Chiefs End Losing Streak, Beat Raiders, 20-13

After last week's slaughter by the Buffalo Bills, the Kansas City Chiefs found a way to defeat the Oakland Raiders on the road. It wasn't flashy, and it wasn't a game you're likely to remember from what used to be one of the NFL's top rivalries. But it was a win, and there were some valuable lessons learned in KC's 20-13 victory.

For weeks I've been on offensive coordinator Chan Gailey for playing it safe in milking the clock late in the game. His conservative nature at times has slowed the growth of his young quarterback, Tyler Thigpen. The fact he changed his entire offensive philosophy in the middle of Sunday's game should be commended.

Late in the game, with the Chiefs holding a seven-point lead, Gailey put Thigpen in command facing a third and three. I thought Gailey would call another quarterback draw, but instead he allowed his quarterback to throw.

Thigpen delivered a strike to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe for a third-down conversion that netted 12 positive yards and all but salted away a victory. It was the Chiefs' first win since week four against Denver.

This win was significant for Gailey because he designed an offensive attack that put the ball into his playmakers' hands. Tight end Tony Gonzalez had another great game with eight hard-fought catches for 110 yards.

Running back Larry Johnson nearly broke the century mark with 92 yards rushing on 24 carries, including a two-yard scoring run that put the Chiefs ahead for good in the fourth quarter. Johnson's average wasn't great but he showed flashes of his old form on his two-yard touchdown run. He's running with power is starting to show signs of adjusting to KC's new offense.

The doesn't mean he'll be in Kansas City in 2009, but the Chiefs have to feel better about his future. The silver lining is that if Johnson continues to run well his stock will rise among other NFL teams and that could yield the Chiefs a top draft pick in a potential trade.

Thigpen had an efficient day (15 of 22, 162 yards) but threw another ill-advised interception. The Chiefs are in danger of losing what they've gained over the last few weeks with Thigpen if they don't correct some of his mechanics. He continues to make mistakes when he doesn't step into his throws.

On each of Thigpen's interceptions the last two games - two against Buffalo and one against Oakland - he was throwing off his back foot. He has solid touch with the ball but needs to consistently plant his feet and step into some of his throws. He's becoming far too comfortable using touch to throw the ball, and it's affecting his accuracy. Many of Thigpen's incompletions Sunday sailed over the heads of his receivers.

It's really simple mechanics and he's come a long way since Coastal Carolina and his first NFL start in Atlanta, but now is the time to sharpen Thigpen's skills. If his mechanics are not corrected, his touchdown to interception ratio will rise.

On the other side of the ball, I'm not sure what to make of KC's defense. They held the Raiders to 132 yards passing, but mostly thanks to the poor play of Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

But if not for Thigpen's interception, which put the Raiders in position for an easy score, this game would have been over thanks to a Chiefs defense that was far more aggressive on third down. My biggest complaint in the past about defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has been the fact he doesn't attack on third down.

Today he used the blitz more often than at any time in recent weeks. Linebacker Derrick Johnson was effective throughout the game.

You also have to like the way the Chiefs' secondary was hitting, in particular cornerback Brandon Flowers, who continues to impress. Sunday he came off his primary receivers multiple times to make plays on other receivers. That's instincts and talent.

This win is something the Chiefs can build upon and now they'll try to do something that they've done just once in the last two years - win back to back games. They travel to Denver next week.

Four to Remember

CB Maurice Leggett - He can play in this league. Leggett's instincts on Oakland's fake field goal attempt were impressive. He saw the play coming at him and scooped up the errant pitch before running 67 yards for a touchdown. Leggett's play in the secondary was equally impressive. He was constantly in the right position to make sure the man he was covering wasn't open.

G Wade Smith - In my opinion, he's the Chiefs future at right guard. He made some impressive kick out blocks today that opened big holes for Larry Johnson, including Johnson's game-sealing 14-yard run. I'm not sure why it took so long to get Smith in the lineup but he should start the next four games as an audition for 2009.

DE Tamba Hali - Where has he gone? Only two tackles and little penetration in the backfield today. It's mind boggling that he's struggling this badly at getting to the quarterback after his first two seasons. The Chiefs have only six sacks, and the low-water mark from any NFL team is 13 for a season. Hali has to find some sacks over the last four games. He's entering a critical time for his future as a Chief. There had been talks about extending his contract but management would be wise to hold off on that offer until midway through the 2009 season.

K Connor Barth - The Chiefs have a kicker. He was two for two in Oakland and has made every attempt this year since the Chiefs took him off a North Carolina golf course. Barth has stabilized that part of the special teams and based on his performance thus far, you can take the need for a kicker off the Chiefs' 2009 want list. He's nailing his kicks and his kickoffs are deep enough to help KC'scoverage units.

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