KANSAS CITY — If the Kansas City Chiefs ultimately wind up winning the AFC West, they can point to two major defensive stops on a frigid Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium that got them there.
The Chiefs defense, playing without their veteran captain and leading tackler Derrick Johnson, who suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in the second quarter, faced consecutive third-quarter drives starting in the red zone against an MVP-candidate quarterback in Derek Carr and a dynamic Raiders offense.
In holding the Raiders to just one field goal in those two red zone trips en route to a 21-13 AFC West-altering win, the Chiefs showed championship mettle. Carr completed only one of his six passing attempts for zero yards in those two drives, the second of which ended with an aborted field goal attempt after a bad snap.
“When situations happen like that it’s just, ‘Don’t panic. Stay calm,’ ” cornerback Steven Nelson told USA TODAY Sports. “Just do what we’ve been doing and have that killer mindset.”
How different the game — and the division race — could have turned out had the defense allowed a touchdown there.
“Big win. A huge win. On a short week, this late in the year, to overcome all that and get the win tonight. Defense, I think, played amazing,” quarterback Alex Smith said.
After Thursday’s win, the 10-3 Chiefs have now taken control of the wildly competitive AFC West. Kansas City has the same record as Oakland but holds the tiebreaker advantage thanks to a head-to-head season sweep.