KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Just what the Raiders were hoping for, another Western Division contender. These latest ones are the Kansas City Chiefs, whom the Raiders had hoped to put back in their place, although it didn't work out that way.
Instead, the Raiders disappeared into a red maelstrom and got torn pride from poise. The Chiefs outscored them, 24-0, in 15:33 of the second half, led, 36-14, and won, 36-20, before 72,686 partisans in Arrowhead Stadium who'd waited a long time for a Thursday night like this.
Even with their little rally, it was the Raiders' worst loss since they moved to Los Angeles. And their prime TV time record, best in the NFL, dropped to 25-6-1.
"Well, I don't have any excuses," Coach Tom Flores said. "There are no excuses for a game like this. . . .
"They have a good football team. We knew it coming in. We know it going out."
The Raiders almost went out horizontally, having been beaten most ways there are. They actually led for most of the first half, first 7-0 after Jim Plunkett drove them 63 yards on their second possession, then 14-9 when Todd Christensen made a fabulous leaping touchdown catch, going up one-handed, tipping a high pass to himself and then catching it.
So much for Raider highlights.
Everything else was Chief highlights. Their wide receivers burned the great Raider cornerbacks to the consistency of toast. Carlos Carson caught five passes for 118 yards, most of them on Lester Hayes, who was reduced to fury.
Hayes was called for interfering with Carson on one play early in the third period. On the next, Carson caught a deep sideline pass on Hayes, who claimed he'd been interfered with. Actually, the replay suggested that Hayes didn't have the worst case in the world. To make his point, Hayes took off his helmet and dashed it into the turf, but the official presiding wasn't impressed.
That drive, on the first Kansas City possession of the second half, went down to the Raider four-yard line, but the Raider defense stopped it once more. Nick Lowery kicked his fifth field goal of the game, a 21-yarder that put the Chiefs ahead, 15-14.
To that point, the Raiders still hadn't given up a touchdown in the six-plus quarters of this season, but it was on its way. The next time the Chiefs got the ball, Carson caught a 25-yard touchdown pass on the greatest of the corners, Mike Haynes himself. Now the Chiefs led, 22-14.
Haynes later complained about the officiating and the strangeness of playing on AstroTurf, but one other thing was clear. The Chief receivers won. The Raider corners lost.
"It's no Gestapo secret," Hayes said later. "We're going to be in man-to-man coverage. Some games, they're going to catch some passes on us."
It's the second game of the season, so you might try charity. Give some credit to the Chiefs.
"I saw some great catches out there," linebacker Matt Millen said, turning to Rod Martin dressing next to him. "Right, Rodney?
"People forget. There are some All-Pros over there. We ask a lot of our corners. We expect a lot because they are what they are."
They were asking even more Thursday night, because the Chiefs were threatening to take the football home and keep it. The Raiders gained 139 yards in the first half, but 81 came in their first two possessions.
After their first touchdown, the Chiefs ran off 31 of the next 40 plays. Then they ran off 22 of the first 27 in the second half.
The reason for this was simple. The Raiders couldn't move the ball. That young Chiefs' three-man defensive front, which Raider executive assistant Al LoCasale had called "the bluest chip in football," was taking the Raider running game and throwing it back at them. The Chiefs' tough young secondary was keeping Plunkett off his wide receivers. Plunkett was 34 for 48, but it was was mostly the nickel-dime stuff the Raiders have no use for.
Trailing, 22-14, the Raiders took over again. This time they managed to keep the ball for one play before an old bugaboo hit--a turnover.
Plunkett was sacked by Chief nose tackle Bill Maas, edging around guard Charley Hannah. Plunkett fumbled, and the Chiefs recovered at the Raider six. Three plays later, Bill Kenney drilled a five-yard pass to Stephone Paige in the end zone. Now it was 29-14.
Next, the Raiders tried Don Mosebar at center to help block Maas and, Flores said, because Dave Dalby had a sore ankle.
But Mosebar, who had trouble with his snaps in exhibition games, had trouble with his snaps here. His second one to Plunkett was never received. It rolled back into the Raider end zone, where Albert Lewis, a Chief cornerback, recovered, making the score 36-14. As crowning indignities go, this one ranked up there.
It didn't get any worse for the Raiders, but then, how much worse could it get?