OAKLAND, Calif. — On the Kansas City Chiefs’ first play from scrimmage Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, running back Jamaal Charles caught a screen pass from quarterback Alex Smith in the left flat and raced 49 yards for a touchdown.
That was just a hint of what was to come.
Charles scored a team-record-tying five touchdowns, and the Chiefs clinched a playoff berth with a resounding 56-31 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
Charles caught four touchdown passes from Smith — three on screens — and ran for a touchdown, tying former running back Abner Haynes for the team touchdown record, set in 1961 against the Raiders.
Charles caught eight passes for a career-high 195 yards and added eight carries for 20 yards, helping the Chiefs (11-3) make the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Last season, Kansas City finished 2-14, tied for the NFL’s worst record.
“We worked so hard,” Charles said. “This just shows you how hard work pays off. If we keep working this way, we can go farther.”
The Chiefs also pulled into a tie for first in the AFC West with Denver, but the Broncos beat Kansas City twice, so they own the tiebreaker.
The Raiders (4-10) lost their fourth consecutive game and set a franchise record for points allowed, snapping the old mark of 55, which they gave up three times, including last season against the Baltimore Ravens.
“We get paid out there to play, we get paid out there to not let these guys light up the scoreboard the way they did,” Raiders cornerback Tracy Porter said. “They did what we didn’t want them to do. We have no one to blame but ourselves. That’s just something that we have to live with for now.”
Smith completed 17 of 20 passes for 287 yards and a career-high five touchdowns. He posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
“Teammates made me look good,” Smith said. “I didn’t do much. I mean, three screens for touchdowns. I’ve never been a part of anything like that or seen that. Pretty special.”
Raiders rookie quarterback Matt McGloin completed 18 of 36 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns, but he was intercepted four times and had a passer rating of 57.1. Backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor went 1-for-4 for 12 yards with an interception.
Chiefs safety Eric Berry intercepted two passes, returning his first pick 47 yards for a touchdown. In all, the Chiefs’ defense forced seven turnovers — five interceptions and two fumbles.
“We’re a humble group,” said Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, who had one interception. “Last year was a year that we wouldn’t wish on any team — on or off the field — that we went through. But it’s just gratifying how we’ve grown in the short time with the new regime coming in. (Coach) Andy Reid has been a huge part to our success, and our confidence is very high, and we’ve played well.”
The Raiders were officially eliminated from playoff contention earlier Sunday when the Miami Dolphins beat the New England Patriots. It is the 11th consecutive year Oakland missed the playoffs and failed to finish above .500.
“We just have to play better,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “I have to do a better job of getting them ready to play.”
What the Raiders said
“I have no clue. You’ve seen screens get out of the gate before, but to have a team go back to it and beat you almost every time, there’s no explanation for it. It shouldn’t happen. It did happen, but it shouldn’t. That’s hard to watch a guy run up and down the field like that, basically untouched.” — S Charles Woodson, on Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles scoring three touchdowns on screen passes Sunday.
What the Chiefs said
“We talked about it right after the season was over. So this isn’t anything that we just fell into. As soon as coach (Andy Reid) came in, this is what we’re talking about. Now it’s time to build off what we’ve been doing and keep it moving.” – S Eric Berry, on going from 2-14 last season to making the playoffs this year.
What we learned about the Raiders
1. After a promising start this season, the Raiders defense has regressed to the point that it might have to be blown up yet again after the season. Kansas City thoroughly embarrassed the Raiders defense, gashing it for three touchdowns on screen passes from quarterback Alex Smith to running back Jamaal Charles. Charles scored five touchdowns, and the Raiders gave up 56 points, a franchise record. “The last few weeks have really been frustrating and unexpected, simply because we really played pretty good defense, for the most part, all season,” Raiders safety Charles Woodson said. “We’ve been letting some things get away from us out there on Sundays. It’s really unexplainable and inexcusable at the same time.”
2. The Raiders have multiple needs on both sides of the ball, but finding a franchise quarterback should be their top priority in next April’s NFL draft and, for that matter, in free agency. Neither rookie Matt McGloin nor Terrelle Pryor appears to be the answer. McGloin has had flashes of brilliance, but he’s undersized and prone to making costly mistakes. He threw for 297 yards and two touchdowns Sunday against Kansas City, but he was intercepted four times and lost a fumble. Pryor threw only four passes, but one of those was intercepted.
What we learned about the Chiefs
1. Coach Andy Reid should clear a space in his trophy case for his second NFL Coach of the Year Award. Reid took over a Chiefs team that went 2-14 last year and has them in the playoffs at 11-3 and tied for first place in the AFC West. He has orchestrated one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NFL history. “That was our goal from Day 1 when coach Reid came in,” Chiefs guard Jeff Allen said. “He told us we had the potential to be whatever we wanted to be. We put in the work and this is the results so far.”
2. Running back Jamaal Charles might not win the league’s MVP Award, but he should at least be in the conversation. After catching four touchdown passes and running for one touchdown Sunday, Charles has 18 total touchdowns for the season — 11 rushing and seven receiving. He has rushed for 1,182 yards on 246 carries and caught 65 passes for 655 yards. He leads the Chiefs in rushing and receiving. “He’s got my (MVP) vote,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I don’t know anybody could be more valuable to a team and to the success that we’ve had than he has. I’m pulling for him.”