By Terrance Turner
Jan. 7, 2022
Today the NFL season finale kicked off with a match between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Las Vegas Raiders. It’s the first game since the frightening injury to Bills safety Damar Hamlin on Monday night. Players wore “Love for Damar” T-shirts during their on-field warmups.
The Kansas City offense was dominant in the first half. It’s a continuation of what’s been a strong season. The Chiefs enter the game at 13-3, having racked up a string of wins. The Raiders, meanwhile, come in at 6-10, having lost a series of close games.
The Chiefs offense started the game. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes handed the ball off to running back Isaiah Pacheco. And then he aired it out, heaving a cross-the-field pass to Justin Watson for 66 yards. Watson outran his defender, going out of bounds at the four-yard line.
On second and goal, refs flagged the Raiders defense for having 12 men on the field. That penalty moved the Chiefs up some. And on third and goal, Mahomes scrambled near the goal line. At first it looked like he was going to run into the end zone, but then he tossed the ball (one-handed) to wide receiver Jerick McKinnon.
The Raiders offense started their drive by picking up two consecutive first downs. Then quarterback Jarrett Stidham completed a third down with a pass to wide receiver Davante Adams, who picked up 13.
Stidham tried to score with an end-zone heave to Adams. But throwing into double coverage led to an incomplete pass. Then on 3rd and 6th, Stidham got sacked by Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones. It’s his 14th sack of the season. The Raiders settled for three. They made it onto the scoreboard with a 54-yard field goal.
The Chiefs came back on the field. The drive stalled when Mahomes’ passes to tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Marquez Valdez-Scantling were disrupted. The Raiders defense broke up both passes.
Las Vegas wide receiver Mack Hollins picked up a first down on the Raiders’ next drive. But a miscommunication in the backfield led to a botched play, and Stidham got sacked by Chiefs safety Justin Reid. Then Stidham was intercepted by Juan Thornhill.
The Chiefs got the ball back at the 44-yard line. Mahomes gained 28 yards with a pass to WR Juju Smith-Schuster. Then Kadarius Toney juked Raiders defenders and powered his way to the one-yard line. Toney brought the team to first and goal. That play marked the end of the first quarter.
Chiefs RB Ronald Jones ran in for the touchdown.
Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker kicked the extra point. 14-3 Chiefs at the start of the second quarter.
The Raiders offense sparked when Stidham threw to tight end Darren Waller for 24 yards. Then Stidham converted another third down with a throw to Adams. Later, running back Josh Jacobs converted another third down after slipping through tackles. Ameer Abdullah broke away from tacklers and ran toward first and goal.
What could’ve been a touchdown to Darren Waller fell incomplete (was there pass interference?) on 3rd and goal. The Raiders went for it on fourth and goal, but Stidham’s throw to Adams was also incomplete.
Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby tackled Mahomes just after he threw a pass. The referee threw a flag on Crosby for roughing the passer. Crosby actually went up to Mahomes afterward to plead his case, pointing to the screen as it showed a replay.
But the Chiefs weren’t slowing down. On 2nd and 12, Mahomes scrambled for two yards and on the next play he took off again. Crosby tripped him up – but not before Mahomes picked up a first down .
After the break, the Chiefs played carousel before busting out some razzle-dazzle.
“We call it snow globe,” Mahomes said. The unique huddle break led to an easy score:
Kadarius Toney ran for the touchdown. But refs flagged center Creed Humphrey for holding. (Replay revealed that Humphrey’s hold got broken up by Toney’s run.) In the end, it didn’t matter. Toney scored again on the very next play.
The Raiders’ drive was hampered by penalties. First, number 35 of the Chiefs got flagged for pass interference. Chiefs defensive end George Karlaftis sacked Stidham on 2nd down. Then the Raiders got backed up due to a penalty for illegal use of hands – hands to the face.
On 2nd and 27, Stidham just threw the ball away to avoid a sack by Chris Jones. Then he got sacked again — and this time he lost the ball. Karlaftis recovered the fumble, and the Raiders got flagged for illegal shift!
Kansas City capitalized off of the turnover. With just seconds left before halftime, kicker Harrison Butker nailed a 44 yard field goal to extend the Chiefs lead. Kansas City led 24-3 at the half.
The Raiders got the ball back to start the second half. They also had a field goal at the end of their drive. Their kicker was good from 38 yards out. Las Vegas trailed 24-6 midway through the third quarter.
Following their kickoff, the Chiefs drive ended fairly quickly. Mahomes launched a dangerous pass that was nearly intercepted. And then Maxx Crosby finally got his man, sacking Mahomes to end the drive.
The scoring slowed dramatically as the third quarter came to a close. It ended with a 62 yard punt by Tommy Townsend. And Townsend was feeling himself after that great punt:
The fourth quarter began with a fruitless Raiders drive. Backed up in their own end zone, the team never managed to get far beyond it. They punted the ball away. The Chiefs took over.
Out of the blue, Pacheco took off, running for 31 yards on his way to first and goal. Mahomes passed to Kelce, who landed on his backside just short of the goal line. Pacheco picked up the slack with a one-yard TD run. Chiefs led 31-6.
So Close…Yet So Far
Las Vegas managed to find the end zone after Kansas City scored. Waller had an amazing end-zone catch for a touchdown.
But he landed with one foot out of bounds, and so the refs overturned the score. Luckily for the Raiders, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow scored on the next play.
Things went from bad to worse for the Raiders on their next drive. Stidham threw the ball away to avoid contact. He got flagged for intentional grounding. Then he threw to Adams, who took a shot while in mid-air and hit his head when he landed. Staff walked Adams to the sideline. He went into the blue medical tent. Then Stidham was sacked by Chris Jones.
That basically sealed the game for the Chiefs. When Ronald Jones barreled his way to first and goal with under a minute left, it was all but over. Instead of scoring, the Chiefs merely kneeled down to run out the clock.
The Chiefs won handily, 31-13. They finish the season 14-3 and will win the AFC West. They clinch the NO. 1 seed in the AFC, meaning that they earn a first-round bye in the playoffs. Af
Mahomes was magical again today; he went 18 of 26 for 202 passing yards with a touchdown pass. And he broke former QB Drew Brees record for the most total yards in a season in NFL history. Mahomes finishes the season with 5,250 passing yards, 5,562 total yards and 41 touchdowns.