. Instead, Cassel played into the fourth quarter of the game, despite being roughed up for most of the afternoon.
The very beginning of the game seemed promising for the Chiefs. Their first play on offense saw running back Thomas Jones take the direct snap in a wildcat formation with quarterback Matt Cassel lining up as a wide receiver. Despite the trickery from Weis' playbook, the drive didn't result in anything spectacular after that.
On the Raiders' first play on offense, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey fumbled on a reverse, and Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson quickly recovered it. Things once again looked promising for the Chiefs, who were hoping to avenge their loss to the Raiders two months ago.
This turnover set up the Chiefs' first scoring opportunity: a 30-yard field goal from Ryan Succop. Despite the 3-0 lead, the early optimism wore out just as fast as the Chiefs recovered the fumble and kicked the ball through the uprights. It didn't take long for the Raiders to march down the field and take the lead with a touchdown reception by Chaz Schilens from Jason Campbell. It was just the beginning of a successful day for Schilens, who had no trouble embarrassing the Chiefs' secondary alongside fellow receiver Jacoby Ford. Just before Schilens' touchdown, Ford caught a 35-yard pass and gave us a bitter reminder of the breakout game he had in the Raider's first game against the Chiefs this season.
At halftime, the Chiefs needed something to revitalize them. Whether it was a tongue-lashing from head coach Todd Haley or a humble reminder that they're going to host a playoff game in less than a week would do the trick. Right?
Not so fast.
After the chip-shot field goal from Ryan Succop early in the game, Kansas City fell into an offensive drought and couldn't get past midfield again until the middle of the third quarter. One major reason why the Chiefs got back in the game was a silly call by the Oakland Raiders. On 4th-and-3, the Raiders elected to attempt a fourth-down conversion but a short pass from Jason Campbell to tight end Zach Miller fell short.
Not nearly enough Jamaal Charles on Sunday against the Raiders.
It was an odd call considering that the Raiders were on Kansas City's 38-yard line and had a 10-3 lead in the game. If anything the Raiders could have sent their kicker, Sebastian Janikowski, out for a hole-in-one field goal. After all, Janikowski is arguably one of the best kickers in the league, and it would have been a piece of cake for him to tally the three points.
The boneheaded play by Oakland allowed Kansas City to capitalize with great field position. The play that snapped the Chiefs' offensive drought and helped them get back into Raiders territory was a 47-yard run from Jamaal Charles. Two plays later, Charles scored from 5 yards out and tied the game at 10. The big plays from Charles momentarily breathed new life into the Chiefs.
Charles had entered the game just behind Houston Texans running back Arian Foster for the league lead in rushing yards. Despite starting out slow (averaging 4.2 yards per carry; six carries for 25 yards), Charles finished the day with 87 yards rushing on 14 carries. He scored a touchdown and averaged 6.2 yards per rushing attempt. By day's end, Charles just ended up being stuck with the "#2" label. Hundreds of miles away in Houston, Foster finished as the 2010 rushing leader, and Charles fell just short of Jim Brown's rushing average record. In 1963, Brown averaged 6.4 yards per attempt while Charles finished this regular season with a 6.38-yard average.
To make a point of just how close Charles was, let's put that number into measurement: Charles was within .72 inches of outshining the best running back of all time.
It wasn't just matching up against Foster and Brown, but Charles seemed to fall behind his teammate Thomas Jones, at times as well in this game. Once again, Jones got more playing time than Charles but wasn't nearly as effective. Jones finished the game with 17 yards on 10 attempts. His longest play from scrimmage was a 4-yard gain. Of course, had it not been for Charles' aforementioned big gain in the third quarter, he would have been just as unsuccessful. However, all season long Charles has proven himself to be worthy of getting more playing time than Jones, especially if he was within a hair-length of two different prestigious records.
I can't say that the Chiefs were being careful in using Charles because he was playing alongside the starters late into the fourth quarter. It wasn't until four-and-a-half minutes remained in the game that starting quarterback Matt Cassel got to call it a day. Other key weapons such as wide receiver Dwayne Bowe followed suit and also left the game in order to rest up.
All afternoon, the folks that didn't get much rest were the Chiefs' defenders. For most of the game, they were getting gassed trying to stop the Raiders' offense. Despite having their top offensive weapon Darren McFadden out for an injury, Oakland performed well enough to make the Chiefs' defense gasp for air. Backup running back Michael Bush tallied 137 yards on the ground—a big chunk of Oakland's 344 total yards on offense.
The defense had its moments no matter how terrible the end result was. Linebacker Tamba Hali finished the regular season as the NFL's lead quarterback sacker. Hali's 14.5 sacks on the year cap his breakout season and not only justify his worthiness of a new contract, but also make his Pro Bowl snub look even worse.
Other Chiefs to join in on the abuse of Raiders quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Kyle Boller were defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey and linebacker Jovan Belcher. Dorsey assisted Hali in a sack while Belcher recorded both a forced fumble and his first career sack.
On both sides of the ball, the Chiefs treated this like an early season game, not a dress rehearsal for the playoffs. Chiefs head coach Todd Haley must have been sending a message to his players if he was making his players get this much action, and we've seen it before. It's easy to see that under Haley's leadership, the Chiefs don't get to just walk away from an embarrassing loss; Haley rubs it in and makes sure they lose sleep over it for days to come.
Considering the abuse he received, it was quite a good thing that Cassel got out while he could. For the entire afternoon, Cassel was running for his life and only connected on 11 of his 33 passes for 115 yards. The Raiders' defense let out all their frustration on Cassel, sacking him five times and intercepting two of his passes, both of which were deep in Chiefs territory. Cassel's first interception came as the result of a desperation pass in order to get out of the end zone and to avoid getting sacked for a safety. Raiders defensive back Michael Huff snagged it, and the Raiders capitalized on the very next play with a touchdown by Jacoby Ford.
With 2.5 sacks on Sunday against the Raiders, linebacker Tamba Hali led the AFC with 14.5 sacks.
When the Chiefs regained possession after the Raiders took back the lead, they were once again buried deep and in prime position for the Raiders to suffocate them. An interception returned for a touchdown by Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt sealed the win for Oakland. Cassel didn't see Routt coming, just like how the Chiefs didn't see this loss coming.
Within seconds, Chiefs fans in attendance started to file out of the stadium while Raiders fans were hooting and hollering for their beloved team. The Chiefs fell to 10-6, and would eventually land the fourth seed in the AFC playoffs with a showdown looming against the Ravens this Sunday.
The one thing that stuck with this game is the pick-six by Routt which ended it. It brings up a disturbing reminder for Chiefs fans as they prepare for Kansas City's first home playoff game in 2003: this Chiefs team performs well when they aren't caught off-guard. They perform best when they know what's coming at them.
We saw the Chiefs lay an egg against Oakland and the Denver Broncos this year, but this same team silenced the San Diego Chargers on national television and stayed competitive with the defending AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts.
Kansas City knows that they will have to bring their best against Baltimore this weekend because, after all, the Ravens will be the first team with a winning record that the Chiefs have faced all year. That's a scary idea, but regardless this Chiefs team exceeded nearly everyone's expectations and they clearly earned their playoff berth, regardless of the ten opponents they beat.
After all of their embarrassing losses this season, the Chiefs roared back with resounding victories. Whether it was thumping the Jaguars after losing to the Texans a week before, dominating both the Cardinals and Seahawks in consecutive weeks, or dominating the Rams in St. Louis, the Chiefs have proven that they can bounce back. This upcoming game against the Baltimore Ravens will prove just how resilient this Chiefs team can be with their backs against the wall.
The thing is, from now on there are no second chances. The games in January matter the most.
WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Who's is to blame for KC's loss on Sunday?.