In Week 7, another one of the Kansas City Chiefs’ division rivals came to town. But unfortunately for their thirsty fans, the Chiefs laid the hammer on the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half of Sunday afternoon’s game. Kansas City’s 31-17 victory might very well have dashed any dreams the Chargers might have for being relevant this season.
Sunday’s game was their Super Bowl. But for the Chiefs, it was just another step toward reaching their goal.
Here are five things we learned from the game.
1. Mecole Hardman can rewrite his narrative
Joni Mitchell may have said it best:
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone
We’ve all had those moments, right? Haven’t we all squandered a golden opportunity? Maybe it was failing to land a dream job... or missing out on what could have been the love of your life... or maybe something truly important — like choosing to be Donatello instead of Michaelangelo on Halloween.
Whatever it was, we can’t help but look back and ruminate over the one that got away.
If I had the chance to do it over again? I’d find a way to be better this time. I would change the way I handled it. I’d make the most of it. I wouldn’t let it get away from me again!
I think on some level, this is how Mecole Hardman feels about his second stint with the Chiefs. The first time around, he was the second-round pick who never lived up to the billing — or simply the guy Brett Veach selected instead of DK Metcalf.
This time around, the expectations are lower. To be a success story, Hardman doesn’t have to be a star. He just has to make the most of his new opportunity.
That’s what he did against the Chargers on Sunday. While he was unable to catch his first two targets, the third was a crucial third-and-6 conversion with just 3:45 left in the game — a catch that had been set up by his own 50-yard punt return five plays earlier.
These two plays opened the door for the one that iced the game: quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ eight-yard touchdown pass to running back Isiah Pacheco.
We don’t know how (or how much) the Chiefs intend to use their speedy wideout. But even if he only returns kicks, helping Kansas City win games — as he did on Sunday — it will be enough for him to be a success.
After all... Dante Hall is now in the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame.
2. The Chiefs’ offense can answer the call
On this past week’s “New Heights” podcast, tight end Travis Kelce told his brother Jason that offensive coordinator Matt Nagy had challenged the offense: It was time to stop talking about playing well. It was time to just do it.
The unit answered Nagy’s call with 483 yards of total offense. Mahomes had his first 400-yard game since Week 9 of 2022. Wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling turned in his best game of the season. Operating out of the big slot, rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice looked like a bull in a china shop — and I mean that in a good way.
While the running game was held in check, that didn’t hold the offense back. For the first time this season, the Chiefs looked like the team that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in February.
3. It’s not how you start — it’s how you finish
I don’t know. Maybe the Los Angeles coaches found something on tape they could exploit. Maybe it just took the defense some time to get going. Maybe it was both of those things.
Whatever the cause, the Kansas City defense didn’t look great in the first half. There were miscommunications in the secondary. Safety Bryan Cook was spun out of his shoes and roasted for a big gain. The Chargers’ Josh Palmer looked like Marvin Harrison — and the way he was gashing the defense, you might have thought Joshua Kelly was Nick Chubb.
And then the Chiefs flipped the switch.
We feel the need... THE NEED FOR SNEED‼️ pic.twitter.com/Ot0wNq0ErZ— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 22, 2023
With 4:24 left in the first half, the defense forced an incompletion on a pass to Keenan Allen. On the next play, defensive tackle Charles Omenihu sacked Justin Herbert.
That was all she wrote. The Chiefs forced stops on six straight possessions, euthanizing any shot the Chargers had at winning the game — and perhaps the AFC West.
4. Charles Omenihu is another bullet in another chamber
Coming into this game, we didn’t quite know what the team had in defensive end Charles Omenihu, who missed the first six games of the season due to a league-mandated suspension. While we knew the Chiefs thought enough of him to sign him to a lucrative free-agent contract, we hadn’t seen him play in a game that mattered.
So it’s a one-game sample — but so far, the return on investment looks good. In his Kansas City debut, Omenihu registered a sack, two quarterback hits and a pass defended. Quarterbacks around the league should take notice: the Chiefs are going to rush the quarterback — and going to get home.
5. Travis Kelce looks like a kid again
All of our worries about Kelce should be put to rest.
Yes... he did start the season slowly. But he’s not banged-up, distracted or otherwise unable to play at his normal high level. Over the last two weeks, he has added 303 receiving yards to his 2023 tally. Even after missing Week 1 (and gaining just 26 yards in Week 2) he has 525 yards on the season. That leads all tight ends by over 150 yards. With 10 games left, he needs to average just 47.5 yards per game to notch his eighth straight 1000-yard season.
So far, he’s averaged 40 yards more than that: 87.5 yards a game.
But it’s not just the stats. Kelce is playing with a renewed vigor. It doesn’t matter whether that’s because he’s still in his prime or because he’s just more savvy than every defender he faces. He’s just out there having fun. We’re just along for the ride — and we’re having fun, too!