OAKLAND (AP) — Derek Carr’s first meeting against the Kansas City Chiefs was a memorable one.
With the Oakland Raiders mired in a 0-10 start in his rookie season, Carr led an 80-yard drive in the rain to throw the game-winning touchdown pass to James Jones with 1:46 remaining.
“I always had confidence in myself, I was just waiting for the wins to happen,” Carr said. “We were blessed enough to finally get one, and it happened to be on a touchdown pass.”
That was a sign of things to come for Carr, whose dramatic improvement in year two is the biggest reason why the Raiders (5-6) are still in the playoff hunt in December heading into Sunday’s home game against the streaking Chiefs (6-5).
Carr has thrown two more late game-winning touchdown passes this season, including a 12-yarder to Seth Roberts that gave Oakland a 24-21 win last week at Tennessee to snap a three-game skid. Carr also led a go-ahead field goal drive at Chicago and threw a late game-tying touchdown pass at Pittsburgh only to watch the defense blow the lead in those games.
It’s all part of a season in which Carr has thrown for 2,895 yards with 24 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 101.5 passer rating to make the Raiders contenders again.
“He was poised last year for a rookie and he’s even more poised now,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid said. “He gets the ball out fast. I think the Raiders are very fortunate to have him.”
The Chiefs are happy with their quarterback as well, with Alex Smith posting the second-highest passer rating of his career at 94.6 and going 283 straight passes without an interception. That has helped key a five-game winning streak that has put Kansas City in playoff position.
“You’re touching the football every play as a quarterback and that comes with a lot of responsibility in executing the offense,” Smith said. “You focus on what it is you’re trying to do. You try to make good decisions, play fast, throw the ball accurately and get it to your playmakers, that’s what you’re thinking about really.”
Here are some other things to watch when the Chiefs visit the Raiders:
PROTECT THE BALL: The Chiefs have gone five straight games without a turnover, tied for the second-longest single-season streak in NFL history. Only the 2010 New England Patriots had a longer streak at seven games. Other than a five-turnover debacle against Denver in Week 2, theChiefs have just three turnovers in the other 10 games. The Raiders have just two takeaways the past three weeks.
MURRAY’S BREAKOUT: Carr wasn’t the only Raider with a breakout performance against Kansas City last year. Latavius Murray ran four times for 112 yards and two TDs in that November win, highlighted by a 90-yard touchdown run. After struggling to get on the field to start his career, that game helped make Murray the starter. He has 765 yards so far this season and is on pace to become Oakland’s first 1,000-yard back since 2010.
RUNNING DEPTH: When star running back Jamaal Charles went down with a season-ending knee injury in October, the Chiefs had just one win and appeared to be going nowhere. But undrafted second-year running back Charcandrick West has filled the void. West is averaging 114 yards from scrimmage with four TDs in his past four games. He missed last week’s win over Buffalo, but is expected to play Sunday.
AWESOME AMERSON: The Raiders’ suspect secondary got a big boost last week from David Amerson, who has made a big impact since being claimed off waivers from Washington in September. Amerson replaced DJ Hayden in the starting lineup last week and had six passes defensed and an interception. Amerson is tied for the league lead with 19 passes defensed for the season, despite only playing nine games.
HOMECOMING: The Chiefs also have gotten a big impact in the secondary from a newcomer. First-round pick Marcus Peters has four of Kansas City’s 14 interceptions this season. The Chiefs had just six picks all of last season and Peters would love to add another in his hometown of Oakland.