Chiefs-Chargers recap: Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce — forever
With the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, the Kansas City Chiefs startled Los Angeles Chargers by winning 30-27 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. It was the Chiefs’ fourth straight win, improving their record to 8-2.
Patrick and Travis forever
You’d never know it from a quick look at the box score — you know, his six catches for 115 yards and three touchdowns — but Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce actually got the game off to a somewhat unusual start. They were out of sync, with back-to-back mistakes on the first run. Later — after Kelce’s first touchdown — they would have another.
But as we found out this year following the future Pro Football Hall of Fame duo, mischief never lasts long. Five of Kelce’s six catches have gone for first downs or touchdowns — and at the ripe old age of 33, he continues to compete with the likes of Tyreek Hill, Justin Jefferson and Davante Adams as one of the league’s top weapons. As you know, all three those guys are wide receivers — no solid ends.
Up 27-23 with less than two minutes left when Mahomes got the ball. A minute and 15 seconds later the Chiefs took the lead. Mahomes’ MVP season continued to roll.
Kelce’s three touchdowns were not only crucial to the Chiefs leaving Los Angeles with a victory, but also made personal history. Kelce’s 11 touchdowns tied his career high in 2020. The Chiefs have seven games remaining.
The ‘youth movement’ has intensified in the big way
The Chiefs enter this divisional game without several key contributors they had when they were able to beat the Chargers in Week 2, including wide receivers Mecola Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster — along with defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton.
Things got worse during the game, as running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, wide receiver Kadarius Toney and safety Juan Thornhill all left the game with injuries.
well… what happened?
Seventh-round pick Isiah Pacheco posted his first 100-yard game, doing so on 15 carries for 7.1 yards per attempt. Despite his near-game-costing fumble, veteran Jerick McKinnon showed he’s indispensable for passing downs — but Pacheco also made his case: As long as he’s healthy, there shouldn’t be any runs on the board on early downs.
When Pacheco broke out, wide receiver Skyy Moore had a mini-breakout kind. Moore caught five of his six targets for 63 yards — and after his fourth-quarter, 13-yard catch for a first down, it was easy to see there was some emotion on his night in Los Angeles. Moore has very clearly seen the buzz about whether he’s worth a second-round pick. Sometimes you just need a chance – even if it’s due to injuries.
Sophomore linebacker Nick Bolton was terrific, leading the team with 14 tackles (10 solo). If not for McKinnon’s fumble, his forced fumble on Los Angeles’ previous drive would have sealed the game. Once it is not Bolton persevered — sealing the game on the final drive with an interception of Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. His running mate – third-year linebacker Willie Gay Jr. – he reported an intact bag on a timely called blitz.
Third-year defensive end Mike Danna — who missed part of the season with a calf injury — had his way on the Chargers’ offensive line, getting to Herbert twice. Four of Danna’s 7.5 career sacks came against Herbert. He is probably the most underrated player on the Kansas City defensive line.
We can’t forget about Chris Jones
The Chiefs wouldn’t have won this tight AFC West game without the performance of a key defensive player — which he is also one of the league’s best defensive tackles: Chris Jones.
Jones jammed all night. He pressured Herbert just before halftime, causing the quarterback’s touchdown pass to go off target. Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed got the job done in the end zone to keep Los Angeles from scoring seven points. On third-and-1 in the third quarter, Jones broke through the line and helped stonewall Austin Ekeler. The Chargers punted the ball.
Jones’ second sack of the night came with the game on the line. Then on second and 15, Herbert threw the ball into the hands of the Kansas City secondary to end the game.
Jones’ final line was five tackles, 2.0 sacks, four quarterback hurries and three tackles for loss. Don’t look now, but Jones has 9.0 sacks on the season.
The last word
The Chargers haven’t had a great season. It was riddled with injuries — but even when the team was healthy, it didn’t always play particularly well. Then the chiefs came to the city.
The Chargers look much better playing the Chiefs than they have in their other games
— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) November 21, 2022
And if you don’t believe in Computer Cowboy — just ask someone who played in most of the Chiefs-Chargers games in recent years.
The Chargers vs. Chiefs is the team everyone talks about during the offseason as an AFC West contender, top 3 team in the Conference (or even the league), etc. Chargers the other 15 games are normal Chargers. Always play KC so hard.
— Mitchell Schwartz (@MitchSchwartz71) November 21, 2022
But I would say that this is not isolated to Los Angeles.
Every week, key injured players for Kansas City’s opponents suddenly make miraculous recoveries (see: Los Angeles wideouts from Keenan Allen and Mike Williams). Individuals who have had quiet seasons are playing the game of their lives (see: Chargers throughout Josh Palmer).
After hosting four straight conference title games, the Chiefs remain the team to beat in the AFC. A win against them could be a franchise-changing event. When Los Angeles led 27-23, it could be seen on the faces of the Chargers players.
Los Angeles was on its home turf, knowing that the only way to stay alive in the division was to win. The Chargers played a near-perfect game – but here’s the thing: While Los Angeles had a late lead, Kansas City had Mahomes.
So the Chiefs leave California with a three-game lead in the AFC West – and maintain control of the AFC.
That’s now seven straight seasons of division dominance — and at least one more week, AFC still passes through Kansas City.
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