Week 2 of the NFL season was marred by injuries across the league, including a couple of Kansas City Chiefs defenders who left the game against the Los Angeles Chargers early.
It was a day in which little went right for the visiting team, but it still found a way to pull off an overtime victory. Days like this would have sunk previous Kansas City teams, but the defending Super Bowl champions have been tested and have overcome worse.
The MVP and best player in the league did what had to be done, making plays with his legs and his arm. But even he was overshadowed by another Chief, who might also be the best in the league at his position.
There are some unlikely heroes and collective struggles in this week’s edition of winners and losers.
- Harrison Butker: We heard it prior to the season: the Chiefs felt Butker had added distance, and they were more comfortable with him from long range. “Buttkicker” proved their faith justified this week. Earlier in the game, he tied a team record with a 58-yard make. Then, with the game on the line, he forced overtime with a 30-yard field goal. The real magic was in overtime, with the game tied. Butker was unflappable, hitting a 53-yarder, then twice hitting the 58-yard game-winner after a penalty and a timeout. It wasn’t just that Butker hit the kicks, but it was also how he did it. Drilling kick after kick and walking off without even watching the final one going through the uprights, Butker showed his championship swagger. This was a confidence-inspiring performance for the Chiefs kicker, who should be the unanimous special teams player of the week.
- L’Jarius Sneed: Two NFL games, two interceptions, two strong performances on for the Chiefs rookie, playing one of the most difficult positions on the field without a ton of help.
- Darwin Thompson: The stat line doesn’t jump off the page — just four carries for 21 yards. But when the Chiefs had a fourth down to convert to keep hope alive this week, they lined up and ran Thompson straight into the teeth of the defense for a first down. With Darrel Williams banged up, the diminutive second-year back got the call and delivered.
- Mike Danna: The team’s first sack of the Chargers’ rookie quarterback was a big one. The Chiefs’ rookie defender showed impressive closing speed and took down Hebert for a 14-yard loss. Danna continues to show he belongs on the field.
- Travis Kelce: Even with as many playmakers as the Chiefs have on offense, there are times they can’t seem to get anyone open, and they need a go-to guy to step up. Mr. Reliable for the Chiefs is also the league’s best tight end. Nine catches for 90 yards and a touchdown for Kelce this week and nearly every one was on a must-have.
- Mecole Hardman: After a disappointing Week 1 performance, we named Hardman a sleeper candidate against the Chargers. While he didn’t make any of the types of plays we saw last season, when he averaged 55 yards per touchdown and 20 yards per catch, Hardman was a difference-maker for the Chiefs in Los Angeles. Each of his catches was key in moving the chains, and his two-point conversion tied the game late in the fourth quarter. We still need to see more from Hardman, but his contributions shouldn’t go unnoticed this week.
- Tyrann Mathieu: The emotional leader of the defense came through with an incredible pass breakup to save a touchdown this week. He also chipped in five tackles and a quarterback hit, helping to hold the Chargers to a pair of field goals in the second half and forced a punt in overtime.
- The entire Chiefs offensive line: The Chargers defensive line presents a unique challenge for any offense. But it’s one that the Chiefs typically find a way to overcome. This week, both offensive tackles seemed outmatched for the majority of the game, as Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and Jerry Tillery feasted on Mahomes play after play. There were also five costly penalties, including the false start from Nick Allegretti that pushed the game-winning field goal back five yards. Protecting Mahomes has to be priority number one, and they have to do a better job than they did on Sunday.
- The defense’s ability to tackle: Poor tackling is a league-wide issue with the lack of preseason and limited practices. The Chiefs defense struggled from the first Chargers drive to the last. Dan Sorensen, Juan Thornhill, Chris Jones were among the defenders who bounced off of Chargers’ backs and receivers all afternoon. So many opportunities to stop plays in the backfield or to get off of the field on third down were squandered, and it almost cost them the game.
- Each of the Chiefs’ linebackers: Austin Ekeler averaged 13 yards per catch and almost six yards per carry, Josh Kelley averaged 24.5 yards per reception and Hunter Henry went six receptions for 83 yards. The Chiefs linebackers struggled in space, defending against running backs and at tackling. Damien Wilson, Anthony Hitchens and Ben Niemann looked like the weakest position group on the team. Willie Gay made a play... on special teams (blocked punt). Will this be a position group teams exploit as a mismatch all season, or will Steve Spagnuolo make some changes?
Who were your Chiefs-Chargers winners and losers? Weigh in below.