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Opportunistic, mistake-free Chiefs show Ravens what they must become

Looking across the field Sunday, the Ravens saw the type of team they used to be, and the kind of defense they're going to need to find to make sure this brutal season is an aberration rather than a sign of things to come.

The Kansas City Chiefs hardly did anything spectacular in beating the Ravens, 34-14, in front of an announced and early-departing crowd of 70,791 at chilly M&T Bank Stadium. At times, the Chiefs even looked bored. But it was the manner in which they took control of the game and the way that they've rattled off eight straight victories that should remind Ravens fans of much happier and successful times.

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Their offense was opportunistic. Their defense not only forced three turnovers, but it turned two of them into touchdowns. And as a team, the Chiefs ran the football and stopped the run, capitalized on mistakes and made very few.

Those were characteristics that all of the great Ravens teams had, and this year's version doesn't.

"We have to find a way to play winning football," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "If you're a young player, and you want to stay in this league, you have to have a team that understands how to play winning football. The Chiefs understand that. The Ravens have not gotten there this year, yet. We'll keep fighting to get there."

Harbaugh's team lost its third straight game and is two losses away – they host the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday and then end the regular season on the road in Cincinnati – from tying the inaugural 1996 team with a franchise-worst 4-12 record. They've also done something that the 1996 squad and no other team in franchise history has done: lose five home games in a single season.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, improved to 9-5 and solidified their hold on an AFC wild-card spot. They are the first team in NFL history to win eight straight games in a season during which they lost five in a row.

"Our goal coming into the year was way higher than what we've put out this year," said wide receiver Kamar Aiken, who provided one of the Ravens' lone highlights with his 48-yard touchdown catch of Jimmy Clausen's Hail Mary with no time on the clock in the second quarter. However, all that did was trim the Ravens' halftime deficit to 24-14.

"It's unfortunate for the things that have happened to us, but they're definitely a team that we would like to mold ourselves off of, especially how they look right now. They're going to be a playoff team, probably, and they get it right now."

How do you put up 34 points on just 277 yards of total offense?

-> You take advantage of your opponent's mistakes. Three plays after Timmy Jernigan's silly hit on quarterback Alex Smith resulted in an unnecessary roughness penalty and prolonged a Chiefs drive, running back Charcandrick West scored the game's first points on a 38-yard touchdown run.  Three plays after the Ravens were stopped on a fake-punt attempt deep in their own territory, Smith hit Jeremy Maclin for a 13-yard touchdown pass.

-> You not only force turnovers, but you turn some of them into points. Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson stripped Ravens rookie running back Buck Allen of the ball late in the first quarter and safety Tyvon Branch picked it up and returned it for a 73-yard touchdown. Allen's second lost fumble in as many weeks earned the rookie a spot on the bench for the rest of the game and gave the Chiefs a lead that they'd never relinquish.

Rookie cornerback Marcus Peters then salted the game away with two fourth-quarter interceptions, including one that he returned for a 90-yard touchdown. Making his second consecutive start, Clausen threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns, but the Ravens weren't nearly good enough offensively to give the Chiefs a game.

"They have an aggressive defense with a lot of guys running to the ball. They are very consistent and they just don't let up. They're a hard-fighting group," said fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Clausen on the Ravens' first drive. "When you're not turning the ball over, when you're not committing penalties and you're relentless, those are huge keys to success. That's what Kansas City did today and that's what we're used to doing in Baltimore."

-> With the game on the line, you get back to what you do best. The Chiefs led by 10 points and had done nothing offensively in the third quarter when they got the ball back at their own 5-yard line. They then put together a 14-play drive that ate up nearly nine minutes and ended on a 32-yard field goal by Cairo Santos.

On the drive, the Chiefs, who have the NFL's seventh-ranked rushing offense, ran the ball six times for 25 yards. Smith also completed passes to go-to tight end Travis Kelce twice for a total of 36 yards and Maclin once for seven.

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"For them to take it the length of the field, I think, paints the picture of their season and what you have to do to win football games in this league," Harbaugh said. "They didn't make a mistake. If they get 96 yards and don't make a mistake anywhere along the way, that's why they are winning football games."

The Chiefs have a plus 15-turnover ratio and the Ravens are minus-15. Smith, who completed 21 of 25 passes and never came close to putting the ball in harm's way, has thrown four interceptions all season. Matt Schaub and Clausen have combined to throw seven picks in relief of injured quarterback Joe Flacco in the past four games.

Peters, Kansas City's first-round NFL draft pick whom the Ravens would have loved to have gotten an opportunity to select, has seven interceptions this season. The entire Ravens team has four.

"It's a unique team that way," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "They've taken advantage of opportunity and they've done that, really, all year."

The depleted Ravens hardly needed to play the Chiefs to be reminded of their flaws. But on this day, they got a first-hand look at what used to be their strengths, too.    

"You don't win football games when you turn the ball over," Harbaugh said. "Until we learn that lesson – we can play as hard as we want, we can be as physical as we want, we can be as tough as we want, we can play some pretty darn good football. But you turn the ball over, you're not going to win."

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