Chargers at Chiefs final score: Big plays, Patriots loss launch Kansas City to first-round bye in AFC playoffs

It was a relatively even game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, but Kansas City used a few big plays to put them over the top, 31-21. 

The third quarter delivered an 84-yard touchdown run by Damien Williams and a 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Mecole Hardman. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers made it interesting at the end of the game, but an interception sealed things and capped an otherwise forgettable season. Rivers is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so it is reasonable to question whether or not he might return in 2020. 

The intrigue extended beyond the Chiefs game, however. Fans in Arrowhead Stadium were monitoring a game between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins happening 1,400 miles away in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Dolphins were able to pull off the upset, which means Kansas City gets the No. 2 seed within the AFC and a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

Why the Chiefs won

The Chiefs defense created pressure all day long. They recorded three sacks and eight quarterback hits. New acquisition Terrell Suggs recorded one of those sacks. The pressure led to two interceptions from Rivers. It was big plays and fewer errors that led to Kansas City's victory. When the two teams met earlier in the year, the Chiefs forced four interceptions from Rivers.

Why the Chargers lost 

It was poor execution that cost the Chargers on Sunday. On Kansas City's two biggest plays, Los Angeles had their chances to make the tackle whether it was when wide receiver Mecole Hardman was squeezed along the sideline or when running back Damien Williams was contacted near the line of scrimmage. There were several errors throughout the course of the game but those were the most costly. The two plays mentioned specifically will be more heavily discussed below. 

Turning point

It felt as though Kansas City had the game in hand when running back Damien Williams exploded for an 84-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Williams rushed right and immediately entered a crowd of defenders but he remained balanced through contact. The Los Angeles defense did not finish so he capitalized upon their errors. By the time he reached the end zone, teammate Tyreek Hill was closer to him than anyone else on the field.  

Play of the game

Rookie wide receiver Mecole Hardman caught the kickoff four yards deep in the endzone. He veered left where his blockers were awaiting. Hardman knifed through Los Angeles' special teams unit before finally being pinned along the sideline around midfield. It looked as though he might have stepped out of bounds but the call stood after the replay. The Georgia product reversed field to open grass and walked in for a 104-yard touchdown. His previous longest return was 34 yards.

Quote of the game

There was an interesting exchange in the first quarter between Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones. Jones tackled Rivers after the pass and the quarterback poked Jones in the gut. The defender pushed Rivers off his lap. It appeared the quarterback was smiling but then he stood up and started jawing towards Jones. It was an all-around weird scene but totally characteristic of Rivers' career. 

What's next

The Chargers' season officially comes to an end with a 6-10 record. It is their worst finish since 2016. The organization will certainly explore coaching, personnel and front office changes to potentially improve their team this offseason. Meanwhile, the Chiefs still have a lot to play for this season. With a win Sunday and a loss by the New England Patriots, Kansas City clinched the No. 2 seed within the AFC and a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

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Thank you all for tuning into today's coverage of the Chargers-Chiefs game in Arrowhead Stadium. If you're a Chargers fan, we will have a lot of coverage regarding what the team should do this offseason. If you're a Chiefs fan, stay tuned for additional coverage into the NFL Playoffs!

December 29, 2019, 9:09 PM

With a win and a loss by the Patriots, the Chiefs have clinched the No. 2 seed within the AFC. They have a bye to open the NFL Playoffs.

December 29, 2019, 9:07 PM

The Chargers have outscored opponents 87-74 in the fourth quarter this season. They will need it all as they stare uphill at a ten point deficit. Kansas City is being outscored 72-97 in the fourth quarter.

December 29, 2019, 8:21 PM
@Chargers via Twitter
December 29, 2019, 8:09 PM
@Chargers via Twitter
December 29, 2019, 7:47 PM

Coming into today's game, Kansas City was outscoring teams 170-144 in the second half this season. Comparatively, the Chargers are being outscored 149-151 in the second half. Both teams have already scored a touchdown.

December 29, 2019, 7:47 PM
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