The team quickly got out to a 10-0 lead with two sustained scoring drives, then managed to turn the ball over three of the following five possessions — putting them in an eight-point deficit at 21-13 with roughy nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
It became an absolute vintage performance from quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the passing attack from that point on. On the Chiefs’ final three possessions (excluding the 17 second-drive to end regulation), they scored touchdowns — all on drives of 75 yards.
Mahomes in final 10 minutes: 10-for-13, 197 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) December 17, 2021
Mahomes was outstanding in those final minutes — closing out the win with great throws and timely use of his legs, but it was his own performance earlier in the game that led the Chiefs to be in comeback position in the first place.
“Obviously, those two drives before that where I dirt’d the fourth-down play and threw the interception, it put us in the hole,” Mahomes admitted to reporters in his post-game press conference. “I think guys just rallied and fought and found a way to win the game.”
The latter of Mahomes’ mistakes directly led to the Chargers’ go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter — but the most memorable misfire fell at the feet of a wide-open Mecole Hardman on fourth-and-goal.
“It was just a really [expletive] throw; that’s all it was,” Mahomes noted. “I grabbed the ball, and the motion was just a tad late. I let it go a little too long, and he was wide-open, so I tried to hurry up and just throw it to him. I didn’t grab the ball the way I wanted to, so I over-strided and just threw it straight into the ground.”
The lousy pass ended an 11-play, 70-yard drive late in the third quarter with zero points — and as the Chargers answered with a long drive of their own, it felt like a nail in the coffin.
However, head coach Andy Reid defended his signal-caller — crediting the team on the other side of the ball for making things difficult.
“You’re playing against a good football team, so not everything is perfect,” Reid told reporters during his post-game press conference. “Every once in a while, he throws a bad ball. That happens with every quarterback in this league. We are fortunate here to have a good one, and so are the Chargers.”
He’s right about Los Angeles: quarterback Justin Herbert is great and has continually proven that. Yet, even as he put his team in position to win multiple times in the fourth quarter, he failed to finish red-zone drives multiple times — then was held to a punt on their final drive, having a chance to win on a field goal with 1:16 remaining.
This won’t be the last time these two quarterbacks face off in a thriller; each team’s defense will have the opposing quarterback in mind as they make personnel and schematic decisions — which makes the victory that much sweeter when it happens.
“Doing it against a division opponent that’s studied you the whole entire offseason, it’s a really good football team, in general. They have a good defense and a good defensive coordinator, it definitely gives you confidence,” Mahomes revealed. “They’re playing the same coverages that people have said have given us struggles, but it all comes down to execution. I’ve always said if we execute, we can score on anybody, but it’s going to take us executing on every drive, and we did at the beginning and at the end. We have to figure out a way to do it for the full entire game.”
Mahomes is right: the failures between the opening drives and the game-winning ones could have submarined the game if not for some incredible defensive stops.
Yet, the entire team’s ability to overcome some rough stretches and still make the plays in the end to win are exciting — mainly because they haven’t had to do a lot of coming back in the Mahomes era.
“I think it shows the character of the guys in the locker room,” Mahomes began. “My first few years, it’s always been jumping out to these early leads with all these leads and then we kind of try to coast almost into the playoffs. This year was the opposite of that. It was, we’re going to have to battle every single week to get to where we want to be at. The job’s not finished.”
The job isn’t finished — but it sure seems like the AFC West is. The Chiefs are very close to clinching the division, as it could happen as soon as next week.
And just like this game, this Chiefs season has been a roller coaster. After an exciting start then a rough period of the year, the Chiefs are finishing strong — now on a seven-game win streak with only three weeks left.
However, if the Chiefs have Super-Bowl aspirations, they’re just now entering the fourth quarter of their season; ideally for them, it finishes as last night’s game did.