When a rookie gets an endorsement from a Pro Bowl veteran, things are going well.

So it is with Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill, who played the best game of his maiden NFL season in Sunday's 40-9 triumph over the Oakand Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.

An interception returned for a 46-yard touchdown stands as the signature play of his afternoon. But earlier, Thornhill also came up with a crucial solo tackle on a fourth-and-1 play by the Raiders.

He's been catching the eye and admiration of veteran teammate Tyrann Mathieu as the regular season begins its final quarter

"He's playing great ball, making some big time plays for us," Mathieu said. "Making some tough tackles. He's coming out of his shell, especially in practice. Sometimes I don't say anything — I let him run the show."

The safety position has been a strength for the Chiefs this season. The group has come up with game-changing plays in two straight games. In the Chiefs' win over the Chargers in Mexico City two weeks ago, Daniel Sorensen sealed the game with an end zone interception.

In that game and again on Sunday, Mathieu came up with interceptions that resulted in touchdowns.

But Sunday was Thornhill's moment to flash.

Early in the second quarter, the Raiders faced a fourth-and-short from the Chiefs' 40-yard line. Instead of handing the ball to running back Josh Jacobs, who'd already rumbled for 55 of his 104 rushing yards, the Raiders went jet sweep with wide receiver Trevor Davis.

The only defender with a chance to prevent a gain was Thornhill.

"I got a good read," Thornhill said. "I saw where it was coming around the edge. I was filling my gap and hoping he was going to come around to where I was. He came right to me and I made the play."

A bigger one loomed.

The Chiefs owned a 14-0 lead when Derek Carr attempted a pass over the middle. He never saw Thornhill, who stepped in front of the ball. No Raiders player came close to tackling him en route to the end zone.

"Nobody's going to stop him," Chiefs defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi said. "The second he got it, he's scoring."

Nothing special about it, Thornhill said.

"I was just doing my job," Thornhill said. "When the receiver broke inside I saw an opportunity to make a play. I jumped it and took it to the house."

Thornhill's second interception of the year scored points, his first since defensive touchdown since high school. He played four seasons at Virginia and came up with 13 career college interceptions. None were returned for scores.

Thornhill's first pick as a pro, an end zone interception of the Texans' Deshaun Watson, prevented a touchdown.

Carr gave full credit to Thornhill and Mathieu for their plays Sunday. He said he has noticed the Chiefs' improvement on defense since the second week of the season, when the Kansas City won at Oakland.

"We turned the ball over in the first game and it was miscommunication," Carr said. "Whereas today, they made some plays on the ball. They're definitely an improved group. Great plays by their safeties. Hat's off to them."

Thornhill's pick-six was the Chiefs' first since Sorensen scored against the Raiders in the 2018 regular-season finale, and the third Chiefs defensive touchdown of the season after Bashaud Breeland's 100-yard fumble return at Detroit and Reggie Ragland's fumble return at Denver.

Thornhill joined the club Sunday.

"The rookie's growing up," Ragland said.