All wins in the NFL are precious. Raiders coaches and players have said over and over again that the most important game is the one this week. This one, however, meant has more sting to it than the others.
The words of Charles Woodson -- who was part of both of the Raiders' takeaways in the game -- summed up the feeling the Raiders had after Sunday's 34-20 loss to the Chiefs.
"Oh man. I've played a lot of football in my life - won a lot of games, lost a lot of games - but today was probably one of the hardest losses that I've been a part of in my career. That was a tough loss."
First and foremost, this was a division game against a hated rival. So, right off the top, it means more - especially in your own stadium. Jack Del Rio has said his first goal for this team is to win the division. You do that by beating your division opponents. The fans get up for beating division opponents. There was a raucous crowd of fans on hand hoping to see a repeat performance from the Chiefs' last visit. They instead watched firsthand the Raiders fall apart.
"It hurts, man." Said David Amerson. ‘It hurts, definitely at home in from of our home crowd. It definitely hurts. That's a loss that's going to be tough to swallow."
Secondly, this is one they nearly had and for all intents and purposes SHOULD have had. Very few gave the Raiders a real shot to take down the Chiefs Sunday, despite the fact that the Raiders beat the Chiefs last year in the exact same situation - off 5-straight wins and talking playoffs. And yet, the Raiders held leads at the end of the first half and the end of the third quarter and never trailed through three quarters.
"Tough way to finish," said Jack Del Rio. "Promising afternoon, lot of back and forth, good ball both quarters. It just got away from us. Turned the ball over and you can't do that. The last four drives were three turnovers and a missed field goal. That's not the way you want to close out a game you want to win."
Even after the first two interceptions in the fourth quarter, the Raiders were still within one score of the lead and continued to move the ball into Chiefs' territory on every possession. And yet couldn't put any points on the board in the quarter.
The four chances they had to score in the fourth quarter ended like this - interception, interception, missed field goal, and interception returned for touchdown. The final interception for a touchdown sealed the Raiders fate and their final possession
Lastly, the Raiders were clinging to playoff hopes. I say ‘were', because this loss leaves them with little in the way of hope left. A win would have brought them to 6-6 and in the thick of the playoff race. The Chiefs are the frontrunner in the wildcard race and a loss would have dropped them to 6-6 and behind the Raiders. Now with the Raiders 5-7, they aren't mathematically eliminated, but close to it.
"We were treating this as our playoffs," said Woodson. "We needed to win. Basically we needed to win out. For us it was that playoff atmosphere, it was a rival, it was the Chiefs. You had your chances and everybody understands what's at stake at this point. I felt like the team was building on something and it felt like we were going to get this win today, so it was tough. It's always tough to look up at the scoreboard at the end of the game when everything is so promising early and all of a sudden it looks lopsided when you look up at the end. It's a hard one. It's a tough one to swallow."
The Chiefs, of course, improve to 7-5. Also improving their standing in the playoff race this weekend were the Steelers and Jets - both now 7-5. Behind them are the Bills (6-6) and Texans (6-6).
Here is the full AFC playoff picture as of now:
1. Cincinnati Bengals (10-2)
2. Denver Broncos (10-2)
3. New England Patriots (10-2)
4. Indianapolis Colts (6-6)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (7-5)
6. New York Jets (7-5)
In the hunt
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)
8. Buffalo Bills (6-6)
9. Houston Texans (6-6)
Outside looking in
10. Oakland Raiders (5-7)
11. Miami Dolphins (5-7)
If the loss to the Lions two weeks ago had the Raiders staggering, this loss has them on the mat with the countdown starting.
If you are interesting in any kind of silver lining, here you go: This is the first time in four years the Raiders have played games for anything more than pride this late in the season.