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Five winners and three losers from the Chiefs’ win over the Chargers

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It wasn’t always pretty, but the Chiefs return from Mexico with a crucial win.

The Kansas City Chiefs made just enough plays to win a game they absolutely had to have, defeating the Los Angele Chargers 24-17 on Monday Night Football. Here are some of the guys who led the way — and some that kept it closer than it should have been.

Winners

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images
  • Travis Kelce: When nothing was working on offense, Patrick Mahomes started looking for Kelce underneath. Chains started moving — and before long, the two connected on a beautiful 31-yard touchdown pass. The Chiefs tight end led the team with seven catches and 92 yards.
  • Frank Clark: After a relatively slow start to the season, it’s fair to say that Clark is turning the corner — both literally and figuratively. Clark hit Rivers three times, registered a sack and had another one that was scored as a pass defended — and an interception for Derrick Nnadi. He also had some critical plays in the running game at or behind the line of scrimmage — and forced at least one holding penalty. Clark looks quicker and healthier, which is a very good thing for the Chiefs going forward.
  • Tyrann Mathieu: After a long return, his interception set up the game’s first touchdown. The Honey Badger also logged eight tackles and two passes defended. If not for a frustrating drop of the easiest interception he’ll probably see all season, we’d be talking about a completely dominant performance by the Chiefs safety.
  • Mike Pennel: The mysterious healthy scratch from Week 10 made his presence felt in Mexico. He had two tackles for loss in another strong performance against the run, but the guy who isn’t known as a pass rusher also notched two quarterback hits and a sack.
  • Charvarius Ward: The young cornerback is quietly having a fantastic second season with the Chiefs. Ward has really improved how he attacks the ball. He collected three more passes defensed against the Chargers. Ward is proving he’s not the cornerback to be picked on any more.

Losers

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images
  • Sammy Watkins: Watkins wasn’t a big factor in Mexico — even though the team played the bulk of the game without Tyreek Hill. This was a game that should have featured Watkins and his ability to beat zone coverage, break tackles and run after the catch. Not everyone is going to have a big game each week — especially when the passing game struggles as much as it did on Monday night — but the games where Watkins looked dominant are becoming a distant memory.
  • Ben Niemann: Another week of opponents’ running backs feasting in the passing game, and another week of wondering why Niemann is getting so much playing time on defense.
  • The Chiefs offensive Line: The reunion of the original five starters didn’t go as well as we hoped — and it didn’t last long, either. But the numbers didn’t end up looking too bad. The Chiefs ran for 130 yards — averaging 4.8 per carry — and Mahomes was sacked only once. But he did take five hits, had a couple of passes batted down and was under duress (and out of sync) for a significant part of the game. Perhaps it’ll take some time to get the big uglies back in the flow of the game — and they may be playing with a backup center for a while — but they need to be better than they were against the Chargers.