On Sunday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs traveled west to take on the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi stadium. The final matchup of 2023’s regular season carried no postseason implications, making it a game the Chiefs could use to rest their starters before the playoffs begin. Kansas City left Los Angeles with a 13-12 victory, giving it a 11-6 record for the season.
Here are five things we learned from the Week 18 win.
1. Teams should just pay players for the sacks they get
Yes, this is tongue-in-cheek — but only about halfway. When defensive tackle Chris Jones came into this game half of a sack short of triggering a $1.25 million contract incentive for at least 10 sacks this season, I’m sure head coach Andy Reid hoped that his star pass rusher would meet that goal in the first quarter. But as the game wore on — and Jones recorded pressure after pressure with no sack — Reid’s stress level probably rose higher and higher.
Jones finally got his sack with 4:53 left in the third quarter. The play prompted an awesome sight: the whole Kansas City sideline went bananas, celebrating with one of their defensive leaders.
But before Jones got his sack, he was a man on a mission. Nothing could stop him from breaking through the Chargers' offensive line. In the first half, he accumulated 10 quarterback pressures on 25 pass rush attempts. That’s a pressure rate of 40%.
If this is how players are going to perform with a cash carrot in front of them, then more teams should pay guys based on their production. There are cap implications — and the fact that on Sunday, Jones had no interest in playing run defense — but just for argument's sake, can you imagine how many sacks a guy like Jones could get if you gave him a million dollars every time he got one?
2. Cam Jones can play football
Some people call games like this “meaningless” — and in a lot of ways, they’re right. I mean... half of the team was sitting on the bench. But for some guys, it’s an opportunity to showcase their talents. For them, it might be the biggest game of their career.
Before Sunday, undrafted rookie linebacker Cam Jones had appeared in all of Kansas City’s games, appearing on 67% of the special teams snaps but just 7% of the defensive plays He had collected just five tackles. On Sunday, he led the team with 12. He looked fast and decisive — and was quick to the ball carrier.
I like Cam Jones.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) January 7, 2024
So as we look ahead to the playoffs, let’s take a moment to congratulate Jones. He did exactly what he was supposed to do: he made the most of his moment in the sun.
3. Travis Kelce cares more about the playoffs than personal stats
Coming into this year, tight end Travis Kelce had recorded seven straight seasons with more than 1,000 receiving yards — an accomplishment far beyond any other tight end in NFL history. He needed just 16 yards on Sunday to extend that streak to eight seasons. He chose, however, to rest his 34-year-old body so he would be fresh for the playoffs.
After the game, Reid said that it was Kelce’s choice not to play, saying that his star tight end decided that suiting up just to extend the record would have been selfish; it didn’t feel right to him.
Andy Reid on Chris Jones playing & Travis Kelce not playing. He said that it was Travis' decision & he didn't want to come off as selfish & didn't like the way it felt. Andy also said that Chris playing was different because there was a financial component. #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/tHsNAveow9— Starcade Media (@StarcadeMediaKC) January 8, 2024
I commend Kelce for putting the team’s success ahead of his own glory — but there is a flip side to this. Many in Chiefs Kingdom wanted to see Kelce continue his streak.
You have to wonder if Kansas City’s lack of explosive playmakers was a factor in his decision. In essence, the team cannot afford to be without him in the playoffs — and Kelce simply didn’t want to jeopardize that.
Still, Kelce’s run of dominance is unmatched by any other tight end. We should all appreciate how lucky we have been to witness it — and have the Chiefs benefit from it.
4. The defense doesn’t take days off
Don’t tell the Chiefs’ defense that this game didn’t matter. They walked into SoFi Stadium with bad intentions — and a taste for blood.
With so many starters out of the game, it would have been easy for cornerbacks like Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson to just go through the motions. But instead, everyone on the defense did the exact opposite: they played like they had something to prove.
Man, Joshua Williams and the rest of the Chiefs secondary are absolutely laying the wood. Every hit is a hit stick.— Sterling Holmes (@HomestretchKC) January 7, 2024
It was the sort of performance that Kansas City fans can wear with pride. It was all heart — winning for the sake of winning — and I have to say it was really fun to watch.
5. At least we’re not Chargers fans
By the Chiefs’ standards, this has been a rough regular season. But let’s remind ourselves that those standards are very high. Even in a down season, Kansas City’s backups can beat the Chargers.
Even worse for Los Angeles fans, they have no idea who their next coach or general manager will be — and according to Spotrac, the team will be $34.5 million over the cap in 2024. That’s with just 37 players under contract, too.
So when things look dreary, always remember this: at least you don’t root for the Chargers.