OAKLAND – The Raiders hadn’t played truly meaningful December football in years. Sunday was such an instance, the first since a 2011 campaign that ended just short of a postseason.
A critical clash with Kansas City had playoff implications for both, though it was a virtual must-win for the Raiders.
The Raiders’ road to the postseason could be considered unlikely, but most every realistic scenario included a victory over the Chiefs on Sunday at O.co Coliseum.
They didn’t get one.
Key turnovers cost the Raiders a fourth-quarter lead and prompted a 34-20 loss to the rival Chiefs that dropped the Raiders to 5-7 and further behind in the AFC.
They now sit two full games behind the Chiefs -- winners of six straight -- and the New York Jets with the Pittsburgh Steelers left to play as of Sunday afternoon.
Derek Carr rarely makes big mistakes. He made three huge ones in the fourth quarter, with a trio of fourth-quarter interceptions that essentially gifted 20 points Kansas City.
The first pick happened when the Chiefs had a second-and-10 play well covered, with pressure mounting in the pocket. Carr tried to stay alive, evaded tacklers and eventually threw off balance right to linebacker Josh Mauga. He returned the interception inside the Raiders five-yard line, and Kansas City scored a few plays later.
The game was tied 20-20 thanks to a missed extra point by each team, seeming to set up a tight game down the stretch.
That didn’t happen. Carr’s other two interceptions saw to that.
Carr’s second pick came with Michael Crabtree fell and Carr threw an interception to Marcus Peters, who set up another easy score.
The Raiders missed a 49-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter that could’ve made it a three-point game.
Then Carr threw a pick-six to former Raider Tyvon Branch, who returned it 38 yards for a touchdown.
The Raiders didn’t finish strong, but started fast, with a nine-play, 80-yard drive on the game’s opening series. They ran right down the field, spurned by a 35-yard dash from Latavius Murray. He ran five times for 50 yards on that drive, which proved to be an isolated incident in the first half.
Kansas City quarterback Alex responded with a three-yard touchdown run later in the quarter to tie it up. It stayed at 7-7 most of the first half, until Charles Woodson gave the Silver and Black some life.
He stripped Travis Kelce and returned the fumble 40 yards to set up a Michael Crabtree touchdown catch four plays later. It was an excellent grab, where he held on despite getting hit by two Chiefs defenders.
Kansas City responded to start the second half, with a game-tying, 10-yard run by running back Spencer Ware.
The Raiders regained the advantage with a five-yard touchdown pass to Lee Smith, which punctuated a 13-play, 83-yard drive that took up most of the third quarter and gave the defense a big break.
That was about the last point of positivity for the Raiders, who watched their playoff go on life support after that.
Woodson strikes again: Veteran safety Charles Woodson made another big play in a season of them. He stripped tight end Travis Kelce, recovered his own fumble and returned it 40 yards to set up a Michael Crabtree touchdown catch just before halftime.
The play gave the Raiders a jolt after sulking through the second quarter. He also recovered a fumble earlier in the quarter.
Mack attacks: Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack caused havoc for a season straight week. He was credited with sacking Smith three times. He finished with multiple sacks for the second straight week, and has accomplished that feat four times in his young career.
Chiefs turnover streak snapped: The Kansas City Chiefs went five full games without turning the football over. Not coincidently, they won each of those contests.
The Raiders ended that run in the first half, when Malcolm Smith forced Jeremy Maclin to fumble and Woodson recovered.
The Raiders forced two more turnover(s), and had a minus-1 turnover ratio in the game.
Tim Brown gets HOF ring: Raiders receiver Tim Brown was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this fall, and he received his commemorative ring during a halftime ceremony.
Brown rocked his gold jacket during a five-minute speech, thanking fans and members of the organization for their part in his great career.
Injury update: Raiders safety Nate Allen limped off the field late in the fourth quarter. Left tackle Donald Penn was also banged up late in the game, though the team didn’t update his status during the game.
Hudson inactive again: Raiders center Rodney Hudson missed his second straight start and the third in four weeks against his old team. A sprained ankle has kept him from practicing much, leaving Tony Bergstrom to fill in.
The Raiders also missed Taiwan Jones to injury.
Other Raiders inactives: CB Keith McGill WR Rod Streater, LB Neiron Ball, TE Gabe Holmes and OL Khalif Barnes.
What's next: The Raiders head to the Mile High City for the season’s penultimate road trip. The Broncos beat the Chargers pretty good, and are playing well with young quarterback Brock Osweiler under center. These division rivals kept it close in Week 5 in Oakland. The Raiders must be competitive again this go-round.