Game Balls: Chiefs vs. Raiders

The Kansas City Chiefs lost a heart breaker to the Oakland Raiders on Saturday afternoon, 16-13 in overtime to officially eliminate them from the playoffs.

Entering action on Christmas Eve, the Chiefs needed a lot to break right for them in order to be in position to pull into a tie atop the AFC West, a tie they would break and head to the postseason.  As it turns out, the story played out perfectly for Romeo Crennel’s squad.

Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos lost to the struggling Buffalo Bills and the San Diego Chargers were blown out the Detroit Lions.  The final — and most important — piece of the puzzle was the Chiefs beating the Raiders.  Oakland gave Kansas City plenty of opportunities to walk out of Arrowhead with a victory, but the Chiefs couldn’t take care of business.

The offense struggled for much of the day, hurt by penalties and turnovers.  However, down seven with less than three minutes left in the game, Kyle Orton led an 80-yard touchdown drive to tie the game.  That was followed up by a defensive stand an another drive by the Chiefs to the Raiders 31-yard line for a potential game-winning 49-yard field goal.  However, for the second time in the game, Ryan Succop’s kick was blocked and the game went to overtime.

Oakland won the toss and picked up 53 yards on their first play from scrimmage on a bomb from Carson Palmer to Darrius Heyward-Bey.  Three plays later Sebastian Janikowski easily knocked in a 36-yard field goal to end the Chiefs hopes of a playoff birth while pulling themselves into a tie with the Broncos.

Just a week after interim head coach Romeo Crennel looked like the right man to lead the Chiefs going forward in a big win against the previously undefeated Green Bay packers, it appeared the team still needed a full overhaul Saturday.  11 penalties and several huge blown assignments on defense (including the big play in overtime) didn’t do anything to show this is a team that has changed much after firing Todd Haley.

Their season over before the final game of the regular season, the Chiefs will still be a part of a big game in Week 17.  The Broncos will need a win to get in the playoffs and Orton will want to show his former team they made the wrong decision to hand the franchise over to Tebow.

Before we shift focus to the last game of the year and the offseason, here are the three Chiefs player most deserving of a game ball in Saturday’s loss to the Raiders.

Offense: Dexter McCluster

Dwayne Bowe caught the Chiefs only touchdown of the day, but he also dropped a perfect pass from Orton in the end zone earlier in the game.  Making matters worse, Orton’s next pass was intercepted, costing Kansas City seven points.

The only player on offense that turned in big plays and didn’t cost the team points was McCluster.  He finished the day as the Chiefs leading receiver, catching five passes for 89 yards.  His 49-yard catch and run setup the game-tying Bowe touchdown catch.

Though he held onto the ball, McCluster continued to raise concerns about his ability to take the pounding of the NFL.  He was shaken up after two big hits, something he’ll need to shake off if he wants to be a big part of the Kansas City offense in 2012.

Defense: Derrick Johnson

Crennel’s defense continues to be led by Johnson’s All-Pro caliber season.  The linebacker had a team-high seven tackles and two passes defensed.  He picked off one Palmer pass and had another he couldn’t quite reel in.

The only complaint about Johnson’s game is he wasn’t used to get after Palmer more.  The Raiders are one of the best in the league at protecting the quarterback and it would have been nice to see him sent more on blitzes to try and shake things up in the pass rush.

Special Teams: Jalil Brown

The script was perfect for Succop to pick up the honor this week.  He needed just two more to break the franchise record for consecutive field goals made and was good on his first.  However the second was blocked, as was the potential game-winner in the fourth quarter, so he was out.

McCluster and Javier Arenas had one official return each and were fine, but unspectacular.  Dustin Colquitt had a nice day and has an argument to be here, but Brown should get recognized because the rookie is wrapping up a nice little season.

With the Chiefs getting so little from their draft class, it’s easy to look at what the rookies aren’t doing for the team.  But Brown has been a solid special teams contributor on the active roster for all but two games.

After Kansas City’s first drive of the day stalled, Colquitt booted a 54 yard punt that Brown was able to down at the Oakland three yard line.  As the Raiders attempted to drive the field 97 yards for a score, the Chiefs defense was able to force the first of two Palmer interceptions.

He still has a ways to go, but Brown is a kid that will help this Chiefs defense next season.

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