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Five things we learned as the Chiefs edged the Raiders

The Chiefs got their ninth victory in a squeaker at the Raiders’ new stadium. So what did we learn?

The Kansas City Chiefs extended their record to 9-1 with a last-minute 35-31 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday night. Here are five things we learned from the game:

1. The Raiders are doing it right

Kansas City Chiefs v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In the coming days, you’re going to hear a lot of complaining about the Chiefs defense in this game. It won’t be unjustified. The defense could have — should have — done a better job.

But I think it’s a mistake to put it all on their shoulders. I said it before the game — and I’ll say it now: We’d better get used to the idea that the Raiders are a good football team.

When head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock took over the team, I thought that if they were capable of turning the franchise around — which in my mind, was a big if — it was going to take a while. But in the third year of their stewardship, Las Vegas is getting it done. They’ve built an incredible offensive line. They’re bringing in young, talented offensive skill players with a lot of upside. They’re focusing on building a team that can win in their division — and they’re making it clear to their players that winning those division games should be their top priority.

That’s exactly how you go about building a contender.

And there’s one other thing to which we need to become accustomed: Derek Carr is a good quarterback. Sure... the Chiefs have consistently made him look foolish throughout his Raiders career. But he’s now convinced me that with an offensive line that can protect him, the right coaching and the right weapons, he can be dangerous — even against the Chiefs.

In the past week, there’s been a lot of talk about how the rivalry between the Chiefs and Raiders has been rebooted. It all started with the crazy story about the Raiders’ “victory lap” around Arrowhead Stadium after their Week 5 victory. That kind of thing may provide color to a sports rivalry, but rivalries always start with two teams that are pretty evenly matched; every game between them could go either way.

Whether we like it or not, the Raiders and the Chiefs now satisfy that requirement.

2. Le’Veon Bell finally stepped up

Kansas City Chiefs v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

Ever since the Chiefs acquired Bell five weeks ago, fans have wondered: when are we going to see Bell step up?

It happened on Sunday... but just not in the way we might have expected.

Bell was actually used only sparingly, accumulating just 25 yards (and a touchdown) on seven carries — and catching a single pass for 11 yards. But Bell’s influence was clearly on display in the play of first-round rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

Right from Kansas City’s opening drive, Edwards-Helaire was playing like Bell at his very best: patiently waiting for blocks to develop, spinning our of tackles and finding seams. And best of all... he was getting tough yards inside — something with which Edwards-Helaire has had real difficulty this season.

It doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. Edwards-Helaire had most of his use (and production) in the first half. He ended up with 69 yards (and two touchdowns) on 14 carries, plus a single reception for eight yards. But here’s the thing: sometimes — if you squinted a little bit — it wasn’t hard to imagine that the 25 on that jersey was actually a 26.

We need to credit Bell for respecting Edward-Helaire’s position on the team before deciding to make Kansas City his new home; it was an incredibly classy move. And now, we need to credit him for being a good influence on his new team’s talented young running back.

We may never get to see the same Le’Veon Bell that terrorized the Chiefs during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. And after this season, we probably won’t see him in a Chiefs uniform again. But if Bell’s Kansas City legacy includes being a positive influence on Edwards-Helaire during his rookie season, his signing could end up among the smartest the franchise has ever made.

3. Not everything can be quantified in a box score

Kansas City Chiefs v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

You’ll often see me use a quarterback’s passer rating — or a defense’s passer rating against opposing quarterbacks — to make a point. Like every statistic, it isn’t perfect. The formula counts some things twice and ignores other easily quantifiable data that could make it a better measure of a quarterback’s ability — and a defense’s ability to stop them.

But it does one thing that makes it useful: it correlates well with winning and losing. In most games where one quarterback has a passer rating substantially greater than the other, there’s a very good chance that his team won the game.

That wasn’t the case in Sunday night’s game. At halftime, Derek Carr’s passer rating was 135.2. Patrick Mahomes’ was a middling 82.4. Even at the end of the game, Carr’s was 119.7, while Mahomes’ was 102.8.

But there can’t be any doubt about which quarterback was better on Sunday night.

When the game was on the line, Mahomes was simply spectacular. Getting the ball at his own 25 with 1:43 remaining — and trailing by three points — all Mahomes needed was to put the team in a position to kick a field goal, tie the game and force overtime. But Mahomes never wants to settle for what he needs to do. 69 seconds later, the Chiefs had won the game on a 22-yard pass to tight end Travis Kelce that Mahomes threw while he was being chased down.

“You know you’re always in it,” Kelce said of his quarterback after the game. “And that’s the biggest thing. You know you can go out there and create energy.”

And victories.

4. Reid and Mahomes came up with another great play

Kansas City Chiefs v Tennessee Titans Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

In what appeared to be another variation of the Ferrari Right play we saw two weeks ago against the Carolina Panthers, Mahomes went in motion to his right. But instead of snapping to Mahomes in motion, center Austin Reiter instead sent it to Kelce, who was lined up as a running back. Kelce threw an underhanded pass to wide receiver Byron Pringle in the middle of the line — a variation of the shovel pass play we’ve seen run from Mahomes to Kelce multiple times — and Pringle fought his way through some disorganized blocking to get a first down at the Raiders’ 3-yard line.

The Chiefs scored on the next play. And defensive coordinators across the league let out a heavy sigh.

How can they compete against — or prepare for — the creativity of the Chiefs’ head coach and his quarterback? For them, it’s bad enough that Reid is among the most unpredictable play designers in the business — but now they have to contend with what Mahomes dreams up while he’s fooling around with the special-teams unit during practice?

We often hear it said that Mahomes is a generational talent — and there’s little doubt he is exactly that. It’s easy to think that Mahomes would be great playing for any other coach (or any other team) in the league. But I’m really starting to wonder if it’s more complicated — that the specific combination of this coach and this quarterback is really something unprecedented.

However it came to be, I’m glad it’s happening here. And now.

5. Maybe this time, it wasn’t Andy Reid after the bye

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As we reminded you early last week, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid came into this game with a stellar 24-5 record following a bye week. Now his post-bye week record has improved to 25-5.

But perhaps there was something else going on, too.

On September 16, 1960, the Dallas Texans played their inaugural road game against the Raiders in San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium. The Texans won 34-16, notching their first AFL victory after losing to the Los Angeles Chargers in the new league’s first week of play. The following season, they played the Raiders for the first time at Candlestick Park, winning 42-35 on September 24, 1961.

By the league’s third season, the Raiders had plans for a home of their own: the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. But until it was completed in 1966, they played their games at Oakland’s Frank Youell Field. When the newly-named Kansas City Chiefs first visited that stadium on September 23, 1962, they dispatched the Raiders 26-16.

Beginning to see a pattern here?

The Raiders won their first game at the Coliseum in 1966. But two weeks later, the Chiefs visited their new home for the first time, dealing Oakland their fourth-straight loss in the Chiefs’ first visit to a new Raiders stadium.

The Chiefs wouldn’t get another chance until 1982, when the now-Los Angeles Raiders played their first game against the Chiefs at another new home: the Los Angeles Coliseum. This time, it was the Raiders who emerged victorious, defeating the Chiefs 21-16 on December 12, 1982. But it should be noted that game wasn’t really between the Chiefs and Raiders. Instead, it was between two squads of replacement players called in during 1982’s strike-shortened season.

Which leads us to the Raiders’ return to their original Coliseum in 1995. Of course, the Chiefs won on their first visit to the Raiders’ new-old home, picking up a 29-23 victory on December 3, 1995.

So why should we surprised that Kansas City’s first Rumble at the Roomba would be a win — with or without an extra week of rest?