KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Early in the fourth quarter, the Kansas City Chiefs were already in control Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders.
But it’s been a while since the Chiefs really flexed and reminded the NFL and its fans exactly why they're the two-time reigning AFC champs.
Three plays after a glorious Tommy Townsend bullet on a fake punt kept the drive alive, quarterback Patrick Mahomes escaped a collapsing pocket and raced downfield before spotting running back Darrel Williams one-on-one near the end zone.
Inches before dragging his right foot across the line of scrimmage, Mahomes lofted the ball toward the goal line where Williams outmaneuvered safety Jonathan Abrams for a 38-yard touchdown.
“I was pretty committed that I was trying to run, but one of the receivers was running across and I was going to shoot it to him,” Mahomes said. “Then, out of my peripheral (vision), I saw Darrel and I actually underthrew it a little bit. But he tells me he can catch — Darrel does — and I guess I see that he can. He made a big-time play over a good player.”
With that score, the rout officially was on as the Chiefs rolled to a 41-14 victory, their third straight.
“There’s such a rivalry between the Raiders and the Chiefs, it’s obviously a good one to get for the guys,” coach Andy Reid said.
The victory moved Kansas City alone into first place in the AFC West as every other team in the division lost in Week 10. The Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos lost at home to Minnesota and Philadelphia, respectively.
The Chiefs (6-4) are now a half-game ahead of the Raiders and Chargers, who are both 5-4, and a game in front of the Broncos (5-5) with one game remaining — versus the Cowboys next Sunday at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium — before the bye week.
“In pregame, you could just feel the energy from the guys,” Mahomes said. “Everybody was ready to go this game. ... I think guys wanted to be on Sunday Night Football playing in a stadium this against a team like that.”
Reports of the demise of Kansas City's high-octane offense may have been premature. After averaging only 12 points per game in the last three weeks, the Chiefs got things cranked up on Sunday Night Football, totaling a season-best 516 yards
Meanwhile, Kansas City’s defense sparkled again with two second-half turnovers, which helped limit Las Vegas to 299 total yards in the blowout.
“I think they’re playing well together and communicating well, which is so important on defense,” Reid said.
After allowing at least 29 points in each of the first five games, the Chiefs have now allowed 17 points or fewer in four of the last five.
“It took us obviously more than a couple weeks to see what teams were trying to do against us and start to communicate, but we’ve got some good coaches and the guys we’ve got on our team are all in,” said safety Tyrann Mathieu, who had four tackles and a fumble recovery. “So, we knew it was going to get there, but we still feel like we could be much better.”
The Chiefs stormed to a 17-7 halftime lead, but it seemed like a dogfight might be in store when the Raiders opened the second half with a quick touchdown blitz, cutting the lead to three points.
Kansas City scored the next 24 points in serving notice that the AFC West still runs through One Arrowhead Drive.
Mahomes finished 35 of 50 for 406 yards with five touchdowns.
It was his sixth career 400-yard game and fifth career game with at least five TD tosses. He now has three games with both 400 yards and five touchdowns, which is tied with Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Joe Montana for the most such games in NFL history, according to ESPN.
Tonight marked Patrick Mahomes' 3rd career game with 400 passing yards and 5 passing TD. That ties Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Joe Montana for the most such games in NFL history. pic.twitter.com/KpyHiJnjMj— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 15, 2021
Mahomes threw two first-half touchdowns to Tyreek Hill, found rookie tight end Noah Gray for his first career receiving score in the third quarter, and added explosive TDs to Williams and wide receiver Byron Pringle in the fourth quarter.
The struggles for the Chiefs’ offense have been numerous and well-documented this season — turnovers, drops, penalties, pass-protection issues, impatience by Mahomes. Things have been out of sync, but things clicked at the perfect time to decimate Las Vegas.
“We’ve got room to improve and these guys believe in that,” Reid said. “That’s how they come out to practice. They’ve got a confidence about ’em and understand that, if we put it all together, good things can happen.”
Kansas City’s first three touchdown drives all took at least 10 plays, including a 13-yard drive that chewed up 82 yards and eroded most of the third quarter.
The Chiefs, sporting their white-on-white uniforms for the first time in three seasons, led by 10 at halftime, but the Raiders seized momentum on Harrison Butker’s missed field goal to close the first half and quick touchdown drive to start the second half.
After Mahomes and Kansas City answered with a 1-yard, fourth-down touchdown to Gray, the Chiefs had plenty of breathing room and the defense took over from there.
“Noah has battled every single week to continue to get better and better,” Mahomes said. “For him to make a big catch like that, because that was a tough catch in traffic with the ball shooting right through the line of scrimmage, that was a big touchdown and got the momentum back in our favor.”
Las Vegas threatened on the ensuing drive before cornerback Rashad Fenton poked the ball away from newly acquired DeSean Jackson, who had just hauled in a 40-yard bomb. Mathieu scooped up the fumble.
“I think the football gods were on my side,” said Mathieu, who had the initial pass go through his hands before Jackson caught it. “I think I was supposed to have that interception, so I think he was just looking out for me.”
Butker drilled a 35-yard field goal after the fumble to make it 27-14 and the defense kept piling on.
Safety Daniel Sorenson, whose early-season struggles became a lightning rod for the defense’s poor play, intercepted Derek Carr to set up the drive that featured Townsend’s 16-yard fake-punt strike to Marcus Kemp and the brilliant Mahomes-to-Williams bomb.
“We saw that it was available,” Reid said of the fake-punt call. “They were cheating back a bit and we’ve got a punter who can throw the ball. He does it every day in practice. You’ve got Kemp out there who’s a good receiver. Yeah, there’s a risk involved, but we thought the benefit was even greater.”
Three plays later, Williams chipped the defensive end before heading into the flats for a checkdown, but Mahomes moved up through the collapsing pocket and started to take off on his own.
“I saw Abram flat-footed, so I went upfield," Williams said. "I continued to run. I saw Pat look at me. He turned his eyes, then he came back to me and he threw the ball. He threw it up and I knew I had to go make a play. It was like backyard football — just go out there and make a play.”
Suddenly, everything felt right in Chiefs Kingdom again.
Williams finished with 144 yards from scrimmage, including nine receptions for 101 yards and 43 yards rushing.
Tight end Travis Kelce matched his season-high with eight catches for a season-best 119 yards, while Hill had seven catches for 83 yards with two scores.
The Chiefs’ offense seemed to be sputtering on diesel fuel the last few weeks, but it got loaded up with high-octane premium unleaded for the clash with the Raiders.
After a three-and-out to open the game, Kansas City scored on three straight possessions, including a pair of touchdowns from Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill.
The first Mahomes-to-Hill score — an 8-yard TD in the first quarter — made it 7-0.
Las Vegas answered after punter AJ Cole knocked the ball free from cornerback Mike Hughes, who took over for Mecole Hardman Jr. as Kansas City’s punt returner.
The special-teams gaffe led to a five-play, 50-yard touchdown drive.
Derek Carr found Hunter Renfroe for a 6-yard score to even things up, but the Chiefs kept the pedal down. Harrison Butker put Kansas City back in front with a 40-yard field on the ensuing drive before Hill’s second touchdown — a wide-open, 1-yard flick over the top — pushed the lead to 17-7.
With the Chiefs’ defense bottling up the Raiders, Mahomes and company got one more chance, but Butker pulled a 46-yard field goal try wide left.
Las Vegas has endured a tumultuous season with former coach Jon Gruden resigning amid an avalanche of leaked emails that included insensitive remarks and cut leading receiver Henry Ruggs III a few weeks later after he killed a woman in a suspected DUI crash — and now they're in second place in the AFC West.