There was a lot of talk about who could overtake the Kansas City Chiefs in a new-look AFC West. The other three teams in the division made big-time additions to their rosters in the offseason, but two weeks in, and the Chiefs are still the kings of the best division in football. Thursday night, Patrick Mahomes and Co. downed the Los Angeles Chargers 27-24.
Both Mahomes and Justin Herbert started off slow, but ultimately found their respective rhythms. Mahomes built on his impressive Week 1 performance, completing 24 of 35 passes for 235 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Herbert on the other hand completed 33 of 48 passes for 334 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Mike Williams stepped up for the inactive Keenan Allen in a big way, as he caught eight passes for 113 yards and one touchdown. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough.
The Chiefs made an interesting decision to kick a field goal on the Chargers’ 1-yard line to start the fourth quarter, which tied the game at 17 apiece. Fans didn’t question that decision for long, as the rookie Jaylen Watson picked off Herbert at the 1-yard line on the next drive, and returned it 99 yards the other way for the Chiefs’ first lead of the game.
Herbert suffered a chest/rib injury that knocked him out for a play while trying to orchestrate a comeback. While he returned, he didn’t look comfortable at all. He still led a nine-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Josh Palmer on fourth-and-goal, but L.A. could not recover the onside kick
Why the Chiefs won
The Chiefs did not start out strong, but managed to never get too far behind even when they were struggling. In the first half it seemed like the Chargers should have more of a lead, but they did a good job staying in it. The momentum shifted in the second half with 20 unanswered points from the Chiefs that took them from being down 14-7 to taking a 27-14 lead.
The Chiefs got lucky on some near interceptions by the Chargers, specifically from Asante Samuel Jr., that did not result in a takeaway. They nearly had a fumble by the goal line as well, with the ball coming out of Travis Kelce’s hands following a body slam by Derwin James, but he was ruled down by contact.
If any of these near turnovers ended up as actual Chiefs turnovers, this could have been a different story.
Speaking of turnovers, it was ultimately a turnover that made the difference. The Chargers were knocking on the door of the end zone, but a 99-yard pick 6 from Chiefs’ Jaylen Watson ended up giving Kansas City its first lead of the game. Another three points sealed the deal and the Chargers ran out of time to catch up.
Why the Chargers lost
The Chargers had the lead for the majority of the game, but unfortunately for them and their fans, it is not who has the lead for most of the time.
Despite coming out strong and impressing in the first half, they never had a large lead. When it comes to playing Mahomes and the Chiefs, a close lead is as good as no lead, because they are a team that knows how to come back.
The Chargers’ errors, like struggling on third down, giving Mahomes and Co. good field position after a near safety in the second half, and the pick 6 were the difference-makers.
The second half was a different story than the first, as the Chiefs chipped away at the lead while the Chargers failed to put together a scoring drive. The Chargers scored a touchdown early in the third quarter and did not score again until it was too late.
Herbert was not wildly outplayed by Mahomes and held his own as the pressure rose, but in a matchup of two elite teams, sometimes one interception makes all the difference.
The Chiefs’ second touchdown of the day was a Justin Watson pass from Mahomes for 41 yards and kicked off their 20 unanswered points. Until then, the Chargers had control and the Chiefs looked like they needed a spark and this was just that spark to get their run started. The next touchdown was also from a Watson — Jaylen Watson — whose pick 6 gave the Chiefs the lead for good.
Play of the game
The undeniable play of the game was the 99-yard pick 6 from Jaylen Watson. According to Next Gen Stats, “The Chiefs’ win probability jumped from 31% to 85% as a result of Watson’s pick 6 of Herbert, a 54% increase, the biggest win probability swing on a pick 6 over the last three seasons.”
Take a look at the long interception return:
Jaylen Watson with a 99 yard PICK SIX‼️ UNREAL #ChiefsKingdom
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) September 16, 2022
Up next for the Chiefs are the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 25. The Chiefs will travel to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the AFC South team, that currently stands at 0-0-1 heading into the weekend following a tie against the Houston Texans.
The Chargers will play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 25 at SoFi Stadium. The Jaguars lost 28-22 to the Washington Commanders in Week 1. They take on the Colts on Sunday.
We can hear this photo 🗣 pic.twitter.com/5VJuWHVbY9
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) September 16, 2022
Always a battle between these two. pic.twitter.com/qnzhoUFP8o
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) September 16, 2022
— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) September 16, 2022