Chiefs either kick funk or likely kiss playoffs goodbye
The Kansas City Chiefs are alive in the AFC playoff hunt despite losing three in a row.
The last two of those defeats came against division leaders, but the first one gave the Oakland Raiders their first victory.
The Chiefs are hoping to have running back Jamaal Charles available as they try to avenge that embarrassing display Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Kansas City had won five straight before falling 24-20 at Oakland in Week 12 as the Raiders snapped a 16-game losing streak. The Chiefs allowed 179 rushing yards -- the most by Oakland this season -- and watched Derek Carr cap a 17-play, 80-yard drive with a go-ahead nine-yard touchdown pass to James Jones with 1:42 to go.
"We've just got to play better team defense as a whole," Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe said. "Everybody has to fit their gaps, contain the edge and stuff like that. It's not specific. We've just got to come to play."
Kansas City went on to lose 29-16 to Denver the following week before falling 17-14 at Arizona last Sunday. Charles compiled 111 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns, but the Chiefs were outscored 11-0 in the second half.
"We obviously need to do a better job, take care of our business. It's my responsibility that takes place," coach Andy Reid told the team's official website. "We put an emphasis on finishing and so now you're down to the three games and so you put the clutter of the playoffs and all that out of your mind. You focus in on how you take care of the game you can control and that's the one that's taking place this week."
The Chiefs are one of five 7-6 teams in the mix for the conference's two wild-card spots currently occupied by Pittsburgh (8-5) and San Diego (8-5). Kansas City visits the Steelers next week before closing the season against the Chargers.
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"I don't know all the (playoff) scenarios and really don't care," quarterback Alex Smith said. "It's not our deal. ... We have to get a win this week."
Charles, the NFL leader with 14 touchdowns missed Wednesday's practice with knee and ankle injuries. Kansas City is 6-2 when he has at least 14 carries.
"It was scary at first," Charles said after spraining his ankle last Sunday. "I thought I tore it up."
Charles has racked up 465 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns over a three-game stretch against Oakland. Kansas City had dropped six straight in the series at home before winning 24-7 on Oct. 13, 2013.
The Raiders (2-11) followed their win over the Chiefs with a 52-0 loss at St. Louis, but they bounced back to beat San Francisco 24-13 last Sunday. Carr threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns while Oakland allowed a season-low 248 yards.
"People had us dead and buried last week," interim coach Tony Sparano said. "I mean, we were done. It was 52-0, everybody quit. This team is a resilient team. I've said it all along. For some reason or another, nobody wants to listen, but I've been saying it. This is the type of team they are.
"We need to make sure that we just focus on us right now going into this. We need to understand and learn from what happened to us two weeks ago."
Rookie Latavius Murray carried the ball 23 times for 76 yards after sitting out the previous week with a concussion suffered against the Chiefs. He ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries before getting knocked out in that one.
"He's real good - fast, explosive, finds the hole real well," Poe said. "We've got to kind of put a hat on him and then try to keep him out of each hole."
Murray will again try to take advantage of a Chiefs team that's been gashed for 164.7 rushing yards per game since Oct. 30, the NFL's second-worst mark during that time. Despite its struggles against the run, Kansas City has allowed an NFL-low two touchdowns on the ground.
A full year has passed since a Chiefs wide receiver found the end zone. Dwayne Bowe was the last to do it with a 22-yard score against Washington on Dec. 8, 2013.
The Raiders are 0-6 on the road for the first time since losing all eight games in 2006. They are 2-20 away from home over the last three seasons, though one of those victories was 26-16 at Arrowhead on Oct. 28, 2012.