The Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) beat the Oakland Raiders (4-12) by a score of 35-3 on Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium to claim the team’s third straight division title and earn the AFC’s No. 1 overall seed for the playoffs.
With the victory, the path has been laid and the road to the Super Bowl now runs through Arrowhead Stadium.
It was a dominant all-around performance, and with that said, here are 12 observations from the game:
1. The Chiefs’ defense set the tone
The Chiefs didn’t allow a touchdown on Sunday, which marked the first time since they faced the New York Jets in Week 3 of the 2016 season that the Chiefs kept an opponent out of the end zone. The Raiders finished with just a single 50-yard field goal.
From the beginning of the game, the Chiefs defense was on point.
They held the Raiders to under 300 yards of total offense and forced four turnovers—all of which came in the first half. They also never let the Raiders advance past their own 32-yard line.
Kendall Fuller led the Chiefs with 12 tackles on the day, followed by Charvarius Ward (9) and Anthony Hitchens (9), who had several big hits throughout the game and made some great plays out in space to show off his athleticism.
2. The crowd was a difference-maker
There’s no denying that Chiefs Kingdom made its presence felt on Sunday.
On a key drive late in the first quarter with the Chiefs holding a 14-0 lead, the Raiders’ offense was called for two penalties—a false start as well as a delay of game—both of which kept making it more difficult for them to move the ball.
Both penalties can be attributed to the crowd noise and the energy brought from those trying to help make sure the Chiefs’ season won’t end anywhere but Arrowhead Stadium, or the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia—site of this year’s Super Bowl.
The players spoke about the energy they felt from the crowd after the game.
3. Patrick Mahomes enters rarified air
Patrick Mahomes finished Sunday’s game 14 of 24 for 281 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
It was the finish to one of the best seasons we’ve ever seen from a quarterback in NFL history—regardless of the obvious fact that it’s Mahomes’ first year starting in the league.
Those numbers in the regular season finale propelled Mahomes to a place that’s only ever been occupied by one other player in NFL history—Peyton Manning, who had been the only player to ever throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in the same season.
Mahomes—the odds-on-favorite to win the NFL’s MVP award—just did that at 23 years old. He also led the Chiefs to 565 total points this season, which is the third-most by any team in NFL history.
Again, he’s 23 years old.
4. Tyreek Hill broke a franchise record
On just the sixth play of the game, Mahomes found the speedy-Tyreek Hill deep down the left side of the field for a 67-yard touchdown, which not only helped set the tone for the Chiefs on the day, but it also gave Hill the franchise record for receiving yards in a season.
The previous record was held by Derrick Alexander, who had 1,391 yards back in 2000, and interestingly enough, Alexander was on-hand to watch Hill break his record.
Tight end Travis Kelce, who briefly held the NFL record for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end, finished with the fourth-most receiving yards by anyone in Chiefs’ franchise history.
Kelce broke the NFL record previously held by the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski, which was then-surpassed by the 49ers’ George Kittle less than an hour later.
Kelce, who already has the Chiefs’ franchise record for yards receiving in a season by a tight end, had five catches for 62 yards on the day.
5. Demarcus Robinson takes one to the house
The biggest play of the day was an 89-yard bomb from Mahomes to receiver Demarcus Robinson, who high-pointed a deep pass across the middle from Mahomes, and with the defender in coverage falling down as Robinson made the catch, the rest of the play was an easy jog to the end zone for Robinson.
It was also the play that Mahomes hit 5,000 yards AND it was his 50th touchdown.
It was Robinson’s only catch of the day, but he made it count. It was the third-year pro out of Florida’s fourth touchdown reception of the season.
6. Allen Bailey forced a fumble
The Raiders’ first offensive drive ended the same as the next three would for them—as a turnover.
On second-and-2 from midfield, after the Raiders had gained 23 yards on their first three offensive plays, Chiefs’ veteran defensive lineman Allen Bailey fought off a block and was able to muscle the ball out of the hands of running back Doug Martin.
Bailey not only forced the fumble, but he recovered it too. It was his second forced fumble and his fourth fumble recovery of the season.
In addition to that play, Bailey finished the game with three tackles and a quarterback hit.
7. Daniel Sorensen makes the play of the day with a pick-6
With the Chiefs holding a 7-0 lead and following the Raiders’ first offensive drive, which ended with a turnover, quarterback Derek Carr threw a pass in the direction of tight end Jared Cook, who wasn’t paying attention and didn’t look like someone who had any inclination that the ball may come his direction.
That’s when Chiefs’ safety Daniel Sorensen stepped in front of it and took it the other way for an interception. Sorensen raced 54 yards for the touchdown to give the Chiefs an early 14-0 lead.
It was the Chiefs’ biggest defensive play since Ron Parker’s pick-6 against the Cincinnati Bengals back in Week 7. It was also Sorensen’s second pick-6 of his career, with the other coming back in Week 7 of the 2016 season.
Before that play, Carr hadn’t thrown an interception in his previous 10 games.
8. Justin Houston got a strip sack, Dee Ford picked up another one as well
Late in the first quarter on the Raiders’ drive in which the crowd at Arrowhead Stadium made their presence felt with a false start and a delay of game, Carr and company faced a second-and-10 from the Chiefs’ 33-yard line.
On the play, Justin Houston raced around the edge and was able to get his hand on the ball to knock it away from Carr, and then Houston hopped on it for the ole’ trifecta—the strip-sack and fumble recovery.
It was one of three sacks on the day for the Chiefs’ defense, which finished tied for the league-lead with 52 sacks on the year.
Dee Ford picked up one, which gave him 13 for the season. His also came with a forced fumble—the seventh of his season, which tied him for the league-lead with the Texans’ J.J. Watt.
9. Reggie Ragland picked one off, almost took it to the house
After takeaways by Bailey, Sorensen, and Houston, Chiefs’ linebacker Reggie Ragland wanted to get involved, and he did so in a big way.
With the Chiefs holding a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter, Ragland stepped in front of a Carr pass across the middle on second-and-3 for an interception. He then raced 67 yards the other way to the Raiders’ four-yard line. It was the first interception of his career.
Ragland finished with six tackles on the day.
10. Charvarius Ward stepped up and made some plays
After getting the start last week against the Seattle Seahawks and having a rollercoaster of a game, Charvarius Ward showed everyone a little something with the way he came out and played on Sunday afternoon—finishing with nine tackles and two passes defensed.
It was the best game of the young cornerbacks’ career, and it should be a boost of confidence for the Chiefs’ defense to get a player with his size (6’1”, 200 pounds) and athleticism in the mix on the outside.
11. The postgame injury update
After the game, the Chiefs only had two injuries to report and neither were considered serious.
Rookie defensive lineman Derrick Nnadi was ruled out with a concussion, and safety Jordan Lucas came out because of a stinger.
Photos from the Chiefs Week 17 matchup against the Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 30, 2018
12. The Chiefs get an extra week to heal up
Besides the obvious great news about the Chiefs winning the division and earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Chiefs are also gifted a week off with a BYE as the AFC’s top seed.
And with that time, the Chiefs can hopefully see guys like receiver Sammy Watkins, running back Spencer Ware, safety Eric Berry, and potentially offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who began practicing last week as he works his way back from a leg injury that put him on Injured Reserve earlier this season, get healthier.
There’s nothing to say any of those guys will be ready necessarily, but an extra week can only help, and the Chiefs earned that opportunity finishing as the best team in the AFC.