Five Things That Stood Out in the Kansas City Chiefs’ Win Against the Chargers
A familiarly tight game most of the way involving the Chiefs and Chargers. A familiar result. And a familiar big-picture takeaway. The Chargers hung with the Chiefs for three quarters, but Kansas City finished off a 31-17 victory on its home field on Sunday afternoon. And it probably finished off the division right along with it. The winners of seven straight AFC West championships already, the Chiefs moved three games clear of anyone else in the division. It’s a bit hard envisioning anyone catching Patrick Mahomes and Co. while running from behind.
The Art of Travis Kelce
Travis Kelce makes quite a few appearances in these recaps, the kind of thing where you’re just looking for different ways to describe the same occurrence. Well, here’s one: Kelce caught his first 10 targets Sunday, giving him a streak of 29 straight receptions on passes thrown his way dating back to the Minnesota game. The odds of putting together a streak like that: taller than 1 in 3,000, per Next Gen Stats. So that’s something. Kelce was something else Sunday too. He finished with 12 catches for 179 yards and a touchdown, and he utterly controlled the game in the first half. He beat man coverage. He beat zone coverage. He totaled nine catches for 143 yards in the first half, forcing the Chargers to basically double team him after halftime. Can’t help but wonder why they didn’t open with that concept.
A Wrinkle from the Chargers. An Adjustment from the Chiefs
The Chiefs defense, not the offense, has been the most consistent unit in 2023. So the Chargers threw them a wrinkle. Tempo. The Chargers rushed to the line of scrimmage, often not substituting players and therefore preventing the Chiefs from making subs, a combination that gave the Chiefs fits. For a half. In their best season yet under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, this might be the best sign yet: The Chiefs were getting torched, and they completely turned it around. The Chargers scored all 17 points in the first half, averaging 7.3 yards per play. After halftime, the Chiefs held them to 4.3 yards per play, and they intercepted Justin Herbert twice.
The Deep Pass, Finally
And long last, Patrick Mahomes has a touchdown pass this season on a throw that traveled more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. An unconventional one too, because, well, of course it was. The Chiefs have struggled with the deep throws this season — more so than at any point in the Mahomes era — but they got the Chargers on one in the second quarter. Not by design. The throw came in the scramble drill, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling saw his quarterback needed an outlet and ran across the field to provide one. Mahomes looked prepared to run but kept his eyes downfield and hit Valdes-Scantling in stride about 22 yards past the line. Valdes-Scantling took care of the rest for a 46-yard score. It was far from the only Mahomes highlight. He completed 32 of 42 for 424 yards and four touchdowns.
The Charles Omenihu Effect
We’ll talk about the actual acquisition next, but the Chiefs’ best addition will be internal. I just didn’t know it would be this immediate. Charles Omenihu made his Chiefs debut after a six-game suspension to open the season, and you just might have noticed him. He had a sack that killed a Chargers drive in the second quarter, and even more impactful play came a quarter later. He used his 6-foot-5 frame to get his hands on a Herbert pass in the red zone, a deflection that fell into the arms of cornerback L’Jarius Sneed for an interception. The Chargers were eight yards shy of tying the game.
The Return of Mecole Hardman
After a mid-week trade returned Hardman to Kansas City, he then returned to a pretty typical role on special teams and some cameo roles in the offense. A dicey start. And then a big play. Hardman’s 50-yard punt return in the fourth quarter set up the game-sealing touchdown. He needed it. Hardman saw three targets at receiver. The first went off his hands. The second, on a go route, resulted in an interception —a poorly-placed ball after Mahomes was hit, but not one Hardman seemed to track through the air. The third gained all of 6 yards, his season total in New York. Back as the punt returner, Hardman twice let the ball bounced behind him, allowing the Chargers to down the ball inside the 5-yard line. It ended better than it began.
The Kansas City Chiefs have once again demonstrated their dominance in the AFC West with their 31-17 victory over the Chargers. The game showcased impressive performances from key players and highlighted the Chiefs’ ability to adapt and overcome challenges.
First and foremost, the star of the game was undoubtedly Travis Kelce. His 29 straight receptions on passed thrown his way is a remarkable feat, highlighting his consistency and reliability as a receiver. Kelce’s performance in the game was nothing short of exceptional, with 12 catches for 179 yards and a touchdown. He showcased his ability to beat both man and zone coverage, forcing the Chargers to adjust their defensive strategy. The question arises as to why the Chargers didn’t prioritize double-teaming him from the beginning, considering his dominance in the first half. It is essential for opposing teams to develop innovative and effective approaches to neutralize Kelce’s impact on the game, as he continues to be a force to be reckoned with each week.
The Chiefs’ defense faced a challenge from the Chargers’ tempo-based offensive strategy. The Chargers’ quick pace and lack of substitutions disrupted the Chiefs’ defensive rotations and initially gave the Chargers an advantage. However, credit must be given to the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo for making halftime adjustments that completely turned the game around. The Chiefs’ defense held the Chargers to 4.3 yards per play in the second half, intercepted Justin Herbert twice, and prevented any further scoring. This resilience and adaptability from the Chiefs’ defense is a testament to their improvement and marks them as a formidable force in the league.
Additionally, Patrick Mahomes finally connected on a deep pass, securing a touchdown for the Chiefs. This has been a struggle for the team throughout the season, but Mahomes showcased his ability to make crucial plays under pressure. Completing 32 of 42 passes for 424 yards and four touchdowns, Mahomes demonstrated his exceptional skills as a quarterback and solidified his position as one of the league’s best.
The introduction of Charles Omenihu after a six-game suspension brought immediate impact to the Chiefs’ defense. Omenihu’s sack and interception in the game showcased his ability to disrupt the Chargers’ offense and contribute to the Chiefs’ victory. His performance adds depth and strength to the Chiefs’ defensive lineup.
Mecole Hardman’s return to the Chiefs after a mid-week trade had a rocky start, with a dropped pass and a misjudgment on a go route resulting in an interception. However, he redeemed himself with a 50-yard punt return in the fourth quarter that set up a game-sealing touchdown. Hardman’s ability to contribute on special teams adds an additional dimension to the Chiefs’ game.
Advice for the Chiefs
The Chiefs’ victory against the Chargers solidifies their dominance in the AFC West and positions them favorably for another successful season. However, it is crucial for the team to continue to adapt, evolve, and address their weaknesses, particularly in their deep passing game. While Mahomes had a breakthrough with a touchdown on a deep throw, it is important for the team to consistently capitalize on these opportunities to keep opposing defenses on their toes.
Defensively, the Chiefs’ ability to make halftime adjustments and completely shut down the Chargers’ offense in the second half is commendable. However, it is essential to maintain this level of performance throughout the entire game and not rely solely on halftime adjustments to secure victories.
Overall, the Chiefs are in a strong position and have showcased their ability to overcome challenges. However, they must not become complacent and should continue to strive for excellence in all aspects of their game. By focusing on improving their deep passing game, maintaining defensive consistency, and further integrating their new acquisitions, the Chiefs have the potential to become a true powerhouse in the NFL.
<< photo by Alexander Nadrilyanski >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.
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