The Kansas City Chiefs were a team with everything up against them as they faced the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday — entering the game, the team was already without top cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland (suspension) and Charvarius Ward (fractured hand) and defensive end Alex Okafor (hamstring). Still, many (including myself) expected them to run over the Los Angeles Chargers.
That was not the case. The Chargers front seven was completely relentless, as it hit Patrick Mahomes seven times. The Chiefs offensive line struggled to contain defensive end Joey Bosa — one of the best in the league at his position — and he disrupted the effort all day. The Chargers front also held Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darwin Thompson to 59 yards on the ground.
There were significant problems tackling at the second level and beyond, and the Chiefs did themselves no favors by taking 11 penalties for 90 yards, including several in key spots. Already without the aforementioned starters, the Chiefs suffered critical injuries to cornerback Antonio Hamilton, backup running back Darrel Williams, defensive end Frank Clark and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who took an ugly helmet-to-helmet hit.
Then the Chiefs did what the Chiefs do. They still won.
Patrick Mahomes continues to be a very, very special player for Kansas City, and he showed it again on Sunday. Managing to come back from the dire situations (plural) the Chiefs faced on Sunday felt Michael Jordan-like — in the sense that no matter what the Chargers did, there remained a lingering feeling the Chiefs would win the football game.
The Mahomes pass to Tyreek Hill to tie the game was other-worldly. His rapport with Travis Kelce — who remained a constant for nine receptions and 90 yards and a score — was a major reason the Chiefs won. Running 21 yards on third-and-20 himself was reminiscent of the AFC title game run against the Tennessee Titans. Mahomes outright refused to lose.
Tyrann Mathieu is not just a key player for the Chiefs; he is a necessity — a fixer when all is going wrong. The Chiefs have missed a cornerback with a consistent nose for the ball since Marcus Peters, and rookie L’Jarius Sneed has two picks in two games.
Rookie Justin Herbert surprised even the broadcast team with the first start of his career due to the Tyrod Taylor injury, and he injected much-needed life into a Chargers offense that barely could compete with the Cincinnati Bengals last week. Based upon his production, he almost assuredly took the starting job from Tyrod Taylor on Sunday (EDIT: maybe not?). From a Los Angeles perspective, this was an effort that can give a team life. We’ll see what happens from here, but the Chargers might be a team that could hang around in the AFC, especially with seven playoff teams.
Pairing Harrison Butker with Mahomes does not seem fair. Mahomes and the offense did not have a great day, but now it is known that if they can get the ball to within 60 yards of the uprights, they can come away with points.
Making the game-winner from 53-plus yards away — fans or no fans — three times in a row is just not supposed to happen. Butker made it look easy.
The Chiefs came away with many concerns and a lot of items to fix. But on a day where everything seemed to go wrong, they once again pulled the rabbit out of the hat.