Final score: Kansas City Chiefs 27, Los Angeles Chargers 24
It was a long night, but the Chiefs won a brutal prime-time battle against rival AFC West. The Chiefs had to hold off an aggressive Chargers attack before orchestrating a second-half comeback to secure a 2-0 start to the season. The defense came through in a big way – and provided a game-changing moment.
Offense (Talon Graff)
Kansas City’s offense was tested throughout the game by a reworked (and much improved) Los Angeles defense. Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack led a passing rush that continued to cause problems. While the offensive line only allowed one sack, the pressure from the Chargers was clear and present. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes had to do a lot to keep the plays alive and get the ball downfield. Without the defense on a huge six pick, this game could have ended very differently.
The racing game was essentially non-existent; the team mustered just 92 yards. That number is inflated by a long 52-yard run in the fourth quarter by Clyde Edwards-Helaire that led to the decisive field goal. Edwards-Helaire led the committee in carries with eight for 74 yards. Jerick McKinnon added 12 on four carries – and as a receiver, managed to score the Chiefs’ first touchdown. For the second straight week, Edwards-Helaire was also effective as a receiver, passing four passes for 44 yards.
Rookie running back Isiah Pacheco had just two touches for six rushing yards. He had a chance to score near the goal line, but was stopped short. We didn’t see much of him after that. He was, however, able to step in and make some nice blocks to help the offensive line in pass protection.
Preseason darling Justin Watson scored at a pivotal moment in the game, laying a nice catch on Chargers cornerback JC Jackson for a 41-yard strike that kept the Chiefs within three points. Even though Los Angeles did a good job of keeping it under control, Travis Kelce was the leading receiver with 51 clutch yards in the big moments. Hats off to Mecole Hardman, who played when Kansas City really needed it, making three catches for 49 yards.
Although it wasn’t a big result from the attack, he did enough to get the win.
Offensive player of the game: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes
Mahomes ran all night, trying to avoid the Chargers’ ferocious pass rush. Even under pressure, Mahomes still completed 24 for 35 for 235 yards and two touchdowns. He’s been the cornerstone of the entire Offense, designing all of the production we’ve seen. Thursday night was an MVP performance from No. 15.
Defense (Bryan Stewart)
What a strange and wild race.
After a first half in which it looked like Kansas City was totally outclassed — and its defense showed no ability to tackle running backs or cover Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams — the team were still only three points behind at the break.
On a night where the attack never seemed to find its place or rhythm, the defense finally saved the day in the second half. While both teams looked very tired, it was rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson’s six picks that totally swung the outcome of the game. The youngster had replaced the injured Trent McDuffie – and delivered. He looks 100% like the role of a really solid player.
In the first half, the Chiefs’ defensive front created very little pressure on Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert — but in the second, he (and the crowd) picked up steam. Led by Chris Jones, the unit really started hitting Justin Herbert enough to create a bit of discomfort. Unfortunately for Herbert, it seems that he was injured by one of these blows.
The struggle remains the biggest global problem. This is partly due to the start of the season, a time of year when all teams tend to struggle to tackle. But you still have to get a lot better – or it will end up costing the team games. The same goes for high school penalties; cornerback Rashad Fenton had several.
The story of the game – and why the defense was ultimately the unit that helped the team win – was once again the third defense. The unit has had two consecutive weeks of excellent statistical results on delays. On Thursday, the Chargers were 5 of 16 on third down. They went 4 for 4 on fourth down, but most of them came very late in the game – when he was almost completely out of reach.
Defensive Player of the Game: Defensive tackle Chris Jones
Jones became the defensive unit’s best player for providing energy, leadership — and most importantly — two sacks in the second half. He also had a big pass deflection.
It’s still early in the season – and defense and attack have shown they can still improve. Considering the team are now 2-0 down (and having just beaten their toughest competition in the AFC West), that’s a scary proposition.
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