Final score: Kansas City Chiefs 27, Los Angeles Chargers 24
It was a long night, but the Chiefs were victors in a brutal primetime battle against an AFC West rival. The Chiefs had to withstand an aggressive Chargers offense before orchestrating a second-half comeback to secure a 2-0 start to its season. The defense came through in a big way — and provided a game-changing moment.
Offense (Talon Graff)
The Kansas City offense was tested throughout the game by a reworked (and much-improved) Los Angeles defense. Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack spearheaded a pass rush that continued to cause problems. While the offensive line allowed just one sack, the Chargers’ pressure was clear and present. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes had to do a lot to keep plays alive and get the ball downfield. Without the defense coming through on a huge pick-six, this game might have ended much differently.
The running game was essentially nonexistent; the team only mustered 92 yards. That number is inflated by a long 52-yard fourth-quarter run by Clyde Edwards-Helaire that led to the game-sealing field goal. Edwards-Helaire led the committee in carries with eight for 74 yards. Jerick McKinnon added 12 on four carries — and as a receiver, was able to score the Chiefs’ first touchdown. For the second week in a row, Edwards-Helaire was also effective as a receiver, hauling in four passes for 44 yards.
Rookie running back Isiah Pacheco had just two touches for six rushing yards. He had a chance to punch in a score near the goal line but was stopped short. We didn’t see much more from him after that. He was, however, able to step in and make some nice blocks to help out the offensive line in pass protection.
Preseason darling Justin Watson scored at a pivotal moment in the game, making a nice grab over Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson for a 41-yard scoring strike that kept the Chiefs within three points. Even though Los Angeles did a good job keeping him in check, Travis Kelce was the leading receiver with 51 clutch yards in big moments. Hats off to Mecole Hardman, who made plays for when Kansas City really needed them, coming up with three catches for 49 yards.
While it wasn’t a big output from the offense, it did enough to get the win.
Offensive Player of the Game: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes
Mahomes was running around all evening, trying to avoid the fierce Chargers pass rush. Even under pressure, Mahomes still completed 24 for 35 for 235 yards and two touchdown passes. He was the lifeblood for the entire offense, engineering all the production that we saw. Thursday night was an MVP performance from No. 15.
Defense (Bryan Stewart)
What a weird, wild ride.
After a first half in which it felt like Kansas City was being totally outclassed — and its defense was showing zero ability to tackle ball carriers or cover Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams — the team still trailed by just three points at the break.
On a night in which the offense never seemed to find its footing or rhythm, the defense ultimately saved the day in the second half. With both teams appearing highly fatigued, it was rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson’s pick-six that totally swung the outcome of the game. The young man had stepped in for the injured Trent McDuffie — and delivered. He 100% looks the part of a really solid player.
In the first half, the Chiefs’ defensive front created very little pressure on Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert — but in the second, both it (and the crowd) gained steam. Led by Chris Jones, the unit really started to hit Justin Herbert enough to create a bit of discomfort. Unfortunately for Herbert, it appears he was injured by one of those blows.
Tackling continues to be the biggest overall problem. Part of this is because it’s early in the season — a time of year when all teams tend to struggle with tackling. But it still has to get a lot better — or it will eventually cost the team games. The same goes for penalties in the secondary; cornerback Rashad Fenton had several.
The story of the game — and why the defense was ultimately the unit that helped the team win — was once again the third-down defense. The unit has strung together two straight weeks of excellent statistical output on late downs. On Thursday, the Chargers were 5-of-16 on third down. They did go 4-for-4 on fourth down, but most of those came very late in the game — when it was almost completely out of reach.
Defensive Player of the Game: Defensive tackle Chris Jones
Jones stepped up as the defensive unit’s best player to provide energy, leadership — and most importantly — two sacks in the second half. He also had a big pass deflection.
It’s still early in the season — and both the defense and offense have shown there’s plenty they can improve upon. Considering that the team is now 2-0 (and just beat their stiffest AFC West competition), that’s a scary proposition.