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Chiefs-Chargers rapid reaction: some good and some not so good

Let’s call that what it was: a Week 17 preseason game.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs opted to rest many of their starters against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, with reserve players seeing precious in-game action. Even in seasons in which there is actually a preseason, rarely do general managers get the opportunity to see their depth tested against most of another team’s starters; this game film will be a gem to be cherished by Brett Veach and his staff.

The game included some things that were good, some things that were not so good and some things that were outright concerning. Let’s go through a quick recap.

The good

Asked about wide receiver Byron Pringle this week, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy explained how the wide receiver always rises to the occasion. That was the case yet again on Sunday, with Pringle catching four passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. At one point, Pringle caught a deflected pass for a gain. Later in the game, he bounced off three or four defenders before he was brought down. He looked explosive on kick returns, as did cornerback Rashad Fenton — who began the matchup with a 44-yard return.

Running back Darwin Thompson had became a victim of circumstance this season after the team drafted another back in the first round, named Darrel Williams as first off the bench and then signed a three-time All-Pro. Thompson showcased his fresh legs on Sunday, and his effectiveness at the goal line on the first-quarter touchdown — a rare trouble area for the 2020 Chiefs — was refreshing to watch. He later added a pass-catching touchdown, which had been a point of emphasis for him to work out the last time we were regularly seeing him.

Rookie sixth-rounder BoPete Keyes made a case for 2021 snaps, as he finished with seven tackles. 2019 third-rounder Khalen Saunders stuffed quarterback Justin Herbert on a fourth-and-1 at the goal line. Veteran defensive end Alex Okafor shared back-to-back sacks of Herbert with defensive end Tim Ward, who was seeing the first in-game action of his NFL career.

Ward, in particular, showed quickness around the edge — and late in the game, he was seen chasing (and nearly keeping up) with wide receiver Tyron Johnson and running back Justin Jackson. It was nice to have some visual evidence on a player we know Veach especially likes.

The not so good

There were mistakes in the secondary — especially while defending wide receiver Mike Williams, who had a nice connection going with quarterback Justin Herbert. Williams and Herbert torched the Chiefs’ backups for 108 yards. Herbert threw for 302 and three touchdowns; it was evident the Chiefs missed the speed that their top defenders offer. Tiredness in the second half gave way to a Jackson takeover; Los Angeles’ 2018 seventh-round running back could not be brought down.

Wide receiver Mecole Hardman muffed a punt, leading to a fumble and a Chargers recovery at the Kansas City 17; it simply seemed as though he took his eyes off the ball and looked up the field too fast. Herbert made quick work of the short field as the Chargers tied the game at 14 — and never looked back.

The concerning

Willie Gay injured his ankle and leg on the third defensive snap of the football game. Although he was initially ruled questionable, he did not return. Cornerback Deandre Baker suffered a non-contact leg injury early in the third quarter and had to be carted off.

Baker’s injury appeared to be much more serious than Gay’s — but given there were angles for both players to potentially contribute in the coming postseason, both injuries are tough for Kansas City to swallow. Gay, however, might still play in the postseason.

Baker registered his first career sack and a pass breakup before being taken off the field.

With the Week 17 exhibition out of the way, it’s on to the playoffs.