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Against the Rams, the Chiefs’ defense continued to make timely plays

Kansas City had the lead, but Los Angeles was still hanging around. Then came the turning point.

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

The last time the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams played — back in Week 11 of 2018 — we all watched as two one-loss teams played a high-scoring thriller that ended as a 54-51 Rams victory. Since then, both teams have brought a Lombardi Trophy home.

So when the NFL schedule was released in March, most thought that we would be in for another thriller. But then the Chiefs and Rams went in two different directions. By the time Week 12 arrived, Kansas City was sitting at the top of the AFC — while Los Angeles occupied fourth place in the NFC West.

Even worse, the Rams were coming to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium without starting quarterback Matt Stafford and top wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson — all of them injured. Third-string quarterback Bryce Perkins would be starting his first NFL game.

So as the weekend began, oddsmakers favored the Chiefs by more than two touchdowns.

Although the Chiefs went to halftime up 13-3, it felt like this game was closer than what it should have been; somehow, the injury-riddled Rams were still hanging around. Then in the third quarter, the teams traded touchdowns.

Holding a 20-10 lead as the fourth quarter began, the Chiefs began a drive that looked like it could put the game away. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes led his offense down the field on a 12-play, 71-yard drive into the red zone — but on third-and-goal at the Rams’ four-yard line, Mahomes threw an uncharacteristic end-zone interception.

Los Angeles now had the ball at its 20-yard line — with a chance to bring the game within one score. It was as if the Rams had suddenly snatched the momentum from the Chiefs — and with a touchdown, could go from simply hanging around to actually having a chance to win the game.

The turning point

Two plays later, Perkins took the snap, looked left and fired a pass intended for wide receiver Van Jefferson — who had scored the Rams’ first touchdown. But playing the pass perfectly, Kansas City cornerback L’Jarius Sneed dropped back into his zone and intercepted the pass, returning it 26 yards to the Los Angeles nine-yard line.

The Chiefs were only able to manage a field goal from the turnover — but now that Kansas City was holding a 23-10 lead with less than seven minutes remaining, the Rams were no longer just hanging around.

On the next drive, another interception — this one by Nick Bolton — led to another field goal that closed out the Chiefs’ 26-10 victory, advancing them to 9-2 on the season.

The bottom line

The Kansas City offense did not have its best showing in the red zone, scoring just one touchdown in six trips. Kicking field goals — rather than scoring touchdowns — made this game closer than it should have been.

But star players make plays in critical situations — and Sneed is a star player. Whenever the Chiefs have needed him, he has consistently made plays — and in 2023, he should be in talks for a contract extension.

As for the rest of the team, head coach Andy Reid and Mahomes will get the red zone struggles cleaned up — and they will need to get it done. In Week 13, the team faces another challenge — and hopefully a little payback — as the Chiefs travel to Ohio to take on the Cincinnati Bengals.

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