An instant classic took place in the City of Angels on Thursday Night, our recap below!
What. A. Game. The Kansas City Chiefs victory in L.A. on a short week with a near playoff-like atmosphere was phenomenal because the good guys won. Mistakes were made, the defense gave up more points than in the last two weeks combined and for nearly three quarters it just didn’t look the Chief’s night. Until it was. As the Chiefs Kingdom across the country were no doubt on their feet in bars, living room, and man-caves standing in front of their televisions, Travis Kelce’s 34-yard OT TD catapulted the Chiefs to a two-game lead in the AFC West.
It was clear early on that the Chargers had a two-fold plan: 1.) Run the ball and 2.) Go for it on 4th down. Only one of those paid off, the Chiefs struggled mightily against the Chargers ground game. Fortunately, it was the second part of the Chargers’ plan that the Chiefs did not struggle. 4th down is the new 3rd down in the NFL, but for the Chargers those analytics did not work out when the game ended. The Chiefs faced the Chargers going for it on 4th down five times on Thursday Night, three of which could have led to points. The Chiefs were successful in stopping L.A. on three of those attempts. Those stops meant the game. Throw in the fumble recovery on the goal-line stand and the Chiefs defense had a huge impact on this win.
Nick Bolton is going to be a force for this team for years to come, Derrick Johnson incarnate. This is the player the Chiefs needed for the last few years, Bolton totaled a whopping 10 tackles against L.A. Bolton has amassed 100 tackles on the season despite being on the field for only 62% of the plays. Thursday Night Bolton was a stud at the linebacker position. With the defense missing three key players in Willie G., Chris Jones, and L’Jarius Sneed, this could have been a disaster. Although they allowed 28 points all told, the defense stepped up when they need to most. That 28 points could have easily ballooned to 40 without the effort of Bolton and this defense.
Chris Jones was missed, but Spags squad overcame despite giving up 192 yards on the ground. The Chargers did not shy away from running directly at the spot Jones would normally occupy. At times the porous Chiefs run D resembled what many thought the Chargers D would have looked like against K.C. The Chiefs ultimately gave up 428 yards of offense to a formidable L.A. squad, but the stops on 4th down and the goal line stands show this defense is the true reason for the team’s turnaround during this 7-game win streak and will be the reason this team continues to win as we look toward the playoffs.
As a card-carrying member of the Kingdom for over 30 years, I would like to personally thank the defense. Why? As the sports universe anxiously awaited to anoint Justin Herbert as the new king, this defense held him to a rather pedestrian day in comparison to PM 15. Had Herbert lit up the stat sheet and the scoreboard for an L.A. win, we would have been subject to 10-days of an endless onslaught of Herbert over Mahomes comparisons. There would have been an NFL Network/Twitter coronation ceremony and the Kingdom would have to wait weeks, if not until next season to end that narrative. So, thank you Chiefs D for sparing the Kingdom this awful fate. Also, Dan Sorenson, you are forgiven.
Mistakes were made, no doubt. After an initial drive that led to points and the scripted plays were gone, the offense sputtered and struggled to execute. At times it just did not look like Mahomes and company had what it was going to take to get the W. Robinson and Hardman’s contributions continued to decline and CEH could not get the ground game going against the Chargers’ 31st run defense. As the Chargers offensive was gashing the Chiefs D on the ground, the Chiefs could get out of their own way, again. For 2 ¾ of the game, the offense was stagnant as the defense once again kept the Chiefs within striking distance. Mahomes, still struggling with his impatience, overthrew Hardman deep on a 3rd and short, put an easy TD in the dirt, and threw an interception on 3rd and two inside their own 5-yard line. If there was ever an opportunity for the Chargers to steal the crown, it was Thursday Night. But, as the NFL has come to learn, if you don’t put the Chiefs away when you have the chance, well, Thursday Night’s 4th quarter and OT happens.
If PM 15 and his two closest friends Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill hadn’t decided enough was enough, the loss would have landed squarely on Mahomes. It was clear throughout the game that Mahomes was in his own head. After taking what was there early, PM 15 started looking off open receivers, holding on to the ball too long, and making some mental mistakes that seem likely to cost the Chiefs the game. Then, as we have witnessed many times in the Mahomes era, things started clicking. Thing 1 and Thing 2 in that clicking equation were Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill and their ability to improvise when PM 15 escapes the pocket. The Chargers D, clearly gassed, were on their heels late in the game as the Chiefs abandoned the run game and Mahomes went to work. The Triad dissected the winded Chargers defense with ease tying the game twice and adding a near-heart stopping two-point conversion which Mahomes appear to make more difficult than it had to be.
The hero of the night, as all the Kingdom is aware was Sir Travis Kelce of Clutchburg. Kelce’s 191 yards was accomplished through a sheer will as he bobbed and weaved through the Chargers secondary who appear to be wearing concrete cleats as the 32-year-old racked up YAC with ease. The walk-off OT touchdown was nothing short of amazing and will go down as the #1 play of the regular season. Sir Travis now has his NFL record 6th 1000-yard season as a TE, no other TE has had more than five.
Sir Travis of Clutchburg’s epic evening has overshadowed the third member of the Triad, Sir Tyreek Hill of Catchville. Sir Tyreek’s 12/148 and his amazing grab for a touchdown would be the talk of the Kingdom had it not been for Kelce’s spectacular night. Hill’s ability to secure the contested touchdown late in the 4th quarter was spectacular and should be recognized as such throughout the Kingdom.
A fullback on an NFL team is a thankless job, ask Anthony Sherman. Somewhere in the game plan, FB Michael Burton’s name came up and he made some critical contributions. Burton tallied two catches for 20 yards and added a 7-yard rushing touchdown on a play I can only hope is called. “The Ghost of Sausage.”
The Chiefs took a big step toward their 6th consecutive AFC West title on Thursday night in an instant classic. However, the mini-bye week the early game offers will hopefully allow for some realization that a slow start and offensive struggles won’t always play out with the same late-game opportunities in the playoffs. For the next 10 days, the Kingdom can enjoy that the Herbert talk has been silenced, the Chiefs have won 7 straight and all is well. Next up hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers.