After the team’s 27-24 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday Night Football, you could put the whole Kansas City Chiefs defense on the winners list for a gritty performance that picked up the offense when it was most needed.
The pass rush started slow, but came alive in the second half to batter Los Angeles quarterback Justin Herbert in the fourth quarter — and a key turnover helped bring this game home.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his offense had a frustrating night, with some conservative play-calling and trouble in pass protection. The unit made just enough plays to get the job done — but after this one, the offense really owes the defense a steak dinner.
Here are a few Chiefs who stood out during a tough division win.
Note: Applying the labels “winners” and “losers” is not intended to be a judgment on the talent or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to grade their performance in a single game. No disrespect is intended.
Justin Watson: We weren’t sure he’d play after sustaining a chest injury in a quiet opening week performance. But when the Chiefs needed someone to step up early in the second half, Watson — coming in for an injured Mecole Hardman — had a 41-yard touchdown reception that was a thing of beauty. He made J.C. Jackson look silly by turning him around and finishing the play over the diving defender.
Tommy Townsend: It’s not a good sign that the punter is on this list — or that he got as many opportunities as he did. But Townsend did manage to repeatedly flip the field on his six punts for 333 yards — three of them landing inside the 20-yard line. His 74-yard bomb in the second quarter ensured that the Chargers wouldn’t score again before halftime. In Week 3, we hope that Townsend will spend more time on the bench — but that’s no reflection on his Thursday night performance.
Chris Jones: Early on, the defensive end had his hands full with Chargers first-round pick Zion Johnson — but Jones kept battling. When he flipped to the other side, he had a couple of crucial second-half sacks — including one that was nearly a safety. Add that to a batted pass and a tackle for loss that forced a punt, and we see that Jones played a big part in shifting momentum and keeping the game within reach. He had a monster night.
Carlos Dunlap: The team’s new defensive end put in some work that featured some really sound tackling — especially against running back Austin Eckeler. He showed some veteran savvy by staying at home, shedding blockers and finishing. His performance might be overshadowed by the big defensive plays in this game — but so far, Dunlap appears to be giving the Chiefs exactly what they needed from him.
Jaylen Watson: The Chargers were driving. They were inside the five-yard line, threatening to make the Chiefs pay for settling for a field goal on their previous drive. But Watson jumped a Herbert pass and took it 99 yards to the house. It was exactly the massive defensive play that the team absolutely had to have. In primetime against a division rival, the seventh-round rookie stole the show.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire: The third-year running back had some very good moments in the opening drive, but his 52-yard run (with a facemask penalty at the end) was the dagger that helped seal this win. Involved in both the running and the passing game, his first 100-yards-from-scrimmage game of 2022 looks like it won’t be his last.
Rashad Fenton: With starter Trent McDuffie going on injured reserve this week, the Chiefs were down a cornerback. For whatever reason, they seemed to let Mike Williams attack their remaining corners with limited help. None fared that well — but Fenton was particularly unimpressive, getting both a holding and a pass interference call (his second of the day) on a play where Williams still caught the pass. It wasn’t his finest performance — albeit in a tough matchup.
Andy Reid: Why would the winning coach be on the losers list? Let’s see... maybe it was the game plan... the scripted plays... the decisions to punt... the conservative play-calls and the play-calls on short yardage... leaving tight ends alone in protection against Bosa and Mack too often — and finally, going for a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. To his credit, Reid’s offense appears to have adjusted just enough in the second half — but in such a big game, there were too many puzzling decisions.
Bryan Cook: The rookie safety accumulated two special-teams penalties — both of them 15-yard personal fouls. It would have taken a lot of positive plays for him to overcome those two mental mistakes. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.