Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Chiefs coach Andy Reid got acquainted with each other on more than an opponent basis at last year’s Pro Bowl.
Reid coached the Jerry Rice team, and Carr joined the Giants’ Eli Manning and the Bills’ Tyrod Taylor as quarterbacks.
Carr, who passed for 198 yards and a touchdown in the game, was impressed.
“I just sat there and watched him teach,” Carr said. “I like to watch the way people teach and try to pick up different leadership techniques from certain people, and I just liked the way that he treated players and the way he coached them.”
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Especially tight end Travis Kelce, who caught two touchdown passes, including one from Carr. But there was this stipulation.
“They’re great people even though obviously we don’t like each other during the season,” Carr said.
Ah, Chiefs-Raiders hate, the bitterness born in the AFL days when the teams were the best in the league’s final years. The teams won three of the last four AFL titles.
The franchises mostly took turns being dominant and relevant over the decades. Thursday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium ranks among the biggest in the rivalry’s history with the Raiders arriving in first place in the AFC West at 10-2 and the Chiefs second at 9-3.
In the playoff picture, if the season ended today, the Raiders would be the AFC’s top seed, the Chiefs’ fifth. A Kansas City triumph would make them no worse than the No. 2 seed with three games remaining.
Reid’s memory of Carr, the third-year pro, was of a quarterback who was “fearless with his throws. He can make all of them.”
But Carr hasn’t had much luck against the Chiefs. He’s 1-4 in his career, his most losses against any team. The victory came in his first game against Kansas City, a 2014 triumph that gave the Raiders their first victory in 11 games.
The Raiders lost the next four, and Carr had the only three-interception game of his career against the Chiefs in 2015.
“I just didn’t complete as many passes as I like to,” Carr said. “I have to take care of the ball against them."
The Chiefs don’t look at their success against Carr and the Raiders as a chain of related events. Each game writes its own story.
“Every game is different,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson. “He’s definitely going to look for the big play. We have to stop the run and eliminate the big play.”
The Chiefs also have to get pressure on Carr, which has proved problematic against him and the Raiders’ strong offensive line this season. The Raiders have allowed a league-low 12 sacks this season. Two came against the Chiefs earlier this season, both by Dee Ford.
In that game, the Raiders reached the end zone on their first possession but not again as the Chiefs won 26-10.
Keeping Carr clean has helped him pile up impressive numbers. Carr’s 24 touchdowns and 281 yards per game rank seventh in the NFL.
But his best number is 10, as in the number of Raiders victories this season, the most since they went 11-5 in 2002, when the Raiders played in the Super Bowl.
“He’s a big-time competitor,” Chiefs safety Eric Berry said. “You can’t coach that. You can’t teach that. A lot of people don’t put a lot of value on that or they forget about that. That’s the one thing that he does, he competes very well.”
And although he understands the rivalry, Carr wasn’t about to sling arrows toward the Chiefs, especially Reid.
“I can’t say mean things about him,” Carr said.