It wasn’t always pretty — and there was a significant cost extracted to the team — but the Kansas City Chiefs were able to grind out a 31-21 win against the Los Angeles Chargers in the regular season finale. And in a twist of fate, the Chiefs ended up with the AFC’s second seed (and a first-round bye) as the Miami Dolphins upset the New England Patriots in Foxborough.
Here are Sunday’s winners and losers:
- Safety Tyrann Mathieu’s interception to close out the first half was something special. To see the little guy go up and take the ball away from a receiver who is (roughly) two feet taller was... amazing. Play-after-play and week-after-week, the Honey Badger has been coming up big for this team. What a season for Mathieu.
- Wide receiver Mecole Hardman was due for a game-changing play — and man, did he deliver! The 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was critically needed — and awesome. His first reception came when the offense was stuck in neutral; it led a touchdown on the very next play. We’ve seen it all season: Hardman can be a spark plug when he gets the ball in his hands.
- Defensive end Terrell Suggs’ first sack as a Chief came on a big third down to force a Chargers punt. His celebration — his own version of the Tomahawk Chop — made it clear he’s feeling it in Kansas City.
- Running back Damien Williams’ first touchdown was incredible — spinning and bouncing off tackles before sprinting to an 84-yard score. Perhaps more importantly, he was able to move the chains on more than one occasion — and then closed out the game with another great touchdown run. The Chiefs could use some explosive plays from the running back position. Williams looks healthy — and ready to deliver down the stretch.
- The rest of the Chiefs secondary will be hurt by Juan Thornhill’s knee injury — like... a lot. Bashaud Breeland missing time wasn’t great, either. Kendall Fuller had a sub-par day. Armani Watts was one of four Chiefs defenders standing around watching a Chargers completion. This group has been very good this year — but without their star rookie, they’ll have to step it up another notch going into the postseason.
- Chiefs defenders trying to stop running backs all whiffed time after time. Linemen, linebackers and defensive backs all had trouble bringing down Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon. They knew exactly what the Chargers were going to do: target the running backs in the passing game. The two running backs combined for 15 catches and 119 yards — the overwhelming majority of them after contact.