The Kansas City Chiefs were able to move to 7-4 on the season and maintain control of their lead in the AFC West as they took down the Los Angeles Chargers (4-7) on Monday Night Football, 24-17.
Initially, the Chargers were able to jump in front, but couldn't take full advantage of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs slow start offensively. Despite Mahomes throwing for less than 70 yards in the first half, the Chargers dominating time of possession and recording more total yards of offense, Kansas City was able to head into the locker room at halftime up, 10-9. That was thanks to the Chargers inability to convert on two red zone opportunities and settled for four field goal attempts, while only hitting three.
In the second half, Mahomes and company were able to get back on track offensively in spurts, but Los Angeles' defense gave their team plenty of opportunity in the fourth quarter to try and tie the game at 24. Rivers, however, couldn't mount a comeback as the offense punted twice and threw two interceptions in the fourth. That final possession did have Los Angeles deep in Kansas City territory for a shot at forcing overtime, but Rivers threw it into the arms of safety Daniel Sorensen to ice it for the Chiefs.
He finished his night with 353 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions. For Mahomes, he tossed for just 182 yards, a touchdown and a pick, but also added 60 yards on the ground.
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Let's take a deeper dive into how the Chiefs survived the Chargers under the lights on Monday night:
Why the Chiefs won
If we're being completely honest, the Chiefs won mostly because the Chargers gave Monday's game away. We'll save the L.A. critiques for their section, but K.C. fans shouldn't be booking Super Bowl tickets just because of this win. It was not pretty. For a variety of reasons, reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes was mediocre for the first 30 or so minutes of action, posting an 8 of 15 first-half line featuring a career-low 63 yards and one interception. The defense also surrendered a lot of yardage, including some inexcusable chunks late in the fourth. How'd they pull it off, then? Well, for one, Mahomes' legs came in handy, with the QB leading the Chiefs on the ground (59 yards) on a night when both Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy exited with injuries, thrice rushing for a first on third down. For all the big plays they gave up, the Chiefs defense also made a few of their own, with Frank Clark showcasing his disruption and the secondary hauling in four crucial picks.
Why the Chargers lost
It wasn't because Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes were lighting it up. The Chargers, as per their norm, buried themselves. Philip Rivers and Co. had little trouble moving the ball, at least for the entirety of the first half, out-gaining the Chiefs in just about every major category -- except for in the red zone, where it mattered most. Rivers will obviously be the headliner of this latest Bolt disappointment, and that's fair, as he sandwiched a couple of true dimes in between far too many forced, careless or airless throws, most notably the game-ending end-zone pick lobbed as a jump ball for the 5-foot-10 Austin Ekeler. Rivers wasn't alone in dropping the ball, though. L.A.'s play-calling left a lot to be desired, particularly in key drives and in the red zone. And Desmond King on two occasions nearly gifted the Chiefs two more takeaways while "fielding" punts. Don't get it twisted; the Chargers were in it until the end, and their defense, fueled by Melvin Ingram (2 QB hits, 2 TFL, 1.0 sack), gave Anthony Lynn's squad tons of fourth-quarter opportunities. They just hurt themselves one too many times.
The Chargers had the ball at the Chiefs' 25-yard line with 34 seconds left in the second quarter -- a prime scenario for a potential go-ahead score. But none other than two offensive-line penalties, including a holding on left tackle Trey Pipkins, the same man responsible for letting Clark envelop Rivers' arm on the QB's first "interception" of the night, pushed L.A. out of TD distance. The Chargers were then forced to rush and settle for a third straight field-goal drive, allowing the Chiefs to enter halftime with an inexplicable lead. L.A. threatened a comeback later, of course, but it dug its own hole early on.
Play of the game
Down seven with less than a minute to play, Rivers launched a desperate deep ball to Mike Williams on third-and-15, only to witness Williams go all the way up for an incredible 57-yard catch. It was Williams' second leaping grab of the evening, and while it unfortunately didn't pay off because of Rivers' fourth INT to end the drive, it put the Chargers in an incredible position to knot the game up and complete L.A.'s improbable comeback.
"They played lights out really all game long. We put them in a lot of tough positions as an offense, and they pretty much just picked it up and saved us in this game. It's a team game, and it's good to see those guys win a game for us."
Mahomes delivered those remarks to ESPN's Lisa Salters after the game, and they couldn't be more true. Kansas City's big divisional win Monday night had little to do with the Chiefs' best players. That provides a bittersweet assessment: Reid's team still has a lot of work to do to re-solidify itself among the AFC's elite, and yet even on an off night for Mahomes, the club has proven it can come away with a "W."
The Chiefs (7-4) will rest up on their bye in Week 12 before returning on Sunday, Dec. 1, for another important divisional matchup -- this time with the Oakland Raiders (6-4), who are squarely in the playoff race and battling the Chiefs for a future first-place standing in the AFC West. The Chargers (4-7), meanwhile, will follow a similar path, taking Week 12 off before returning on the first of the month for a rivalry showdown with the Denver Broncos (3-7), who will host L.A. just under a month after upsetting the Chargers on the road.
Relive all the action from Monday night's divisional clash right here:
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