Chargers-Chiefs score, takeaways: Kansas City blows out L.A. in AFC showdown
The Chiefs took a big step toward winning the AFC West title
The Chiefs didn't officially win the AFC West with their win over Los Angeles, but they came one giant step closer thanks to Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, Alex Smith and a Kansas City offensive line that shut down Chargers stars Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram for almost the entire night.
Through the first five weeks of the season, the Chiefs were one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NFL. That didn't last long though, because by Week 6, they went from "must-see TV" to "Destroy your TV so you don't have to watch them" for Chiefs fans who probably had a rough time tuning in each week during a seven-game stretch where they went 1-6.
That's all a distant memory now, though, and it's a distant memory because the Chiefs went back to their bread-and-butter. First, they kept feeding Hill, who has suddenly turned into the Chargers' worst nightmare. Twelve weeks after steamrolling the Chargers for 183 total yards, Hill topped himself on Saturday with a 206-yard performance against L.A.
Although Hunt did a lot of his damage on the ground with 155 rushing yards, he also proved to be a huge weapon for Smith through the air, catching seven passes for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Although there were some whispers during the middle of the season that Smith should be benched, the Chiefs quarterback proved once again why he's the best man for the job. Going up against one of the best defenses in the NFL, Smith completed 76.7 percent of his passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns.
Smith didn't take many chances going deep in the game, but when he did, they paid off. The quarterback's biggest throw came in the second quarter, when he threw a perfect bullet to Hill for a 64-yard touchdown.
Hill caught five passes for 88 yards in the game.
One thing you'll notice about that play is that Smith had a clear pocket, which was the case for most of the night. Although the Chargers went into the game with two players -- Bosa and Ingram -- who had combined for 20.5 sacks on the season, the Chiefs surrendered only one sack the entire night.
it wasn't just Smith who benefitted from the impressive performance from the Chiefs' line, Hunt was also a big benefactor. Thanks to the line's play, Hunt was able to average 6.46 yards per carry against the Chargers.
The good news for Chiefs fans is that the panic attack feeling you had during the middle of the season should now be going away. This team definitely isn't perfect, but if they've proved one thing this year, it's that they can beat anyone when they're playing their best, which is exactly what you want from your team when they're likely headed to the playoffs.
The one thing to keep in mind with the Chiefs -- and this is glass half-empty guy talking -- is that they're still in a rut against non-divisional opponents. Yes, they've won eight straight against the Chargers and yes, they've won 15 of 16 divisional games, but they're still struggling outside the AFC West.
Since Week 6, the Chiefs have gone 0-5 against teams outside the AFC West, which means their Week 16 game against the Dolphins might end being the perfect gauge to see how far this team has really come. A win over the Dolphins would officially clinch the AFC West for Kansas City.
Philip Rivers throws the game away
For the second time this year, Rivers suffered a total meltdown against the Chiefs. Back in Week 3, Rivers threw three picks against Kansas City, and somehow, he managed to repeat that performance on Thursday. The weird thing about his performance this time around is that it came out of nowhere.
After leading the Chargers to a touchdown on their opening drive of the third quarter, Rivers went into full meltdown mode and threw an interception on three of L.A.'s next four possessions. The Chiefs never really made any great plays on any of the picks, either. For the most part, they were all just really bad throws by Rivers, like this one to Marcus Peters that was thrown into double coverage.
Not only did Rivers throw an interception of three of four possessions, but the one possession in there where he didn't throw a pick, the Chargers still lost the ball because Austin Ekeler fumbled it. In all, the Chargers turned the ball over on four straight possessions in the second half, which was a total shock, considering they had only turned the ball over once in their past four games combined.
The turnovers were especially bad because they led to 13 points for Kansas City. That being said, it's not like the Chargers were having any luck stopping the Chiefs' offense on Thursday. If the Chargers don't turn the ball over, this game would have likely turned into the shootout that we were all expecting. Instead, we saw the Chargers do what they always do against the Chiefs: Suffer a total meltdown.
The Chargers are now 0-8 against Kansas City dating back to the beginning of the 2014 season.
Melvin Gordon runs wild
One of the few bright spots for the Chargers was running back Melvin Gordon. The Chargers fed him early and often, and it paid off for L.A. as Gordon totaled 169 yards. Before the Chargers fell apart in the second half, Gordon was the biggest reason they were even in the game.
The Chargers running back played a huge part on both of L.A.'s touchdown drives. In the second quarter, the Chargers scored their first touchdown of the game on a two-yard run by Gordon, which capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive. The impressive part about Gordon is that he accounted for 36 of L.A.'s 75 yards on the drive.
Gordon also had a pivotal role on the Chargers' lone touchdown drive of the second half. On their opening possession of the third quarter, the Chargers drove 88 yards for a touchdown that gave them a 13-10 lead. The drive wouldn't have been possible without a huge 49-yard catch from Gordon, a catch where he did most of the work (He caught the pass about two yards in front of the line of scrimmage)
Gordon ended up catching six passes for a career-high 91 yards in the game. The running back also carried the ball 19 times for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Rivers to Gates has now reached epic proportions
Antonio Gates might be 37 years old, but he's still one of Philip Rivers' favorite targets in the red zone. The ageless duo struck again in Kansas City when Rivers hit a wide open Gates for a 10-yard touchdown on the Chargers' opening possession of the second half.
The touchdown wasn't just big because the Chargers needed it -- it gave them a 13-10 lead at the time -- it was big because it moved Rivers and Gates into second place on one of the most storied lists in NFL history. The score was the 86th touchdown pass between Rivers and Gates, which moved them ahead of Steve Young and Jerry Rice for second most by a QB-WR combination in NFL history. With the third-quarter touchdown, Rivers and Gates now only trail Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, who .
The touchdown pass was Gates' only reception in the game.
Chargers special teams didn't look so special
It's not often that you can blame part of your loss on your punt coverage team, but the Chargers could definitely make that argument after watching their coverage team make two huge gaffes in Kansas City.
The first mistake by the Chargers came midway through the first quarter after Tyreek Hill muffed a punt for the Chiefs on a play that wasn't his fault. As Hill attempted to field a punt, one of his teammate's, Daniel Sorensen, backed into him and caused him to misplay the kick.
After Sorensen bumped into Hill, the football rolled free all the way from the Chiefs' 32-yard line down to their 6-yard line, and it looked like the Chargers were going to have an easy recovery.
Although the Chargers had the two closest players to the ball, neither of them were able to come up with the recovery.
Chiefs special teams player Orson Charles ended up coming with the ball, which was huge for Kansas City because the Chargers would have almost certainly come away with at least a field goal, if not a touchdown, had they recovered the ball at the Chiefs' 6-yard line. At the time, the game was scoreless.
To add insult to injury, the Chiefs ended up driving 82 yards down the field and getting a 31-yard field goal from Harrison Butker after the Chargers failed to recover the loose ball on the punt.
As if all of that wasn't bad enough, the Chargers made another special teams gaffe on their very next possession. On a Drew Kaser punt, Austin Ekeler appeared to catch the ball for the Chargers and down it at the 4-yard line. However, the Chiefs ended up getting a touchback after Ekeler's momentum led him to touch the goal line, which leads to an automatic touchback.
Ekeler could have simply caught the ball and dropped it before reaching the end zone, but he didn't, so the Chiefs got the ball at the 20-yard line instead of the 4.
Oh, and there was also one other special teams mistake, and of course, since this is the Chargers we're talking about, you know it came in the kicking game. Kicker Travis Coons missed an extra point following Gordon's touchdown in the second quarter, which made him the fourth Chargers kicker this year to miss an extra point.
If the Chargers have one glaring weakness this year, it's their special teams, and as we already saw in the the first two weeks of the season, it doesn't take much for a special teams gaffe or a missed kick to cost you a game. If the Chargers end up missing the playoffs this year, they're going to be one of the few teams in the NFL that will actually be able to blame their special teams for the missed invite.
The Chiefs can clinch the AFC West title next week with a home win over the Dolphins on Christmas Eve. As for the Chargers, they'll be trying to keep their slim playoff hopes alive in New York, where they'll take on the Jets.
If you want to relive all the action from Saturday's game, you can check out the live blog below.
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