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What we learned: Chiefs move to top in AFC West

The Kansas City Chiefs took control of the AFC West with a 21-13 victory over the Oakland Raiders in the severe cold of Arrowhead Stadium. Here's what we learned in Thursday night's Week 14 kickoff:

  1. Andy Reid's club manhandled Oakland's high-powered attack for the second time this season, vaulting from the AFC's No. 5 seed to the two-hole behind the Patriots. The Raiders, on the other hand, plummeted from the mountain top to the fifth spot formerly occupied by Kansas City. The Chiefs' first victory in 44 years with a negative-three turnover differential was a balanced effort, led by Bob Sutton's defense, Tyreek Hill's dynamic kick-return ability and Alex Smith's out-of-body experience as a mad bomber blowing up Jack Del Rio's secondary. The Chiefs are now an NFL-best 20-3 in their last 23 regular-season games, leading the league with a plus-197 point differential over that span. They have not lost a game in December since 2014.
  1. Even with an interception and a lost fumble, Smith thoroughly outplayed his MVP-candidate counterpart. Derided for his penchant of throwing short of the sticks in a conservative aerial attack, Smith let loose with a barrage of perfectly placed intermediate and deep throws. His 38-yard touchdown to Hill was just his third touchdown of 20 or more air yards in the past three years -- the same number as Johnny Manziel and Buccaneers backup Mike Glennon. Of Smith's five completions over 30 air yards this season, three came Thursday night in a 12-degree wind chill. In two games versus the Raiders this season, he completed 36 of 48 passes (75.0 percent) at a gaudy 10.2 yards per attempt. After a few road bumps last month, he's now taking his best two-game stretch of the season into next week's game versus the Titans.
  1. When Derek Carr's MVP campaign ultimately falls short, he can point to his two back-breaking performances versus his division rival. The prediction in Kansas City this week, per NFL Network's James Palmer, was that Carr's fractured pinky finger would be stiff and painful in the elements. That certainly seemed to be the case, even if Carr downplayed the notion after the game. He took all of his snaps from the shotgun formation, misfired on basic throws, failed to generate his usual velocity on a few deeper passes and showed a disturbing penchant for dumping off short of the sticks on third downs. Carr finished the night averaging a minuscule 2.85 yards on 41 attempts, the second-lowest figure in the Super Bowl era by a quarterback with 40 or more throws.
  1. To be fair, Carr got precious little help from a star-studded wide receiver corps that struggled to make plays versus Kansas City's stingy cornerback trio of Marcus Peters, Steven Nelson and Terrance Mitchell. Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper and Seth Roberts turned 26 targets into 62 yards -- a mind-numbing display of futility. Crabtree couldn't get open, a wide-open Cooper lost the ball on a potential game-changing touchdown and Roberts failed to convert a bevy of red-zone opportunities.
  1. If not for Dallas' sensational tandem of MVP candidates, Tyreek Hill would be running away with the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The NFL's fastest player toasted David Amerson and Nate Allen for a 38-yard touchdown, staking the Chiefs to a 7-3 lead on the second play of the second quarter. Seven minutes later, he scampered through Oakland's special teams untouched for an incredibly effortless 78-yard punt-return score. More than just a dynamic kick returner, Hill is now the first rookie in the Super Bowl era to reach pay dirt via a pass, run, kickoff return and punt return. He's just the third player in that span to record a receiving touchdown and kick-return touchdown in two different games. If you're still bemoaning Kansas City's dearth of playmakers, you're not paying close enough attention.
  1. Speaking of playmakers, it took Jeremy Maclin's groin injury for the Chiefs to feature Travis Kelce as the centerpiece of their passing game. Essentially Rob Gronkowski-lite as the NFL's premier run-after-catch threat at tight end, Kelce joined Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham as the only players at the position to reach the 100-yard mark in four consecutive games.
  1. Kansas City's defense is developing a reputation as an MVP killer. After safety Eric Berry turned two Matt Ryan interceptions into a game-changing nine points last week, he and his cohorts comprehensively stifled Carr's aerial attack. The Raiders had a prime opportunity to steal the victory with three takeaways in their opponent's territory, only to manage just six points and a scant 14 yards on those possessions. It's worth noting that Kansas City's defense and special teams entered the night accounting for 49.5 percent of the team's points this season. That's a higher mark than the 1985 Bears (42.1), 2000 Ravens (46.5), 2002 Buccaneers (48.6) and 2015 Broncos (45.9) -- regarded as the greatest defenses of the past four decades.
  1. On a more disappointing note, leading tackler Derrick Johnsonruptured his Achilles tendon for the second time in three years. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, Johnson has been one of the league's premier inside linebackers for the past half-decade.
  1. Defensive Player of the Year candidate Khalil Mack's strip of Smith gave him a sack for an eighth consecutive game -- the longest active streak in the league and tied for longest in Raiders history. Over the last six games, Mack has terrorized opposing offensive lines for eight sacks, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, a touchdown and an interception. As transcendent as Mack has been of late, the rest of the defense looms as a stumbling block in the postseason. The Raiders entered the game allowing 6.2 yards per play, not just the most generous figure in the league but also the highest in franchise history. It shouldn't come as a surprise that a system quarterback like Smith sliced and diced this secondary in his most aggressive performance of the season.
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