The stadium is named after a niche internet discount retailer and is, without much debate, the absolute worst in both major league baseball and the NFL. It is outdated, and in long overdue need of being replaced, not just improved. The concourses are cramped, the locker room and other player facilities inferior, and the actual playing field is a goat track in the rain.
All of that is true, but so is this: I’m going to miss this charming dump if and when the Raiders move to Las Vegas.
When the Raiders are good, there is nothing like it. The parking lot, even in a steady and strong rain, is an absolute party. I’ve been to every stadium but LA and Charlotte, and I don’t think any have a higher percentage of fans standing the whole game. Maybe some of this is bad sightlines, but still. There’s a real passion here that doesn’t exist everywhere.
It’s football as it used to be, which is why the league and Raiders are desperate for it to be replaced. But I like that it’s still in use. A throwback.
Anyway, onto the game...
▪ The Chiefs’ offensive play calling was terrific, particularly in the first half, probably the best it’s been all season. My gut feeling is that the bulk of this is the bye week. Andy Reid’s record there is well-documented. But this is also the first week the Chiefs have had something close to a full Jamaal Charles, and it doesn’t hurt to play the Raiders’ defense.
▪ They had a good balance of run and pass, for starters. Particularly with the game in Pittsburgh, the Chiefs have been in some situations where they’ve been forced to abandon the run, but they’ve also used that as an excuse. No matter what the score, you don’t need to abandon the run in the first quarter, or the first half. There’s enough time to run your best plays.
▪ So, let’s talk about Dontari Poe’s touchdown. I think this is going to be my column, so just quickly here, but that was the most unnecessarily risky and also amazing play I can remember in a long time. Poe is a freakish athlete, even by the standards of the NFL. He is 346 pounds, ran a 4.98-second 40-yard dash, and has a vertical leap of 29.5 inches. But, c’mon. This was ridiculous.
▪ Poe split to the right side, behind Anthony Sherman, Zach Fulton, and Demetrius Harris, each also lined up as receivers. The ball was, maybe, 18 inches from the goal line on a slippery field. The Chiefs employ Spencer Ware and Jamaal Charles, and they lined up with an empty backfield and a nose tackle split out wide. The play worked, which means it was amazing and hilarious, but because the throw was not forward it would’ve been a fumble if Poe dropped it.
▪ It was Poe’s second touchdown. He scored one in San Diego a few years back, but that was on a more conventional handoff.
▪ Like I said, I think I’m going to write this for my column. I assume Andy Reid named the play after a cheeseburger.
▪ D.J. White could use a hug.
▪ The field really was a dump. Just from warmups, it was ripped up, and by halftime there were divots all of the field, guys slipping from routine cuts. This won’t be an issue when the team is in Vegas.
▪ Charles’ first carry came near the goal line, and he got about four yards after contact, pushing and pushing and pushing, two or three tacklers falling backward. He’s talked constantly of wanting to be known as more than a speed back — more than a track guy — and it’s long been true his greatest strength may be his toughness.
▪ Watching live, it looked like Michael Crabtree was about five yards behind Marcus Peters when Derek Carr threw that ball. It was off his back foot, against pressure, which has always been the moment the scouting report says he makes mistakes. Thing is, Carr had a touchdown or at least a big gain if he got the ball downfield enough. He underthrew it by half, and Peters had a relatively easy interception in his hometown.
▪ Alex Smith was really good, you guys. There were a few times, especially early, where he bailed out of decent pockets and wasn’t able to make plays out of it. But for the most part, he made the right reads, the timing of his throws was good, and the accuracy on point. He was terrible in Pittsburgh, and I was critical of him, so let’s recognize it when he goes the other way.
▪ Some of that, it should be said, is because of the offensive line and the play calling. Even into the fourth quarter, on a field that could’ve hosted a mud fight, Smith’s jersey was sparkly white. The line protected enough, and the plays allowed him to get the ball out quickly.
▪ The Chiefs really controlled this game. They only gave up three points after the Raiders’ first drive, and the margin could’ve been more if not for the missed field goal and extra point. They will find things to clean up — a few penalties, at least one dropped interception, and the corners played a lot of soft coverage — but all-in-all this was the Chiefs’ best performance of the season*.
* Depending on how much of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s meltdown you blame on him or credit to the Chiefs’ defense.
▪ This was a huge weekend for the Chiefs. They could’ve been 2 1/2 games behind both the Broncos and Raiders, but instead are just one behind each in the win column, with a 2-0 division record that includes one road win. Everything they wanted to accomplish before the season is still possible, and they may be favored in their next three games.