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Chiefs-Chargers Instabreakdown: Defense comes up huge south of the border

The Chiefs defense held their own and carried the Chiefs to victory over the Chargers.

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

Final Score: Kansas City Chiefs 24, Los Angeles Chargers 17

Andy Reid called a rough offensive game, but the Chiefs defense held their own on Monday night against the Chargers. Multiple stops — and a big game from Frank Clark — pushed the Chiefs over the line in Mexico City.


NFL: International Series- Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Mahomes struggled throughout most of the first half, missing some deep passes en route to the lowest two-quarter passing yardage of his career. He was under duress for much of the night as he struggled to break open the Chargers zone defense, culminating in an interception across the middle of the field against Cover 3. But Mahomes came out dealing in the third quarter, leading the Chiefs on an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. His highlight of the drive came on a third-and-2 scramble that went for 20 yards.

Mahomes hit his first touchdown of the evening on a perfect touch pass on a corner route to Travis Kelce that extended the the third-quarter lead to 15 points. The next two drives, he struggled with touch, so Mahomes airmailed a couple of passes to running backs in the flat. Some poor play-calling resulted in three consecutive late-game drives that ended in punts. But late in the game, Mathomes took matters into his own hands, rushing for another 15 yards on a third-and-6 to milk the clock.

Damien Williams got the early work catching some screen passes, but struggled to get anything going on the ground. He was injured midway through the second quarter. On the ground, LeSean McCoy definitely looked better. He was able to capitalize on a Chargers turnover for the only score of the first half when he lined up in an offset I-formation and followed Anthony Sherman into the end zone. McCoy got involved in the passing game in the third quarter, moving the Chiefs into the red zone on a nice drag route. After a fantastic juke on the ensuing play, he almost fumbled the ball away — but managed to recover it. Darrell Williams also got in on the action, punching in a six-yard touchdown behind Sherman. He continued to pick up the tough yardage, converting a third-and-1 midway through the fourth quarter.

Kelce didn’t get targets early, but later ran a nice out-and-up for a 31 yard touch pass from Mahomes. He started the second half with a couple of nice catches to keep the drive moving. A shoulder-shimmy post move earned him some extra yards after the catch before he finally got into the end zone on a beautiful corner route for a touchdown in the third quarter. Deon Yelder didn’t have the best of outings, nullifying a big gain early on with an illegal formation penalty. He also fumbled a pass at the beginning of the third quarter, but was bailed out by a defensive penalty.

Tyreek Hill was targeted early on a deep play, but a third-down miss saw him come up clutching his hamstring. He sat on the sidelines for the rest of the day. Sammy Watkins got targets in his stead — one of them an especially nimble juke to pick up a first down on the Chiefs’ first drive out of the half. Byron Pringle and Mecole Hardman also got work, but didn’t get many targets early in the game. Hardman finally got loose in the third quarter, catching a bubble screen and cutting back to the center of the field to flash his speed.


NFL: International Series- Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs saw quite a bit of 21 personnel from the Chargers offense. Whether it was with a fullback — or with Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler on the field together — the Chargers tried to throw a bit of a wrinkle into Steve Spagnuolo’s game plan.

Los Angeles was able to move the ball easily between the 20s, but the Chiefs made timely red zone stops and created turnovers. Frank Clark was the first to force a turnover, hitting Philip Rivers as his arm was coming forward. This popped the ball up into the air and Derrick Nnadi came down with an interception. Tyrann Mathieu got into the mix as well, robbing the center of the field while Rashad Fenton dropped into a deep Cover 2 zone with Juan Thornhill. Mathieu jumped the route for the pick and returned it to the 6-yard line. That slot-drop Cover 2 shell paid off again in the fourth quarter — this time as Fenton picked off a deep Chargers pass.

Mike Pennel was active along the Chiefs defensive line, coming up with a big sack near the end of the first quarter. Clark had multiple pressures and forced a hold near the end of the first half. He continued his run of pressure, forcing another interceptable Rivers throw in the third quarter. Clark finally got to Rivers in the fourth quarter, coming up with a huge third-down strip-sack. He kept up his string of big plays, knifing under Hunter Henry to force a loss on a fourth-quarter third-and-short.

Chris Jones saw most of his snaps at defensive end, sometimes struggling to set the edge against the run. But in the third quarter, he had a nice pressure to force an inaccurate pass. On an early blitz, Tanoh Kpassagnon was victimized after dropping to the flat to cover Ekeler.

The linebackers struggled to maintain zone spacing, several times allowing Ekeler to get loose in the middle of the field. Damien Wilson was beaten by Keenan Allen for a third-quarter touchdown — and then again on the two-point conversion.

Charvarius Ward flashed throughout the game, breaking up a drag route on Allen and coming up with another third-down breakup. Bashaud Breeland bit on a swivel route from Allen and gave up a 20-yard gain. Morris Claiborne broke up a pass in the second quarter, but was also hit with a 25-yard defensive pass interference penalty that led off the Chargers’ first touchdown drive. Fenton saw some snaps as a dime cornerback and gave up a third-down catch to Allen that continued a drive.

Thornhill came up with a big play on third down in the red zone early in the game, hitting Allen big and forcing an incompletion. Mathieu should have had another interception after a Clark pressure, but he dropped the gimmie — which allowed the Chargers to continue the drive for a touchdown.

Daniel Sorensen was repeatedly victimized. The Chiefs zone did him minimal favors, and he was beaten by Henry, Gordon, Ekeler and Mike Williams throughout the evening. But he completely redeemed himself on the final play of the game, undercutting Ekeler in the end zone with 24 seconds left to ice it for the Chiefs.

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