Blame Smith if you must, but the real culprit in Oakland was the Chiefs' vaunted D
Look, the rancor is completely deserved, the disgust totally justified -- the Kansas City Chiefs went on national television Thursday night and managed to somehow out-turd a crapola Oakland Raiders roster.
You can't unsee that.
At least, not without some kind of shock therapy. Or whatever vodka they finally got for Bill Self after that Kentucky depantsing.
Grumble away. Just make sure you've got the right name, or right set of names, at the top of the Friday morning hate list.
Hint: It ain't Alex Smith.
The general social media vibe in Kansas City circles after Raiders 24, Chiefs 20 was that Smith couldn't completely rally the Andy Gang to glory, or whatever you get after topping an 0-10 team in a driving monsoon. And that's true. But it also overlooks the fact that No. 11 completed 10 straight passes in the second half at one point to help turn a 17-3 deficit, on the road, into a 17-17 tie three minutes into the fourth quarter and a 20-17 lead with 9:03 left in the contest.
No, if you want to rage, rage at the pillar this Chiefs team is actually built to lean on right now: The defense.
Oh, it wasn't all on them, granted, and Smith's first two-and-a-half quarters were, at times, positively Casselesque. But unlike this past Sunday's chest-thumping home win over defending champ Seattle, coordinator Bob Sutton's crew was poor early and poor late, as unclutch -- if there is such a concept on that side of the ball -- as it had been for a long, long time.
The Raiders came into Thursday night last in the NFL in offensive yards (276.4 per game).
The Chiefs allowed 351.
The Raiders came in last in rushing yards per game (62.5).
The Chiefs allowed 179.
The Raiders came in last in rushing touchdowns per game (0.2).
The Chiefs allowed two.
The Raiders came in last in first downs per game (14.9).
The Chiefs allowed 18.
The Raiders came in 30th out of 32 teams in third-down conversion percentage (33.6).
The Chiefs (7-4) allowed them to convert eight of 16, or half. That includes a three-for-four clip during a 17-play, 80-yard drive late in the fourth quarter that ended on a 9-yard touchdown strike from rookie quarterback Derek Carr to James Jones, the eventual game-winner with 1:46 left in the tilt.
So you can see where we're going with this. At some point during that 7:21 that the Raiders (1-10) chewed off the clock during that aforementioned jaunt, if the Chiefs can get them off the field, maybe the narrative changes. Maybe. Instead, we're gnashing teeth and wringing hands and pointing out that of the Andy Gang's four losses, half are to clubs that are a combined 3-18.
And, boom, it's post-Tennessee all over again. Although if there's a common theme with both head-scratchers on the Chiefs' docket so far, it's what happened to be coming up next for 'em on the dance card: in both cases, Denver (7-3).
So read into that what you will, and let the conspiracy theories fly. The Chiefs lost because they were caught looking ahead (again), even though their key players said they were above such things. The Chiefs lost because it was a short week, and the Seattle game was physical and brutal and draining. The Chiefs lost because the Raiders fell between the sexy Seahawks and Broncos on the schedule, the perfect trap. The Chiefs lost because the longer a bad team has a 0 in the win column in the NFL, the more dangerous that bad team becomes.
And, in hindsight, maybe it was the imperfect storm of all of the above. It takes some serious suckage to out-suck the Raiders, a motley bunch that drops punts, roughs punters and dances in your backfield for seconds on end -- and then remains there, boot-scooting away, while you're lining up to run an actual play against the rest of their teammates.
Oakland didn't deserve to win that game.
The Chiefs didn't deserve it, either.
Team Red Zone Wall gave up two scores to the Raiders in two tries. And in three chances on the offensive end, the Chiefs cracked the end zone only once. It was as if someone had walked over and accidentally sat on coach Andy Reid's magic red-zone play-calling wand, snapping it like a twig.
Flip through our photo album of Chiefs cheerleaders.
If all the stars seemed to align against Pete Carroll, everything seemed out of orbit on the East Bay. On his seventh punt, with about 9:50 left in the third quarter, Pro Bowler Dustin Colquitt appeared to land funny and left the field limping, his Chiefs down 14-3 and going nowhere in the rain. A few minutes later, veteran defensive end Kevin Vickerson did the same after jumping up to bat down a Carr pass.
This after a first half littered with missed tackles in the open field for the defense and missed blocks by linemen in space. The Andy Gang was oh-for-their-first-three and 1 of 9 on third down in the first half; the Raiders converted three of their first four and four of seven over the opening two quarters.
You knew it was going to be a strange night when the rain and records started falling. It wasn't going to last forever, and the first rushing touchdown the Chiefs surrendered in 2014 came -- sure enough -- against the worst running team on their schedule with 6:33 left in the first quarter. After 318 opponent attempts, Oakland's Latavius Murray found a lane around left end and beat everybody into the end zone to put the hosts up 6-0. With 12:28 to go in the half, he rumbled right up the gut for a 90-yard touchdown jaunt.
With four minutes to go in second quarter, Murray had amassed 114 rushing yards; the Chiefs had 57 as a team. Murray, a sixth-round draft pick in 2013 out of Central Florida, came into Thursday night with 54 NFL career rushing yards. After a quarter-and-a-half, he'd run for 107. If not for a reported concussion a short while later that knocked him out of the contest, the native New Yorker might've released his inner Melvin Gordon.
The greatest damage on a damaging evening was done by Murray early and veteran fullback Marcel Reese late -- the latter accounting for 40 of the 80 yards on the Raiders' game-clinching final offensive drive.
One blankety, lousy stop.
That's the trouble with the NFL: They pay the cupcakes, too.
It's hard to bring the same heat in this league twice in five days. Of course, it's damn hard to go 0-16, too. And for Reid and the Chiefs, the path to the playoffs, let alone a January home game, just got a hell of a lot harder.