OAKLAND – Before getting released by the team Friday, Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt accounted for 65 percent of the team’s rushing yards and 30 percent of their offensive touchdowns, so the Chiefs knew they’d have to redistribute the load in a hurry.
In those instances, it helps to have a quarterback with Patrick Mahomes’ multiple skills.
The loss of the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher – Hunt was released after a video published by TMZ on Friday showed him shoving and kicking a woman in February – proved merely a blip from a football perspective for the Chiefs, who improved their AFC-best record to 10-2 by outlasting the Raiders 40-33 on Sunday behind Mahomes’ four touchdown passes.
Lacking one of his top weapons, the league’s most prolific touchdown thrower increased his gaudy season total to 41 while passing for 295 yards and running for a team-high 52.
“Patrick’s such a gamer. I’ve said this from Day 1 when I’ve seen him make some of those plays,’’ said receiver Chris Conley, who caught a 2-yard TD pass with 1:57 left to secure the victory against the stubborn Raiders.
“They were ready for us, taking away some of his options downfield and making him wait, making him take some throws underneath. And he was able to adjust to that. He was able to use his legs and extend some of those plays and ultimately hit pin drops.’’
With the Raiders determined to limit leading receiver Tyreek Hill, Mahomes set his sights on tight end Travis Kelce, who had a huge game with 168 yards and two scores while catching 12 of the 13 passes aimed his way. With the Chiefs trying to hold off Oakland late in the fourth quarter, the pair connected on a critical 25-yard strike that set up the club’s final touchdown.
“He and Patrick had something going today and it was special,’’ coach Andy Reid said.
Reid was happy to delve into any details regarding the game but steadfastly reluctant to get into issues pertaining to Hunt, who led the NFL with 1,327 rushing yards as a rookie last season.
The Chiefs issued a statement saying Hunt was “not truthful” in his discussions with the organization when asked earlier this year about the incident, which took place in a Cleveland hotel hallway, and they promptly cut him. The NFL also put Hunt on the commissioner’s exempt list, preventing him from playing or practicing for another team until the league completes its investigation and issues a ruling.
In an ESPN interview that aired before the day’s games, Hunt apologized and said he was “embarrassed” by the release of the video.
On Sunday, the first time they were available to the media since the incident came to light, Hunt’s teammates tried to straddle the line between supporting him and denouncing his actions.
“I’ve talked to him. I’ll keep it between me and him,’’ Mahomes said. “We had a close relationship. I saw the stuff that happened and we don’t do those things. At the same time, I’m just focused on our organization, the Chiefs.’’
Conley emphasized the human aspect of the situation.
“I’ve reached out to him, hoping he gets the help he needs and that he can grow as a man,’’ he said. “The focus is pretty much on the person, not the football player.’’
On the football field, the Chiefs overcame Hunt’s absence quite well, with 174 rushing yards on 30 carries. But Mahomes scrambled for a third of those yards and wide receiver Tyreek Hill accounted for another 33 on an end around.
Spencer Ware replaced Hunt in the starting lineup and ran 14 times for 47 yards, while Damien Williams chipped in another 38 on five carries.
Reid said he’ll continue to alternate running backs, and he may have to shore up a defense that, though it recovered three fumbles, gave up 33 points and 442 yards to a 2-10 Raiders club that came into Sunday scoring the third-fewest points in the league.
Still, the Chiefs were pleased with the resiliency they displayed.
“What we have going on in our locker room, we’re brothers, we’re a team, we’re close,’’ Ware said, “and we won’t let anything that happens outside dictate or control what we have inside.’’