With Sunday's big win, Chiefs claim control of their playoff destiny

With Sunday's big win, Chiefs claim control of their playoff destiny

Published Dec. 14, 2014 6:13 p.m. ET

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After all the moaning and groaning that emerged from the Chiefs' three-game skid, here's what we still know: The Chiefs, after blowing out the Raiders 31-13, control their own playoff destiny.

Win their remaining two games against Pittsburgh and San Diego, and the Chiefs will make the playoffs.

Kansas City linebacker Frank Zombo, a former Packer, remembers the same scenario in Green Bay in 2010.

"This team could do that as well. This team could get hot."


FIRST DOWN: The gift of a turnover

Let's face it: The Chiefs' defense isn't exactly a turnover-making machine. This is a team that hasn't had an interception since Ron Parker picked off a pass in Game 7 against the Rams.

So when a turnover does come, it tends to get everyone on the defense pretty pumped, even if it comes as a total gift.

Zombo entered the game for one play in the third quarter with the Chiefs up 17-6.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr immediately fumbled the exchange from center and the ball dropped straight under Zombo, who simply fell on it.

"The play was supposed to go away from me," Zombo said. "I wasn't really trying to do anything and the next thing you know, the ball is laying there.

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"I came back to the sideline and the guys were howling in laughter. I didn't do anything. Just living right, I guess. But I did know not to try and scoop and score. At that point, we needed another possession and a score."

And the Chiefs got it two plays later on a 20-yard touchdown throw to Travis Kelce to make it 24-6.

That was the ballgame.

"Yeah, it felt like the major turning point," Zombo said.

SECOND DOWN: The uneven play of Kelce

It seems that just about every week, Kelce makes some remarkable plays, and then some bone-headed plays.

Of course, we remember his controversial fumble in the Arizona game (and we remember his penalties, too).

On Sunday, Kelce again played well at times, catching five passes for 59 yards, including the 20-yard score.

But he also committed a false-start penalty that pushed the Chiefs out of field-goal range. And he lost yet another fumble early in the third quarter with the score 10-3.

The Raiders got a field goal out of it, and momentum could have changed.

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"I was just trying to do too much and make something happen," Kelce said. "Can't fumble there. No excuses."

Kelce, though, did recover nicely with the 20-yard score.

"Hopefully, that was sort of revenge for the fumbles lately," he said.

THIRD DOWN: Mr. Personality, De'Anthony Thomas

Thomas and several other Chiefs talked all week about letting their personalities out more this week to relieve any tension while they're playing.

Maybe that's true and maybe it helped.

But nothing says personality more than an electrifying 81-yard punt return for a touchdown, which is what Thomas delivered to open the scoring in the first quarter.

"Really, we did talk about being ourselves and having more fun," Thomas said. "It can help you relax."

The touchdown did seem to relax the Chiefs, who never trailed.

"It's a tough league," Thomas said. "I've found that out. It's not like college. Everyone has talent. Everyone is fast. So you have to work harder. And fight to have fun."

FOURTH DOWN: A forlorn Reggie McKenzie?

McKenzie, the Raiders' general manager, has had yet another tough season as his squad dropped to 2-11.

But what was interesting Sunday is that McKenzie spent much of the afternoon watching the Bills-Packers game in the back of the press box instead of watching his own team on the field.

Maybe McKenzie's interest level is waning after reports surfaced Sunday morning that suggested the Raiders will make sweeping changes, starting with McKenzie, after the season.

Or maybe McKenzie simply was scouting the Bills, who play the Raiders this week.

Or lastly, as one scribe whispered, maybe McKenzie was just missing his former team, the Packers, and was thinking about buying a house again in Green Bay.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.