Chiefs fans got their show
The Kansas Chiefs were done.
Leading 17-7, Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. bounced a ball off his knee, dove in front of him and appeared to catch a Patrick Mahomes pass for a sure interception. But it wasn’t. The ball narrowly hit the ground, preserving the Chiefs’ Thursday Night Football life.
Recent years have dictated that the Chiefs pulling out a win in these situations would be based solely on that Mahomes Magic — and though we got a dose of that earlier in the game, this comeback had multiple layers to it: Justin Watson beating his man long for his first touchdown in 999 days followed by a three-and-out, punter Tommy Townsend regularly flipping the field and the crowd fueling the defense as the Chargers tried to drive from their own goal line.
Defensive tackle Chris Jones’ second sack of the game led to the Chiefs starting at the Chargers 36-yard line. Nine plays later, a field goal from replacement kicker Matt Ammendola tied the game at 17.
On the next drive — of all the Chiefs on the team to grab a game back on a pick-six — it was none other than rookie seventh-rounder Jaylen Watson, who was filling in for an injured Trent McDuffie. He brought the house down with a 99-yard interception return. In a world where the Chargers’ pick would have stood, they might have gone up 24-7 and put the Chiefs away. But instead, Watson’s interception put the Chiefs up 24-17 on the way to a 27-24 final.
Earlier this week, Watson alluded to his intention of “giving the fans a show.” On Thursday night, he did just that, en route to a 27-24 victory.
Clyde’s time to shine
The primary theme of organized team activities, training camp, the preseason and even the early regular season has been the idea that in life after Tyreek Hill, the offense would come from everywhere. Last week, Mahomes relied on tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to get it done, hitting four separate Chiefs for touchdowns, including running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire for two.
Two Chiefs on offense who didn’t score offensive touchdowns last week (Watson and Jerick McKinnon) got in the end zone this week — and though Edwards-Helaire didn’t score, he is beginning to show signs of the player the Chiefs bragged about on draft night three years ago.
Edwards-Helaire ran tough all game, to the tune of 74 yards on eight carries (nine yards per carry), and his 21-yard gain after a broken tackle during the third quarter led to a Chiefs touchdown three plays later. His 52-yard burst in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach.
Since Edwards-Helaire was drafted in the first round, fans, analysts and talking heads have sometimes debated whether he was a “bust” — but Thursday provided another example why the running back is no bust.
Ahead of the game, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid nudged the idea that the draft pick doesn’t matter once the season begins. Look no further than what Watson was able to do in relief of McDuffie out of the seventh round. As veteran Rashad Fenton struggled early, Watson kept his composure on the other side, giving the Chiefs a chance to win the game. The pick-six by the former Wendy’s employee is as good a story as it was a play.
And Matt Ammendola — the kicker who found himself out of the league after going 13 of 19 in his career, including 2 of 8 from beyond 40 yards out — was a perfect 2 of 2 on field goals and 3 of 3 on extra points. The field goals were from 19 and 31, but on a national stage (and with new life in his career on the line), Ammendola did his job. In a game that came down to three points, a mishap could have changed the evening entirely. That did not happen.
The final word
Sometimes it is not pretty. Sometimes the offensive game plan takes a few quarters to kick in. Sometimes, it takes your defense to keep you in the game, make the other top-five quarterback uncomfortable all night and let the matchup come back to you.
Sometimes it takes a castoff from Tampa, a draft bust and a former Wendy’s employee.
Sometimes it’s the unforseen that gives you the lone lead in the toughest division in football before the rest of the league plays a Week 2 game.
This year is going to be fun.