(Kansas City) (AP) – Seems like a long time ago that the Oakland Raiders had lost four of their first five games and were scuffling along at the bottom of the AFC West.
Turns out a lot can change in a couple of weeks.
Especially when you’re facing two of the worst teams in the league.
Carson Palmer threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, and the Raiders followed up their overtime win over Jacksonville with a comprehensive 26-16 pasting of the Kansas City Chiefs, their sixth straight win at Arrowhead Stadium.
Suddenly, Oakland (3-4) is a player in the division race.
“Yeah, I feel like our guys have confidence that they can go out and compete, that we can win football games,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “Like I told them, this is only important if you’re able to go out and win the next one.”
If the Raiders are overflowing with confidence, the Chiefs could fit all of theirs in a teaspoon. They’ve lost four straight overall and still have not led in regulation this season, the first team since at least 1940 to go this long in a season, according to STATS LLC.
Matt Cassel threw for 218 yards in place of Brady Quinn, who left in the first half with what the team called a “head injury.” Quinn had started his second straight game even though Cassel was cleared to play following the concussion he sustained three weeks ago against Baltimore.
“It’s unfortunate because I think the guys put a lot into it during the week,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. “You just have to go forward and do the best you can.”
The Chiefs committed four turnovers to run their league-leading total to 25, and their fourth-quarter touchdown was the first by the offense since Sept. 30 against San Diego.
Jamaal Charles, their biggest offensive weapon, carried only five times for 4 yards.
Why did Charles have so few attempts? “Now, that I’m not exactly sure, either,” Crennel said.
While the Chiefs struggled to get their ground game going, Oakland finally did with Darren McFadden. He ran for 114 yards, and in doing so opened up the passing game, allowing Palmer to hit Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey with touchdown throws.
“It took us a while to get it going, but once it finally got going, we finished the game out well,” McFadden said. “We feel like with our offense, you just have to stick with it.”
It was the Raiders’ first road win since beating the Chiefs last December, and certainly a satisfying one. Sebastian Janikowski was perfect on four field-goal attempts, and the Raiders (3-4) nearly became the third straight team to keep the Kansas City offense out of the end zone.
The Chiefs got their lone touchdown on Dexter McCluster’s catch with 2:27 left in the game.
Altogether, it’s little wonder that two more banners appeared prior to the game, towed behind an airplane over Arrowhead Stadium. They were paid for by disgruntled Chiefs fans and renewed their plea from earlier this season that general manager Scott Pioli be fired.
The first play of the game pretty much summed up the confrontation between two of the league’s lousiest teams: Palmer threw into tight coverage and was intercepted by Stanford Routt.
Naturally, the Chiefs countered by going three-and-out and punting.
The Raiders finally got on the board when Palmer found Moore for a short completion that he turned into a 38-yard gain, and Janikowski connected from 36 yards for a 3-0 lead.
The field-goal struggle was on.
Janikowski hit from 38 yards early in the second quarter, and Ryan Succop matched him with a 30-yarder. Succop hit again from 42 yards late in the half to tie the game.
The Raiders took the lead into halftime when the Chiefs’ Javier Arenas fumbled a punt while attempting to make a fair catch. Jon Condo recovered it at the Kansas City 11, and Palmer hit Moore in the back of the end zone on third down to give Oakland a 13-6 lead with 49 seconds left.
The game’s circuslike nature continued in the second half.
Cassel fumbled the snap on the first play of the third quarter and the Raiders’ Tommy Kelly recovered, but Oakland couldn’t manage anything in three plays – two of them woeful throws by Palmer. The Raiders had to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Janikowski.
Succop added a 52-yarder later in the quarter to get the Chiefs within a touchdown, but Oakland answered by going 80 yards in just six plays for another score. Palmer picked on Routt the whole way, and his 36-yard touchdown pass to Heyward-Bey gave the Raiders a 23-9 lead.
How bad were things going for Kansas City? Janikowski finally missed a field goal in the fourth quarter, only for Jalil Brown to be called offsides on the play.
Janikowski knocked the redo through with 8:14 left to put the game away.
“You want to wear a defense down,” McFadden said. “I feel like we did that today, and eventually we were able to start to get them to break out.”