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Graney: Here’s how Raiders helped Chiefs reach Super Bowl 58

You might remember this part: Raiders quarterback Aidan O’Connell completed just 9-of-21 passes.

He hit running back Ameer Abdullah for a 1-yard gain with less than two minutes left in the first quarter. O’Connell didn’t complete another pass the rest of the game.

His team still won in Kansas City 20-14 on Christmas Day.

It ended up turning the Chiefs’ season around.

Crazy. Kansas City hasn’t lost since. The Chiefs are now preparing to face the 49ers in Super Bowl 58 at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday.

Players and coaches from Kansas City will tell you how important losing that game to the Raiders was. That in defeat they learned to refocus. That another shot at a shiny ring wasn’t going to merely be handed to them.

Going simple

“Over the years, you’re parts of teams that have that awakening moment,” Chiefs long snapper James Winchester said. “You realize everybody is working in professional football for that common goal of winning games. Sometimes, it doesn’t happen. But we knew we were close.

“Everyone kept the faith and trusted the process and rallied around each other. But it was definitely a turning point.”

You also might remember this part: The Raiders scored two defensive touchdowns against Kansas City. Defensive tackle Bilal Nichols returned a fumble eight yards for a touchdown. Cornerback Jack Jones took an interception of Patrick Mahomes back 33 yards for another.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid referred to the loss as a “wake-up call” for his team. He praised the Raiders’ emotion. He said his side needed to realize it was going to get everyone’s best shot.

Kansas City gave other reasons for the loss. That its offense back then was a complete disaster. That things had grown too complicated. Too much of everything.

So the Chiefs went simple. Cut back.

“Just ups and downs, man, and sometimes the downs get you going,” Kansas City linebacker Willie Gay said. “That was one of those situations. We were more motivated than ever after that loss. To go through it definitely sucked, but we’re here in the Super Bowl now, so it definitely helped. It happens.”

They’ve been nails ever since. The Chiefs have played their best football when it counts most, defeating Miami at home in the first round before winning road playoff games against Buffalo and Baltimore.

That offense that lacked competency much of the season began to click. Receivers who had been dropping balls starting catching them. Complicated became straightforward. Inconsistent became efficient.

It has all led to this. The Chiefs are again entering the Super Bowl as an underdog but are also the side with Mahomes. It seems impossible at several levels to bet against him. It seems tough to doubt the team that responded so well to a certain Christmas Day defeat.

This must be brutal for the Raiders and their fans. Not only have the Chiefs used the team’s practice facility this week and will work out of the home locker room Sunday, the silver and black just might have provided Kansas City the needed motivation for another Super Bowl run.

With the final game being played in Las Vegas.

Ouch.

Thank you, Raiders

“Sometimes you just have to overcome things,” Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman said. “As a team, that loss definitely made us look in the mirror and get back to what we know how to do. Get back to playing Chiefs football. That’s really all that happened.”

They haven’t lost since and are in another Super Bowl.

And they owe their AFC West rival a note of thanks.

Perhaps they should leave it in the home locker room Sunday.

That would go over well.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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