The Chiefs thought they could get to a Raiders’ punt but knew it would be a difficult chore.
Raiders’ punter Marquette King gets his kicks off quickly. Even untouched, it would take a superb effort to get a hand on the ball.
Which made D.J. Alexander’s play in the third quarter all the more impressive. He flew in and blocked the punt with his left arm around the elbow.
The ball bounded out of the end zone for a safety, a well-time play that rebooted the Chiefs.
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“Definitely, definitely a pivotal moment of the game,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said.
After opening the game with touchdown drives on their first two possessions, the Chiefs went stale and it was 14-10 when special teams turned in the special play.
“He did a great job getting there,” said Chris Conley, who lined up to Alexander’s right. “He did a great job looking off the guy who was blocking him and came in scot-free.
“The thing about the Raiders is they get off their punts very quickly. The fact that he got there, that was very impressive.”
The safety provided the Chiefs with their first points of the second half and opened the door for more scoring in that 23-17 victory.
It also continued the superb season on special teams for Alexander, the rookie fifth-round draft selection from Oregon State.
Alexander entered the game as the team’s top tackler on special teams with 11. One of his best came earlier this season at San Diego when he made sure the Chargers regretted a kickoff return and started at their 15.
Sunday, Alexander recorded the Chiefs’ first blocked punt since 2012, when Shaun Draughn blocked a kick at Tampa Bay. It also was the Chiefs’ first safety since 2012.
The Chiefs’ defense set up the special-team’s statement. Oakland started at its 10 but a 1-yard sack by sack Tyvon Branch and an 8-yard sack by Dee Ford — his first since his three-sack game against the Chargers earlier this month — pushed the Raiders to their 7.
Alexander lined up and launched from the left side, and the Chiefs had their second blocked kick of the season. Daniel Sorensen blocked a field goal at Baltimore on Dec. 20.
Alexander’s play unlocked the offense. The Chiefs took the free kick around midfield and quarterback Alex Smith finished the scoring drive with a 15-yard pass to tight end Demetrius Harris to give the Chiefs a two-score lead.
The Raiders weren’t finished but it started to feel that way.
“I would say in the history of the league, if you go on the road and have a punt blocked it probably leads to a poor record,” Del Rio said.