BALTIMORE (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have put themselves in the middle of the AFC playoff race with a style once embodied by the Baltimore Ravens.
Combining an opportunistic defense with the mistake-free play of quarterback Alex Smith, the Chiefs have rattled off eight straight victories. The most recent of those, a 34-14 rout of Baltimore on Sunday, was not unlike many during this record-breaking streak.
The Chiefs (9-5) forced three turnovers, didn’t commit any, and made the Ravens (4-10) pay for just about every one of their miscues. Although Baltimore finished with an advantage in yardage and first downs, Kansas City’s ball-hawking was the difference.
“That’s our defense. We all go for the ball, and that’s the name of the game,” said Tyvon Branch, who scored on a 73-yard fumble return.
The Ravens used that creed to make the playoffs in six of the previous seven seasons. This year, however, Baltimore has a minus-15 turnover differential.
“When you’re not turning the ball over, when you’re not committing penalties and you’re relentless, those are huge keys to success,” Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “That’s what Kansas City did and that’s what we’re used to doing in Baltimore.”
No stranger to a late-season playoff run, the Ravens recognize the quality of Kansas City’s play of late.
“They’re definitely a team that we would like to mold ourselves off of, especially how they look right now,” Ravens receiver Kamar Aiken noted. “They’re going to be a playoff team, probably, and they get it right now.”
Marcus Peters clinched the victory by taking an interception 90 yards for a score, giving Kansas City a 20-point cushion with 4:36 remaining.
“We needed that one. It always helps when you get a pick-six, man,” Peters said. “We need to score on defense.”
Some other things we learned about the Chiefs and Ravens:
RECORD BREAKERS — With the victory, the Chiefs became the first team in NFL history to follow a five-game skid with eight successive wins in the same season.
Baltimore lost its third straight and fell to 2-5 at home. It’s the first time in the 20-year history of the franchise that the Ravens have lost five home games in a single season.
In addition to the turnovers, the Ravens extended a Kansas City drive with a foolish penalty and came up short on a risky fake punt.
“You’re not going to win games turning the ball over,” said quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who was intercepted twice. “That’s just a fact.”
A LITTLE EMPATHY — John Harbaugh is part of Andy Reid’s coaching tree, having served as his assistant in Philadelphia before taking over the Ravens.
So Reid has an affinity for his former pupil, and showed some empathy for the rough patch the skidding Ravens and Harbaugh are experiencing.
“This isn’t the easiest victory I’ve been involved with,” Reid said. “He’s been dealt some heavy cards here with injuries. Sometimes you do your finest coaching job when that takes place, for whatever crazy reason. He’s been unbelievable. He and his staff have been unbelievable. They are shallow in a lot of spots and the guys who have stepped up and played hard and nobody is giving up.”
DIFFERENT LOOKS — As the Ravens limp to the finish line in the season’s final two weeks, Smith warned that future opponents shouldn’t get too tied to what’s in the scouting reports or what’s on film from early in the season.
With lots of new faces in new places thanks to an abundance of injuries, what the Chiefs saw Sunday from Baltimore wasn’t always what they were expecting — especially on defense.
“They broke character today and did things that we hadn’t seen on film,” Smith said. “I’m not sure why. They gave us a bunch of un-scouted looks, but we were fortunate to make some good adjustments.”
AIKEN’S BIG DAY — Aiken had a career day in defeat.
Aiken’s eight receptions for 128 yards were both career highs, and included a 48-yard touchdown on a Hail Mary to close the first half.
“He’s just a playmaker.” Clausen said. “When the ball’s thrown his way, he’s catching it, taking it out of the air, and making plays.”
Said Aiken: “Personally, my whole thing is I’d rather win games. I’d rather have 10 yards and get a W than have 100 yards and get a loss.”