By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
On Thursday night, with the world watching, the 9-4 Kansas City Chiefs roll into SoFi Stadium with their eyes wide open for their rematch with the 8-5 Los Angeles Chargers. The Chiefs also come in the game on a six-game winning streak, and an 8-2 record since the Chargers beat them back in September. This match-up promises to be a good one because the Chargers will be coming off a consecutive win streak of their own.
Even though Health and Safety protocols have hampered each team’s line-ups, offensive tackle Rashawn Slater and defensive tackle Chris Jones being out. Both teams have something to prove; the Chiefs want to maintain the spot at the top of the division while the Chargers look to prove they deserve to be among the top of the division. To add more spice to this game, we will see two of the league’s best quarterbacks in this game in Super Bowl Champion Patrick Mahomes and last season’s Rookie of Year Justin Herbert. Not to mention, this is a divisional matchup that dates back to the 1960s.
In all those years of playing NFL football, there haven’t been many coaches that would go for the first down on fourth down like Chargers Brandon Staley has this season. Regardless of time and position on the field, Staley has shown that he is a man that has the courage of his conviction, and surprisingly, he has a 61.9 percent conversion rate this season vs. the Chargers 54 percent conversion rate over the past five-years.
Chargers’ initial kick return put them in great field position. Their drives stalls after four consecutive passes, and they turned the ball over on downs. The fourth down pass appeared to be caught by Donald Parham, who then lost the ball as he rolled over a hit his head on the ground. Parham would then get carted off the field after the play.
The Chiefs would then methodology move the ball downfield to draw first blood in this game on Michael Burton’s first touchdown since 2013 to cap their 10 play 46 yards drive! As the Chargers were driving on their second drive of the game Herbert’s pass was tipped and subsequently intercepted by Anthony Hitchens, for his first interception of the season.
The Chiefs followed the interception up with a field goal to give them an early ten-point lead in this game. Herbert would get the Chargers on the scoreboard with a one-yard touchdown run to cap off a ten play 75-yard drive end of their own. That touchdown gave Herbert his 71 total touchdowns in his career (63 passing, eight rushing). This vaulted Herbert past Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino (70) for the most passing and rushing scores through the first two seasons of a career in history.
Down by three points, the Chargers then forced the Chiefs to go three and out on their next drive. After receiving the punt, the Chargers would take the lead on Herbert’s first TD pass to Jaylen Guyton midway through the second quarter. Joey Bosa then adds to his league lead then registered his second strip-sack in as many weeks, bringing him to an NFL-best six strip-sacks on the season, providing a chance for the offense to increase their lead. However, the Chargers would squander another scoring opportunity as they did not convert on fourth down, turning the ball over on downs as the clock ran out in that second quarter.
The Chargers held the Chiefs to a 33-yard field goal on their initial drive coming out of the half. They then drove down to inside the Chiefs 30-yard line and did not execute the fourth down again, turning the ball over to the Chiefs in scoring position for the third time in the game. “That’s going to be the mindset no matter who we play. I felt comfortable with all of those decisions.” Staley said postgame when asked about his decision to go for the first down on fourth down.
Staley further explained, “The first one, it was a perfect pass, then you have this tragic thing happen on the way down. The one at the end of the half, I loved that. We just missed [TE] Jared [Cook] on the stick. That’s the way that we’re going to play around here. That’s the way we’re going to play. When we have a quarterback like ours, and we have an offense like ours, that’s the way we’re going to play because that’s how you need to play against Kansas City, for sure.”
After the Chiefs drove the ball to the Chargers 2-yard line. The Charger’s defense forced them to turn the ball over on downs. Herbert then led the Chargers on a 12 play 97-yard drive before they would cough up a chance to score at the goal line as Josh Kelly fumbled as he tried to reach the ball over the goal line, failing to once again to convert a scoring opportunity into points.
Pinned back near their goal line, Uchenna Nwosu tips an Mahomes pass in the air and makes an acrobatic catch to record his first interception of his career and give the ball back to the Chargers. “I seen someone crossed my face really fast and I noticed it was third and short, so I just tried to get out there… I got my hand up and game down with the ball,” Nwosu explained what he saw on his interception.
As the Chiefs were, pinned back near their goal line, as Uchenna Nwosu tipped a Mahomes pass in the air and makes an acrobatic catch to record the first interception of his career and give the ball back to the Chargers. “I saw someone cross my face really fast and I noticed it was third and short, so I just tried to get out there… I got my hand up and came down with the ball,” Nwosu explained what he saw on his interception.
The Chargers wouldn’t let this scoring opportunity pass them by as Austin Ekeler would run the ball into the endzone from the two-yard line giving them a 21 to 13 lead. This would be Ekeler’s tenth rushing touchdown of the season, giving him 17 scrimmage scores and 1,347 yards from scrimmage this year. Enough to be ranked No. 2 in the NFL among running backs. Ekeler’s tenth rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns in the most by a Chargers running back.
Derwin James Jr held Travis Kelce to one catch for 14 yards when in the game. Once James went out of the game for much of the second half, the Chiefs took advantage of the inexperienced Chargers secondary. The Mahomes to Kelce combination then combined for nine catches for 177 yards and two key touchdowns. The first catch was set up by a 69-yard catch and run by Kelce that put the ball in scoring position. Their five-play, 75-yard drive game-tying drive was capped off by a one-yard touchdown reception from Tyreek Hill.
In this tied ballgame midway through the 4th quarter, the Herbert to Keenan Allen connection would allow the Chargers to take the lead after their 11-play drive. This game put Allen over 1,000 yards on the season, which marks his fifth 1,000- yard season and is the most by a Charger in the past 50 years.
However, the Charger’s defense was vulnerable without their leader Derwin James Jr., and the Chiefs would complete their game-tying drive when Mahomes hit Kelce on a seven-yard touchdown to cap off their eight-play 75-yard drive. With a 32-yard Mahomes scramble being the catalyst for that final scoring drive in regulation.
After the Chiefs won the coin toss in overtime, the Charger’s defense would need to keep them out of the endzone to give Herbert and that Charger’s offense a chance to win the game. However, teams that went 0-3 on fourth down-conversion in a game had 0-48 record coming into this game. That number would move to 0-49 after tonight.
Mahomes’ third completion in overtime would be a 34-yard catch and run by Kelce, who would shake multiple defenders to slither his way into the endzone for the walk-off touchdown. Prompting Mahomes to say post-game, “That was a special moment just in general. I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a walk-off touchdown or anything like that. So, to be in that moment, find him underneath and him making such a dynamic play where he cut back, ran by people. It was just a special moment, and I’m glad that all that hard work that he puts in every single day is paying off.”
Though I did not have the Chargers winning this game, I did not have them losing the game in this fashion. Having already beaten the Chiefs earlier this season, the Chargers cost themselves this game. Not converting on either of those 4th downs and being turned away from a minimum of nine points cost them. However, you care to sum this game up, Staley’s commitment to being aggressive or their inability to stop Kelce prevented them from potentially winning this game and possibly the division this season; by sweeping the back-to-back conference champions. Now they must focus on playing for the playoff wild card spot.
Kindly share your thoughts on the Chargers’ progress this season; are they better than you expected, or are they playing above their heads? You can contact me by reaching out on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or email or firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear any suggestions you have on what angles, or players, on this Los Angeles Chargers team you would like to read about this season.
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