On Sunday night, the Kansas City Chiefs traveled to SoFi Stadium and pulled out a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback victory against the Los Angeles Chargers, extending their dominance of the AFC West by winning 30-27 on Sunday Night Football.
Here are five things we learned from the game.
1. Good things happen when the Chiefs run the ball
Coming into Sunday night's game, the Chargers had given up an average of 190.3 rushing yards per game. The Chiefs started the game by rushing three times for 37 yards on their opening drive.
And then for some reason, they went away from it for most of the rest of the half.
The result was a mixed bag of stellar plays by quarterback Patrick Mahomes — and a few too many downs where Mahomes was under pressure or hit by defenders. Why the Chiefs stopped running the ball in the first half is a question that only head coach Andy Reid can answer — but once the second half began, it was apparent that the Kansas City coaching staff was going to put the ball in running back Isiah Pacheco's hands.
The result was a breakout game for the seventh-round rookie, who rushed for 107 yards on just 15 carries. Suddenly the Los Angeles defensive line had to account for the run — which in turn, opened up the Kansas City passing game.
2. Justin Herbert hears Mike Danna’s footsteps in his dreams
On the defensive side of the ball, Chiefs fans have come to expect stellar outings from defensive tackle Chris Jones — but when you see a rotational player like defensive end Mike Danna dominate a game by tallying two sacks against a division foe, it adds an additional element to Kansas City’s already productive pass rush.
On Sunday night, Danna split his time between lining up on the edge and on the interior — where his speed and agility have a chance to shine. Lining up next to Jones — who almost always draws a double-team — Danna was sure to see a lot of single-team reps where he only has to beat the guy in front of him to open a path to the quarterback.
3. Mahomes is the greatest — regardless of the receivers
Coming into Sunday’s matchup, the Chiefs were already going to be without wide receivers Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman — and then lost Kadarius Toney during the game. That left wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore and Justin Watson — along with elevated practice-squad wideouts Marcus Kemp and Cornell Powell. That’s not exactly a group that strikes fear into the hearts of an opponent.
But here’s the thing: when Patrick Mahomes is your quarterback, these things matter less than they do to other teams. Regardless of which players are on the field, Mahomes is going to make them look better than they actually are.
I’m not saying this as a knock against any of the wide receivers who played on Sunday night, because I think they turned in one of the gutsiest performances we’ve seen in a long time. But you’d be hard-pressed to find another quarterback who has this sort of success throwing to the bottom half of his roster. Mahomes is now the runaway favorite for MVP — and that’s just how it should be.
4. The AFC West still goes through Arrowhead
For all the offseason effort that the AFC West’s other teams went through to build their rosters to beat the Chiefs, it’s satisfying to say that Kansas City now has a three-game lead on the rest of the division.
You can change your head coach, spend a truckload of money to court Davante Adams or trade for Khalil Mack — but at the end of the day, none of it matters. Your quarterback is not Patrick Mahomes, your tight end is not Travis Kelce, your coach is not Andy Reid and your general manager is not Brett Veach. As long as these things are all true, it’s hard to envision a way that the Chiefs do not win the division.
5. Travis Kelce is Derwin James’ daddy
In his last four games against the Chargers, tight end Travis Kelce has amassed 461 yards receiving and five touchdowns. A lot of those yards — and more than one touchdown — have come at the expense of star Los Angeles safety Derwin James — including Sunday night’s game-winning reception with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
It was Kelce’s 33rd 100-yard receiving game — the most by a tight end in NFL history. Beyond making some very difficult contested catches on Sunday night, it’s what Kelce does after the catch that sets him apart as the best tight end to ever play the game. We don’t know how many more years Kelce and Mahomes have left together, so enjoy games like the two of them played on Sunday. We are witnessing greatness.