Here are five things we learned from the game:
1. A division game is never, ever a gimme!
None of us at Arrowhead Pride saw the first half of this game coming. And it’s not because we’re homers with no ability to see past our love for the Chiefs. All 252 Tallysight journalists — every single one of them, as Patrick Mahomes would say — picked the Chiefs to win this game. And some of these folks are heavyweight national writers like Albert Breer, Mike Clay, Seth Wickersham and Jenny Vrentas. None of them saw it coming, either — and not only did all these pundits pick the Chiefs head-to-head, 85% of them said the Chiefs would cover the 8.5 point spread, too.
So first, let’s congratulate our Tom Childs, who was among the 18 Tallysight contributors who said the Chiefs would not cover the spread. And Matt Lane, one of only 12 who picked the under at 47.5 points. And let’s not forget the 252 Tallysight contributors, who did — after all — pick the right team to win.
But all of us should have known better.
Just because the Chiefs have pretty much owned the Chargers since Andy Reid arrived, it’s easy to forget that the 11-3 record Reid had accumulated against them included two overtime victories. To be sure... there have been some blowout wins in there, too; it’s been nothing like the pre-Reid Chiefs-Chargers rivalry, when the two teams battled to a 52-52-1 tie through 2012 — but it hasn’t always been a cakewalk, either.
NFL teams all understand that they must play their very best in their division matchups; each team’s road to the Super Bowl begins there. It’s fine to anticipate blowouts when the circumstances permit; I myself predicted a 34-19 Chiefs victory — and would happily do it again with the same facts in hand — but you just can’t get past the fact that division games are always unpredictable.
2. Harrison Butker is The Icekicker
It’s not just that Butker hit a 58-yard field goal in the third quarter that tied Nick Lowery’s franchise record — a kick that would have been good from five to 10 yards further away. It’s not just that Butker then hit another 53-yarder in overtime that would have won the game — except that Nick Allegretti was called for a false start. It’s not just that Butker once again hit the 58-yard retry — except that the Chargers had called a timeout just before the snap. Nor is it just that Butker hit it from 58 yards one more time to actually win the game.
What Butker did on Sunday was pretty much unprecedented.
It certainly wasn’t the first time an NFL kicker had made two field goals of 53 yards or more in the same game. According to data obtained from Pro-Football-Reference.com, that’s actually happened 28 times since 1960. Once — back in 2007 — Miami Dolphins placekicker Kris Brown made three of 53 or more in a game against the Houston Texans. But to kick a 53-yarder — and to then make three consecutive kicks of 53 or more with an overtime game on the line? That’s incredible.
And oh, yeah... Butker nailed all three of those kicks after being iced — not by a timeout from the opposing team, but by the two-minute warning!
The man has a bionic leg — along with ice water in his veins. And he’s a Chief through 2024.
3. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is going to be a star in this league
Looking at his stats from this game alone, Edwards-Helaire might not look that impressive — just 70 yards on 16 touches. That 3.8 yards per carry on his rushing attempts is a pretty significant falloff from his Week 1 performance, too.
But as we expected, he was more involved in the passing game — and he showed he is going to be a big-time player there, too. Absent a holding penalty on Andrew Wylie, his 25-yard reception with 1:14 remaining in regulation would have put the Chiefs at the Chargers’ 10-yard line — in perfect position to punch the ball in and put the game away.
It was a clutch catch in an important moment. We’re going to see more of those.
4. Justin Herbert is a pretty good quarterback
I’m not interested in any conspiracy theories, OK? A modern NFL team would never fake a game-day injury to their starting quarterback in order to make an opponent believe they were going to start a bit-above-average veteran instead of their brand-spanking new first-round, top-10 draft pick. Such a conspiracy would be extremely hard to conceal.
So, improbable as it sounds, we’d better take what the Chargers said at face value: that Tyrod Taylor suffered a chest injury during pre-game warmups that kept him out of the game, causing Justin Herbert to make an unexpected NFL debut against the defending world champions.
And considering the circumstances, he acquitted himself well; he was 22 of 33 for 311 yards, a touchdown and an interception, which was good for a passer rating of 94.4. That’s not a bad day in an entirely unexpected first NFL start.
That said, over the years, we’ve often seen quality quarterbacks suddenly have that kind of pressure thrust upon them in their NFL debuts — and like Herbert, they usually rise to the occasion. But he made enough rookie mistakes that I’m not convinced the Chargers will now want to make him the starter; it’s just too likely that once the adrenaline has worn off, the rookie mistakes will be too much of a problem. For the Chargers, it will be likely be a smarter move to get Taylor healthy and stick to their plan.
That said, we saw that Herbert has the tools to be a quality player — if not even more than that. We’d better keep an eye on this young man.
5. Patrick Mahomes still has no quit in him
The Super Bowl MVP had a bad morning at the office — and then had a pretty damn good afternoon. Through the first half, Mahomes was just 8 of 19 for a dismal 60 yards and a touchdown — a passer rating of just 67.9. But in the second half, he turned it completely around, going 15 of 22 for 221 yards and a touchdown — and a rating of 115.9. In the fourth quarter alone, his passer rating was 131.5.
If it all looked familiar, it should have. It was almost exactly what happened in the 2018 AFC championship, when Mahomes just looked off in the first half — but in the second half, came back with a vengeance, doing exactly what needed to be done. In both games, Mahomes led his team into overtime.
As you’ll remember, though, there was a significant difference in these two games. In 2018, Mahomes never had a chance to touch the ball in overtime. That he did so on Sunday was simply because of the improvement in the Chiefs defense. Yes... the Chiefs gave up an absurd 183 yards in rushing to the Chargers; that’s something they absolutely have to fix. But when it came down to it in overtime, they answered the bell, holding the Chargers to a three-and-out in overtime — and giving Mahomes the chance to once again lead his team to victory.