Just a few years ago, it didn’t seem to matter where the Raiders played the Chiefs or what each team’s record was. In fact, the Raiders had won three straight games in Kansas City between 2010-12. Further proof that home games didn’t mean much in this heated rivalry.
The pendulum has swung the other direction in recent years. That win in 2012 was the last one to occur in KC. As we know, 2013 was a rough year, with Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn, and Matt McGloin as the Raiders’ starters that season.
That abysmal season led to the team drafting Derek Carr as their new franchise quarterback. Carr would lose his first 10 games before, interestingly enough, he got the first win of his NFL career against the Chiefs in Oakland.
The team went 3-3 to finish the season with one of those losses a 31-13 shellacking in Kansas City. Even still, after an 0-10 start, the .500 record over the final 6 games had the team heading into 2015 feeling ok about their progress.
Carr made great strides in 2015 and the Raiders did too — jumping to a 7-9 record. Among those 9 losses was a sweep at the hands of the Chiefs including a 23-17 loss in KC in which Carr was sacked a career high 6 times.
With high hopes for 2016, the Raiders offense was on fire and Carr was masterful. He led the team to so many come-from-behind wins, including seven game-winning drives; five of which were sealed by a Carr touchdown pass.
They would lose just four games all season long — two of which were against the Chiefs, who swept the Raiders for the second season in a row.
The game in Kansas City came in week 14 and was arguably the most crucial of the season for the Raiders’ playoff hopes. They came into the game at 10-2, riding an impressive 6-game win streak since they last faced the Chiefs. The Chiefs were sitting at 9-3, so a win by the Raiders would have split the series and could have put enough distance between the teams for the Raiders to take the division.
What happened next was the worst game of Derek Carr’s career.
It was the fewest yards he had ever thrown for (117) in a complete game, his lowest completion percentage (41%), and his worst ever passer rating (49.1). You could literally count on one hand the number of well thrown completions he threw in this game — Five.
That game completed the sweep by the Chiefs, and had the two teams tied at 10-3 with three games remaining. By the final game of the season, the two teams were tied 12-4 and the Chiefs owned the tiebreaker.
The Chiefs were AFC West champs, and owned the two seed and a bye in the first round of the playoffs while the Raiders dropped to the five seed, playing on the road in Houston.
Granted, the loss in the season finale in Denver and the loss in the Wild Card game in Houston had a lot to do with Derek Carr being going down with a broken fibula. But the only reason they were in the predicament in the first place was because they had their asses handed to them in Kansas City. In particular, it was that ugly performance by Carr.
The Chiefs have a tough defense, there’s no denying that. And they’re well-coached by Andy Reid and his staff. They were the most balanced team in the division last year with a stout defense and efficient offense. It’s why I picked them to win the division.
Jack Del Rio has said his primary goal since he took over as Raiders head coach was to win the division. The talent is there to make it happen. But to do it, Derek Carr will have to exorcize whatever demons are haunting him in Kansas City.
Once again, the fateful trip will happen in week 14 of the season, setting up potentially another make or break clash at Arrowhead.
It’s the next major battleground Carr must fight through to find his way clear for the Raiders to take the division and find the confidence to make a deep playoff run.