KANSAS CITY, Mo -- When Sunday began, the Kansas City Chiefs already had a ticket to the AFC playoffs in their pocket. Their hope was that through the action of the final day of the regular season, they might be able to get an upgrade.
They did what they could do, beating the Oakland Raiders 23-17 at Arrowhead Stadium for their 10th consecutive victory. But the upgrade did not come through as the Denver Broncos secured first place in the AFC West with a victory over the San Diego Chargers.
With their 11-5 record, the Chiefs earned No. 5 seed in the AFC and travel to face the Texans in Houston on wild-card weekend. It's their second trip to the postseason in Andy Reid's three years as the Chiefs head coach. The Chiefs beat Houston 27-20 in Week 1 of the 2015 season.
"You cherish every win in the National Football League," said Reid "We are not looking back and we'll enjoy it until we get together on Tuesday. ... I like this football team. They are a pretty humble crew. They don't get caught up in the accolades; they just go out and play."
On orders from Reid, the folks inside Arrowhead Stadium were kept in the dark about developments in Denver until the victory was assured for the Chiefs. Denver rallied behind Peyton Manning to beat San Diego and lock up the No. 1 seed in the AFC. A division title for the Chiefs would have given them a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
"That was pretty farfetched," Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said of the Denver losing to San Diego scenario that would have brought a first-round game in the playoffs to Arrowhead Stadium. "It was wishful thinking; at the end of the day, we don't care who we got. We are fired up about being in the playoffs and taking on whoever we got."
The Chiefs got the jump on the Raiders from the first kickoff, scoring on their first two possessions as quarterback Alex Smith connected with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on a 25-yard touchdown pass, and then fullback Spencer Ware capped a 12-play drive with a 3-yard run to the end zone. The score was 14-0 with 51 seconds left in the first quarter and it appeared like it was going to be a long afternoon for Oakland.
But the Chiefs kept their visitors in the game, as the normally accurate Smith threw a pair of interceptions less than three minutes apart in the second quarter. He was picked first by cornerback T.J. Carrie, and then cornerback David Amerson grabbed a Smith throw at the Chiefs 24-yard line and returned the interception for a touchdown.
Throw in a PAT kick and a 29-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski and the score was 14-10 at intermission.
In the third quarter, thanks to a special teams play and the offense, the Chiefs preserved their victory. K.C.'s punt defense was close all day to blocking kicks from Oakland punter Marquette King. Rookie linebacker D.J. Alexander was not blocked on his rush and he got his hands on the punt, knocking the ball out of the end zone for a safety.
"It was definitely a pivotal moment in the game," said Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio. "In the history of the league if you go on the road and have a punt blocked it probably leads to a poor record."
The Chiefs offense was gifted with great starting field position at their 47-yard line when the Raiders kicked off after the two-pointer. It was four plays later that Smith connected with tight end Demetrius Harris on a 15-yard touchdown pass. The PAT kick gave the Chiefs a 23-10 lead midway through the third quarter.
Both defenses dominated the second half, and Kansas City allowed just 205 yards in the game, with an interception and six sacks of Oakland quarterback David Carr. The Raiders offense scored its first points with two minutes left in the game when Carr tossed a touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Crabtree from 31 yards away. Oakland finished the season with a 7-9 record.
The Raiders also said goodbye to retiring safety Charles Woodson, who closed out his 18-year NFL career with seven tackles against the Chiefs. "It didn't end like you would want it to end," Woodson said. "I just want people to say I left it all on the field. I gave the game everything I had. I'm very, very proud of that."
NOTES: Chiefs C Mitch Morse left the game late in the fourth quarter with a concussion. It's the second head trauma that the rookie center has dealt with this season. Morse missed one game with his pervious concussion. ... The Chiefs held their annual alumni player gathering as over 80 former players were in attendance. They honored their 2015 Chiefs Hall of Fame inductee, CB Gary Green. ... Raiders S Charles Woodson began his NFL career with the Raiders in Arrowhead back in 1998. There for that game, and also on the field for his last game, was head linesman George Hayward from nearby St. Joseph, Mo.