Raiders running back Darren McFadden breaks loose against the Chiefs. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Suddenly, the Raiders are back in contention in the AFC West.
Oakland won its second straight game Sunday, beating the Chiefs in Kansas City 26-16 to improve to 3-4.
With the Chargers also losing Sunday, Oakland and San Diego are tied, right behind Denver (which entered the weekend 3-3 and was scheduled to play the Saints Sunday night).
In beating the Chiefs, the Raiders used a balanced attack, with Carson Palmer throwing for 209 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Darren McFadden broke loose for 114 yards – most of it coming in the second half – for just his second 100-yard day of the season.
The Chiefs now 1-6, came into the game struggling, started a new quarterback (Brady Quinn) and were at the bottom of the league in turnovers (a minus-15 differential) – and wound up struggling again. They also had not led a game all season (their only win came on the last play of an overtime game) – a streak that continued Sunday.
Quinn was hurt early in the game and had to be replaced by former starter Matt Cassel and Kansas City turned the ball over four times, which the Raiders used to their advantage.
With the game tied 6-6 just before halftime, the Chiefs' Javier Arenas muffed a punt deep in his own territory that Oakland converted into a 9-yard TD pass from Palmer to Denarius Moore for a 13-6 halftime lead. In the third quarter, a fumbled snap by Cassel set up a Sebastian Janikowski field goal – one of four on the day, and the second set up by a turnover (safety Matt Giordano’s pick of Quinn late in the first quarter led to Oakland going up 6-0).
Leading 16-10 in the third quarter, the Raiders essentially put the game out of reach with a six-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with Palmer’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey that put Oakland up 23-10.
Sunday’s victory was Oakland’s sixth straight in Kansas City, and sets up a chance to get back to .500 next Sunday when the Tampa Bay Bucs (3-4) come to Oakland. The Bucs are coming off an impressive 36-17 victory over the Vikings.
Since coming out of their bye week after a lopsided loss to the Denver Broncos on Sept. 30, the Raiders have tightened their defense, improved their running game and won two out of three games – and almost upset unbeaten Atlanta in their lone loss.
With seven games still to go and now near the top of a weak AFC West, the Raiders’ hopes for a meaningful season are now very much alive.