The Chiefs opened their 2018 season by defeating the Chargers 38-28 in Los Angeles, on the strength of impressive performances by Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill — and a little help from Ron Parker.
Less than two minutes into the game, the Chiefs led 7-0.
The Chargers took the opening kickoff, and got an eight-yard completion from Philip Rivers to Keenan Allen on the opening play. But then they were then stuffed on successive handoffs to Melvin Gordon, bringing up a 67 yard punt to Tyreek Hill, who turned his opening touch of 2018 into a 91 yard punt return for a touchdown.
Here’s the Tyreek TD (@ClayWendler) pic.twitter.com/tg0qtgoIMj— Carrington Harrison (@cdotharrison) September 9, 2018
A costly holding penalty against Kendall Fuller gave the Chargers a boost on their next drive — along with a 19 yard completion to Travis Benjamin — but Fuller managed to atone by getting a hand on Tyrell Williams, forcing an incompletion on what likely would have been 31 yard touchdown pass. The Chiefs held on third down, and the Chargers had to settle for a 45 yard field goal to cut the Chiefs lead to 7-3.
Sammy Watkins got his first catch as a Chief out of the way on the second play of the Chiefs first possession, bowling over Casey Hayward for a four yard gain. That would be forgotten two plays later, when Patrick Mahomes slung a sidearm pass in stride to Tyreek Hill on a slant route underneath, who broke a tackle and raced through the Chargers secondary to complete a 58 yard touchdown pass, extending the Chiefs lead to 14-3 just over eight minutes into the game.
Cheap TD passes on shovels are awesome and oh FLIP pic.twitter.com/SwASGPaJxb— Clay Wendler (@ClayWendler) September 9, 2018
The Chargers got 45 yards on the first play of their next drive — 30 yards on a completion to Austin Ekeler, with a helmet penalty assessed against Ron Parker giving them the rest. But two plays later, Dee Ford notched his first sack of the season, forcing a Chargers punt.
After the Chiefs went three and out, the Chargers went to work with Melvin Gordon, who gashed the Chiefs on successive runs of 18 and 13 yards. But then Anthony Hitchens made impressive back-to-back defensive plays to force a 39 yard field goal, and the Chargers trailed 14-6.
Hill added another play to his highlight reel on the first play of the next drive, leaping high into the air to make a one-handed catch and complete a 30 yard play. He was shaken up on the play, and went to the sidelines. Mahomes went deep to De’Anthony Thomas in the end zone on the next play, but the play was broken up by Derwin James. Two plays later, James sacked Mahomes on third down, and the Chiefs were forced to punt.
Starting at their own four-yard line after being pinned by Dustin Colquitt’s punt, the Chargers worked their way towards midfield on the ground. Gordon got them into Kansas City territory with a 25-yard catch, and into the red zone with an 11-yard run. By that point in the drive, Rivers had missed connecting with two of his receivers on deep passes that would have been certain touchdowns. The third time proved to be the charm, when Rivers hit Ekeler for a 13 yard touchdown pass. With an unsuccessful two point conversion, the Chargers had narrowed the score to 14-12.
After clearing concussion protocol, Hill returned on the Chiefs next drive. But the Chiefs started on the ground, depending on short and intermediate gains from Kareem Hunt, Damien Williams, and even a run-option from Mahomes. Then, facing third-and-1, Andy Reid called his first trickery of the season, converting with a direct snap to Spencer Ware. Kareem Hunt contributed a 13 yard run, but the drive ultimately stalled, and the Chiefs had to settle for a 46-yard field goal from Harrison Butker that made the score 17-12 Chiefs.
The Chargers couldn’t get it going on their next drive, which featured a drop by Benjamin, who had blown by Parker and could have run for a touchdown.
Starting at their own 10 with 51 seconds remaining in the half, the Chiefs handed off to Spencer Ware, who broke a 27-yard run, and probably changed the Chiefs plans going into the locker room. After a 20-yard pass to Hill, the Chiefs got a 13-yard gain on an improbable play where Damien Williams ended up with the ball after a Mahomes pass was tipped by Chris Conley and a couple of Chargers, but the play was called back because of a holding call on Eric Fisher. That turned a likely end-of-half field goal into a couple of deep Mahomes passes — both of which went incomplete — and the teams went into the locker room with the Chiefs holding a 17-12 lead.
The Chiefs opened their second half with a 22-yard pass to Hill and a collection of runs — including an impressive run for short yardage from Hunt, and a nifty run-option from Mahomes — and got into the red zone with a very nice 16-yard reception by Watkins. After the Chargers were charged with a face mask penalty as they tried to bring down Mahomes on another keeper near the goal line — giving the Chiefs a first down at the 1 — Mahomes hit Thomas with a touchdown pass, extending the Chiefs lead to 24-12.
Starting at their own nine after Justin Jones unwisely chose to run the kickoff out of the end zone, the Chargers moved smartly. A 20-yard pass to Gordon and a 16-yard pass to Allen got the Chargers into Chiefs territory, and an eight-yard Gordon run got them into field goal range. But on the next play, Rivers — who had plenty of time to throw — threw short, and Ron Parker jumped the route and made a diving interception. Parker returned the ball 43 yards, but was judged to have been down at the catch point.
So starting at their own 14, the Chiefs offense went to work. Mahomes hit Hill for a 34-yard gain, Conley notched a 15 yard reception, and the Chiefs were in Charges territory. So naturally, the Chiefs dialed up a deep sideline route to... Anthony Sherman? The Sausage hauled it in, rumbled into the end zone, and the Chiefs led 31-12.
With Patrick Mahomes II, every member of the Chiefs is a deep threat, even Anthony Sherman. #sausagesizzlin pic.twitter.com/UA1XObI4bn— Clay Wendler (@ClayWendler) September 9, 2018
Starting at his own nine, Rivers came back with a quick drive featuring a 20-yard pass to Allen, a 25-yarder to Mike Williams, and finally a 20 yard strike to Allen for a touchdown. This time, the Chargers were able to convert for two with a pass to the ageless Antonio Gates, and trailed 31-20 with just over 12 minutes remaining in the game.
The Chiefs went three and out after Hunt was stopped for no gain on second down and Mahomes was chased out of the pocket on third down. But on the punt, Chargers rookie Justin Jones made another unwise decision, attempting to field the ball at his own 14. De’Anthony Thomas stripped the ball, and Chiefs long snapper James Winchester fell on it at the Chargers two-yard line.
After two failed attempts to put the game out of reach from the two, the Chiefs faked to Hunt and tossed to Hill, who danced into the end zone for his third touchdown of the game. With the Butker extra point, the Chiefs led 38-20 with just under 10 minutes remaining.
With the commanding lead, the Chiefs secondary started playing deep on the next drive, and Rivers took what was offered to him, moving up the field with a 23 yard pass to Williams and a series of intermediate throws. The Chiefs finally managed to get the Chargers to fourth-and-2 at the Chiefs 27, but Kendall Fuller stumbled, opening the door for a 23 reception by Allen, giving the Chargers first-and-goal. On the next play, the Chargers scored on a pass to Trevor Williams. After a two point conversion, the Chargers trailed 38-28.
The Chargers were able to force a three-and-out on the Chiefs next possession, but the Chargers couldn’t get a return on Colquitt’s punt, had to start their next drive at their own 14 with 3:05 remaining, and still in possession of all three timeouts.
The Chiefs continued to play soft coverage — and Rivers continued to take advantage — moving the Chargers 58 yards in four plays. But after missing Benjamin in the end zone — and after the Chiefs broke up another deep pass — Anthony Hitchens made a superb play on third down, dropping Gordon for a loss and forcing a 48 yard field goal attempt by Caleb Sturgis, which went wide left.
Patrick Mahomes finished the game with 15 completions on 27 attempts for 256 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions — good for a passer rating of 127.5 on the day.
Tyreek Hill had 169 of those yards on seven receptions. Sammy Watkins had three catches on the day for 21 yards. Travis Kelce only had one reception for six yards.
Philips Rivers didn’t shred the Chiefs pass defense quite as badly as some thought he might, going 34 for 51 for 424 yards, three touchdowns and an interception — good for a passer rating of 103.7. Two Chargers — Allen and Gordon — had more than 100 passing yards against the Chiefs.
The Chiefs combined for 106 yards rushing, averaging 3.9 yards per attempt. The Chargers rushed for 123 yards, averaging 5.6 yards a carry.
The Chiefs have now defeated the Chargers in nine straight games, and travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers next week.
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