KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs for the first time since 1997 by virtue of their 35-3 thrashing of Oakland Raiders Sunday, and fans at Arrowhead Stadium celebrated by raining down chants of “M-V-P” on quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who says it's a hard question if he deserves the league's most valuable player honors.
“There’s a lot of guys that have played this year that I feel like deserve the MVP,” Mahomes said after a 14-of-24 passing performance for 281 yards, two touchdowns and interception. “It’s not up to me. I just go out there and play my game and try to win football games and let all that stuff handle itself after the season. Hopefully I’m still playing whenever it happens.”
Mahomes showcased his MVP bona fides early, finding wide receiver Tyreek Hill in stride for a 67-yard touchdown strike on the opening drive of the game. Safety Daniel Sorensen later made it 14-0, taking a Derek Carr interception 54 yards for a touchdown. That was one of four turnovers by the Raiders on their first four possessions of the game.
Tight end Jared Cook was the intended target on the play. He though it was a running play, according to Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, and wasn't looking when Carr delivered the quick pass to the right.
“We had the matchup we wanted,” Gruden said. “Jared thought we went to a running play. The noise, the hand signals were not clear, but that was going to be a pass, Cook against Sorensen, Sorensen won. One man thought it was a running play. One man didn’t.”
Running back Damien Williams, who signed a contract extension with the Chiefs earlier this week, made the lead 21-0 midway through the second quarter. That was the sixth touchdown for Williams in the last five games since the team released running back Kareem Hunt.
The Raiders finally got on the board before halftime when rookie kicker Daniel Carlson connected on the board for a 50-yard field goal, matching his career long.
But the Chiefs continued pouring it on the second half. Mahomes found Demarcus Robinson on a deep post route for an 89-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter. That marked touchdown pass No. 50 on the season for Mahomes, making him the third quarterback in league history along with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to reach that mark.
Hill finished the scoring with a 15-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs became the first team in NFL history to score at least 26 points in each game of the season. Their 565 points rank third all-time behind the 2013 Denver Broncos (606) and the 2007 New England Patriots (589).
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid made his case for Mahomes as the league's MVP after the game, making an allusion to three-time NFL MVP Brett Favre, who Reid worked with as an offensive assistant in Green Bay during the 1990s.
“He’s been the MVP,” Reid said. “He’s done good. He's a heck of a player. I was fortunate to be around a three-time MVP and a couple of guys who were right on the edge of being the MVP and this guy is in that category. He's so deserving. In a world of great players, for him to do the things he’s done is phenomenal, and he will continue to do that.”
Tight end Travis Kelce set a new NFL record with 1,336 receiving yards, eclipsing the previous best of 1,327 yards set by Rob Gronkowski in 2011. But Kelce only held the record for only about an hour. San Francisco's George Kittle passed Kelce, finishing with 1,377 receiving yards.
“I might have only had it for about an hour, but it was a fun hour,” Kelce said. “Next year I'll try to break and whatever record is out there.”
Two Chiefs franchise records also feel during the game. Kelce finished the season with 103 receptions, eclipsing the 102 receptions by Tony Gonzalez in 2004. Hill's 1,479 receiving yards broke the old club record of 1,391 yards set by Derrick Alexander in 2000.
“It was amazing but I feel like none of that means nothing to us,” Hill said. “We're all trying to reach a goal, and that's the Super Bowl. So head down, we're all focused. Like I said, it feels great, but right now we just want to win a Super Bowl.”
The Raiders finished 4-12 in the first campaign in Gruden's coaching comeback. That earns them the No. 4 selection in the 2019 NFL draft. Despite the struggles, Gruden says he enjoyed his return to the sideline.
“I love it and it is a great responsibility,” Gruden said. “:I am sure I have a lot of critics out there, but I am really excited to continue to stick my shovel in the ground and keep digging.”