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Final score: Chiefs come back to beat Chargers 13-12 in regular-season finale

Kansas City backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert led a last-minute drive to secure the Week 18 win.

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

For the final weekend of the NFL season, Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 13-12 in a sloppy, meaningless road game whose main purpose was giving each team a chance to see what their young players could do.


First quarter


The Chiefs started the game with possession after Los Angeles won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert led the Chiefs’ offense to start from the 25-yard line after a touchback.

The backups’ first drive was uneventful. An incomplete screen pass led to third down, where Gabbert stepped up in the pocket to throw an incompletion in traffic to tight end Blake Bell.

The Chargers’ first drive nearly ended on the initial third down, where defensive tackle Chris Jones was just out of reach from surpassing 10 sacks on the season and earning the contract incentive of $1.25 million. Quarterback Easton Stick ended up scrambling for a first down, something he leaned on to advance the drive into Chiefs’ territory.

Stick kept running, eventually threatening to score in a goal-to-go situation — then Chiefs’ defensive end Charles Omenihu punched the ball out, leading to safety Mike Edwards to scoop it up and return it 97 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, Kansas City led 7-0.

Now defending a lead, the Chiefs’ defense was right back on the field, once again surrendering chunk gains on the ground to Stick. Just before midfield, the unit forced third down, and a quick release fell incomplete down the field, leading to a punt.

Looking to add to defense’s touchdown, the Chiefs initially moved the chains with a 10-yard completion to wide receiver Justyn Ross. That was followed up quickly with a third down, where Chargers’ pass rusher Khalil Mack earned a sack to end the drive.


Second quarter


The Chiefs’ defense started the second period with a three and out, highlighted by a hurried throw from the pressure of linebacker Cam Jones and Chris Jones.

Wide receiver Mecole Hardman moved the chains on a third down on the following drive, but that was followed up with a holding penalty on left tackle Wanya Morris to set the possession back. A screen pass to running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire wasn’t enough on the third down, leading to a punt.

The Chiefs forced another quick three and out, helped with a run stuff by Cam Jones. Chris Jones broke through a double team and nearly got that sack, but Stick got rid of it.

Kansas City got the following drive going when Edwards-Helaire converted a short third down, but it fizzled out after that. However, the punt unit used some trickery to move the chains on fourth down: running back La’Mical Perine received a direct snap and took it around the right side.

The Chiefs’ offense quickly took advantage of its second chance at life, when Gabbert gave Hardman a chance to catch a downfield pass in tight coverage. Hardman made the catch, then broke free from a defender to gain 37 yards and move inside the five-yard line.

Stuffed runs and an incompletion led to fourth and goal, and Kansas City settled for a field goal. A good kick extended the Chiefs’ lead to 10-0 with four minutes left in the half.

Los Angeles scored on the next drive, aided immediately by a pass interference call on cornerback Jaylen Watson on a deep throw. The defense shut it down from there, but it was enough for the Chargers to tack on a field goal; the Chiefs’ lead was 10-3.

After the two-minute warning, the Chiefs’ offense found life when Hardman made another tough grab — securing the ball and slipping away for 14 yards total. A few plays later, Gabbert went to Hardman again, but a miscommunication led to an interception, giving Los Angeles possession back with under 90 seconds left.

From 88 yards away, the Chargers were able to march down the field and get a field goal off. From 40 yards away, Los Angeles nailed the kick, closing in on the Chiefs’ 10-6 lead just before halftime.


Third quarter


The Chiefs’ defense started by quickly shutting down a drive, capped by a tackle for loss by defensive end Malik Herring; Chris Jones helped him blow up the play, leading to a punt.

Kansas City’s offense popped off the next drive when Gabbert quickly threw to Perine in the flat, leading to a catch-and-run gain of 25 yards. However, a five-yard loss soon after doomed the drive, leading to another punt.

The Chargers put together a 12-play, 60-yard drive that moved the chains three times on the ensuing drive — but the possession was ended when Chris Jones finally wrapped up Stick to earn a sack. It put him over 10 for the season, earning his contract incentive. The stop still surrendered a field goal, narrowing the Chiefs’ lead to 10-9.

Hardman and Perine paced the Chiefs on the next drive, pushing past midfield with a big play from each. The offense stopped from there, and punted away from Los Angeles’ 45-yard line.

Stick completed a pass for 16 yards to end the third quarter.


Fourth quarter


The Chargers got another big play to open the final period, when wide receiver Darius Davis took off for 18 yards on a handoff. That drive did eventually end in a punt, however.

Kansas City leaned on Perine to start this drive, moving the chains after three-straight handoffs. After that, three straight passes failed to move past the first-down marker, leading to another punt.

The Chargers slowly worked into Chiefs’ territory with short passes and and scrambles. Then, a quick pass to Ekeler converted third and short. However, Kansas City limited a pass play on third down short of the sticks, forcing a fourth down. The converstion attempt was successful, keeping Los Angeles’ drive alive.

A few plays later, the Chargers were working inside the 10-yard line, setting up first and goal at the six-yard line. That turned to third and goal at the one-yard line, then fourth down — because the Chiefs’ defensive line swarmed to the toss play. The Chargers elected to kick, taking the lead 12-10 with four minutes to go.

Looking to lead a game-winning drive, Gabbert took matters into his own hands — and feet! After he gained 25 yards on third and seven, he took off on another drop back to move the chains and set up at the Chargers’ 33-yard line. That’s when the two-minute warning hit.

With 54 seconds to go, the Chiefs faced fourth down, and the Chargers took their final timeout of the game. To take the 13-12 lead, the Chiefs kicked and made a field goal.

The pressure got to Stick early and often on this final drive: Herring broke through for a sack on first down, then kept coming after Stick until an incompletion was forced on fourth down. That secured the Chiefs’ 13-12 win.


Injuries


Rookie left tackle Wanya Morris was seen leaving the field late in the first half; he was ruled questionable to return with a head injury. In the third quarter, it was reported that Morris entered concussion protocol, ruling him out to return.

Right tackle Jawaan Taylor entered the game in Morris’ place at left tackle, then shortly after stayed down after a play. He walked off the field with help.

Wide receiver Justyn Ross left the game in the second half, ruled questionable to return with a hamstring injury. Soon after, he was ruled out from returning.


Special Teams


Kicker Harrison Butker made his first point-after attempt of the game in the first quarter. Then, he made a 22-yard kick with four minutes left in the half. To win the game, Butker nailed a 41-yard field goal.

Punt returner Richie James returned a punt 21 yards in the first quarter, his first chance of the game. He had two other returns, and also fair caught two punts.

James also returned one kickoff, gaining 23 yards on it.

Punter Tommy Townsend had six punts in the game. Two of them ended in touchbacks, with his longest boot traveling 61 yards. Later in the game, Townsend pinned the Chargers inside the 20-yard line three times.

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