Just what the Raiders were hoping for, another Western Division contender. These latest ones are the Kansas City Chiefs, whom the Raiders had hoped to put back in their place, although it didn’t work out that way.
Instead, the Raiders disappeared into a red Maelstrom and got torn pride from poise. The Chiefs outscored them, 24-0, in 15:33 of the second half, led, 36-14, and won, 36-20, before 72,686 partisans in Arrowhead Stadium who’d waited a long time for a Thursday night like this.
Even with their little rally, it was the Raiders’ worst loss since they moved to Los Angeles. And their prime TV time record, best in the NFL, dropped to 25-6-1.
“Well, I don’t have any excuses,” Coach Tom Flores said. “There are no excuses for a game like this. . . .
“They have a good football team. We knew it coming in. We know it going out.”
The Raiders almost went out horizontally, having been beaten most ways there are. They actually led for most of the first half, first 7-0 after Jim Plunkett drove them 63 yards on their second possession, then 14-9 when Todd Christensen made a fabulous leaping touchdown catch, going up one-handed, tipping a high pass to himself and then catching it.
So much for Raider highlights.
Everything else was Chief highlights. Their wide receivers burned the great Raider cornerbacks to the consistency of toast. Carlos Carson caught five passes for 118 yards, most of them on Lester Hayes, who was reduced to fury.
Hayes was called for interfering with Carson on one play early in the third period. On the next, Carson caught a deep sideline pass on Hayes, who claimed he’d been interfered with. Actually, the replay suggested that Hayes didn’t have the worst case in the world. To make his point, Hayes took off his helmet and dashed it into the turf, but the official presiding wasn’t impressed.
That drive, on the first Kansas City possession of the second half, went down to the Raider four-yard line, but the Raider defense stopped it once more. Nick Lowery kicked his fifth field goal of the game, a 21-yarder that put the Chiefs ahead, 15-14.
To that point, the Raiders still hadn’t given up a touchdown in the six-plus quarters of this season, but it was on its way. The next time the Chiefs got the ball, Carson caught a 25-yard touchdown pass on the greatest of the corners, Mike Haynes himself. Now the Chiefs led, 22-14.
Haynes later complained about the officiating and the strangeness of playing on AstroTurf, but one other thing was clear. The Chief receivers won. The Raider corners lost.
“It’s no Gestapo secret,” Hayes said later. “We’re going to be in man-to-man coverage. Some games, they’re going to catch some passes on us.”
It’s the second game of the season, so you might try charity. Give some credit to the Chiefs.
“I saw some great catches out there,” linebacker Matt Millen said, turning to Rod Martin dressing next to him. “Right, Rodney?
“People forget. There are some All-Pros over there. We ask a lot of our corners. We expect a lot because they are what they are.”
They were asking even more Thursday night, because the Chiefs were threatening to take the football home and keep it. The Raiders gained 139 yards in the first half, but 81 came in their first two possessions.
After the Raiders’ first touchdown, the Chiefs ran off 31 of the next 40 plays. Then they ran off 22 of the first 27 in the second half.
The reason for this was simple. The Raiders couldn’t move the ball. That young, three-man Chiefs’ defensive front, which Raider executive assistant Al LoCasale had called “the bluest chip in football,” was taking the Raider running game and throwing it back at them. The Chiefs’ tough, young secondary was keeping Plunkett off his wide receivers. Plunkett was 34 for 48, but it was mostly the nickel-dime stuff the Raiders have no use for.
After falling behind, 22-14, the Raiders managed to keep the ball for one play before an old bugaboo hit--a turnover.
Plunkett was sacked by Chief nose tackle Bill Maas, edging around guard Charley Hannah. Plunkett fumbled, and the Chiefs recovered at the Raider six. Three plays later, Bill Kenney drilled a five-yard pass to Stephone Paige in the end zone. Now it was 29-14.
Next, the Raiders tried Don Mosebar at center to help block Maas and, Flores said, because Dave Dalby had a sore ankle.
But Mosebar, who had trouble with his snaps in exhibition games, had trouble with his snaps here. His second one to Plunkett was never received. It rolled back into the Raider end zone, where Albert Lewis, a Chief cornerback, recovered, making the score 36-14. As crowning indignities go, this one ranked up there.
It didn’t get any worse for the Raiders, but then, how much worse could it get?
They managed a late drive for a touchdown, Plunkett hitting rookie Jessie Hester for gains of 19 and 25 yards, and then hitting him for the last two. Hester rolled the ball over the top of Chief cornerback Kevin Ross’ helmet to celebrate his best moment as a pro. The suspicion occurs, however, that one of the problems in the famed Raider vertical game has come from Hester’s early struggle to hold onto the ball and from Plunkett’s inclination to look for him last.
“They blitzed in the first quarter and we burned them in it,” Plunkett said. The first Raider touchdown was set up by his 30-yarder to Dokie Williams, down to the Chief two.
“When they got the lead,” Plunkett said. “they doubled our wide receivers. They had six and seven defensive backs the second half. But that’s what you can do when you get a lead.
“We didn’t run well (67 yards to the Chiefs’ 84). We’ve got to, to keep them honest. We’ve got to find a way. They’re good, but we’re good, too.”
So on this Thursday night with the nation watching, a situation the Raiders have always reveled in, the Raiders were second best.
“They had some great teams here in the early ‘70s,” Howie Long was saying. “They’ve got a great team out there right now.”
Welcome to the AFC West. It was getting a little boring with just the Broncos, Seahawks and Raiders.
The loss was the Raiders’ worst since San Diego beat them, 55-21, in Oakland in 1981. . . . Chief quarterback Bill Kenney was knocked out of the game by a Matt Millen hit early in the third period, but he came back one play later. Kenney’s first 12 attempts to pass resulted in six incompletions and two sacks (Howie Long and Millen), but the Raiders never got him after that. . . . Nick Lowery, the fine Chief kicker who has had nothing but trouble against the Raiders, turned that around, too. He tied his career best, kicking a 58-yard field goal with 43 seconds left in the first half, cutting the Raider lead to 14-12. Last week, Lowery kicked two 52-yarders. In 1983, Lowery had a chance to beat the Raiders in the Coliseum with a 48-yarder, but Ted Hendricks blocked it. In the game here, he had a chance to put the Chiefs ahead late in the fourth quarter with a 42-yarder but shanked it. . . . The Raiders’ next game is at home against the 49ers. The Chiefs’ is in Miami. Nose tackle Bill Maas said before the season that if the Chiefs start 3-0, they’ll wind up in the Super Bowl.