The Kansas City Chiefs are 8-2 after beating the Los Angeles Chargers 30-27. Here’s three takeaways from that ballgame:
Another Day, Another MVP-Caliber Performance for Patrick Mahomes
At some point I’m going to just treat the idea of Patrick Mahomes collecting his second NFL MVP award at the end of the season as a formality and drop this narrative thread so as to not sound redundant. This go-around was different though, not just because it’s against a division rival on the road on Sunday Night Football, but because the available personnel for the Chiefs offense demanded that these cats go out there and make some big plays…and boy howdy did they:
This one right here’s a strong contender for Play of the Year by Mahomes: Stuck in the pocket (which I’m told is something people really care about), delivered a dart to Jody Fortson in stride just out of reach of Bryce Callahan who was playing some excellent coverage and fixing to make this one an incompletion. It’d be one thing if this was to one of the usual suspects, a pass to Travis Kelce or Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but Mahomes was making his money across the field to the players that stepped up while a decent amount of pass catchers were hurt:
— Devon Clements (@DevclemNFL) November 21, 2022
No JuJu, No Problem!
Of course when it came down to brass tacks and the Chiefs needed to get into the end zone, Travis Kelce took matters into his own hands:
There’s really nothing like a sub-two minute go-ahead touchdown drive to really mess with your perceptions of time:
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) November 21, 2022
Surely 90 seconds is all you need to orchestrate a comeback drive, right? It definitely is if you’re Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce.
the chargers should be forced to put kelce in their ring of honor
— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) November 21, 2022
At this rate, you might as well throw Mahomes in there, too. Given how he plays against the Chargers, Raiders, and the Broncos it just makes sense. Still plenty of season left to go before the Chiefs can clinch the AFC West, though, but if they can keep playing like that if the roster isn’t at 100% we might be seeing that ticket punched sooner rather than later.
The Chiefs Rookies Came Through Huge
So like I mentioned earlier in the column, the Chiefs got hit with the injury bug before and during the Chargers game, missing players like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman as well as Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Kadarius Toney around halftime. Sure, the Travis Kelce connection was working just fine, but it needed some extra juice from some of the other skill position players left to fill in the blanks.
Enter Isiah Pacheco and Skyy Moore.
Pacheco having himself a day made sense, at least on paper: The Chargers run defense ranks close to last in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, a lot of teams have taken advantage of the Chargers by running the ball so why can’t the Chiefs, right? That’s a physical o-line and you got a tough runner, that should make for a game script that’s pretty easy to understand but hard to stop. And it was definitely hard to stop for the Chargers:
Pacheco wrapped up the day with 107 yards on 17 carries, averaging 7.2 yards per touch and was the focal point of an agonizing drive for the Chargers defense where he just pulled ’em by the ears and marched down the field. The drive ended with a Jerrick McKinnon fumble that set up the Chargers go-ahead TD but still, the fact of the matter remained that the Chiefs were getting all they wanted in the run game for the first time in I don’t know how long.
And then there’s Skyy Moore, who’s been mostly AWOL after some punt and kickoff fielding snafus earlier in the season. After Kadarius Toney arrived it made me wonder what exactly Moore’s role was going to be on the team this season. I still don’t really know how or where he fits right now, but if the Chiefs get bit by the injury bug in the wide receiver room again, I know who I’m dialing up if I need someone to move the chains in the passing game. Five receptions for 63 yards, a regular first down machine minus one pass catch that was two yards short of the first down. It’s that level of consistency and production that made him a second round pick in the first place, and if this staff can pull more games like this out of him, then I am totally cool with having someone else take the lion’s share of the punt and kickoff returning duties.
Chiefs-Chargers Will Never Be Normal, and That’s Okay
For those of you just tuning in for the first time this season, or maybe this is your first football watching season, you might be wondering if that Chiefs-Chargers game is indicative of every time they suit up and play each other. The answer to that question is Yes, but that’s mostly because these two teams haven’t played a normal football game between each other in years. Really the last time it made any kind of sense was when the Chargers were suiting up against the Chiefs backups a couple of years ago and made quick work of ‘em while they were trying to clinch a playoff spot. Outside of that, any Chiefs game featuring Patrick Mahomes and/or Justin Herbert has been wet and wacky for all kinds of reasons. Former starting tackle for the Chiefs/Super Bowl champ Mitch Schwartz put it quite nicely:
The Chargers against the Chiefs are the team everyone talks about all offseason as the AFC West contender, the top 3 team in the Conference (or even league), etc. The Chargers the other 15 games are the normal Chargers. Always play KC so tough.
— Mitchell Schwartz (@MitchSchwartz71) November 21, 2022
Such is life with a divisional game, right? No matter what shape either team was going to be in, you know deep down that they’re gonna give you their best punch. Chargers missing Keenan Allen and Mike Williams for a majority of the season? Expected to see both of them suit up against the Chiefs and they did. Didn’t work out for Williams as his ankle injury flared up again, but Keenan Allen was looking pretty sharp out there in a few teachable moments for Chiefs rookie corner Joshua Williams. Rest of the Chargers looking pretty banged up? Not really having the best season of offensive playcalling? Doesn’t matter, they will dig deep and pull out all the stops on ya to put themselves in the best position to win. That speaks to how much of a gamer Justin Herbert is, too. Any time you watch Chiefs-Chargers, that’s a quarterback playing like a man possessed, and that is the level you need to be at if you want a shot at beating Patrick Mahomes.
While it may force some Chiefs and Chargers to stock up on some blood pressure medicine, it’s a hoot and a holler for everyone else and a marquee matchup for the NFL in a season where some of the other potential big ticket matchups have come up short. Remember to say an extra thank you at the Thanksgiving table this week for the Chiefs and the Chargers finding it within themselves to have straight bangers year in and year out, and while you’re at it give another thank you for Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert.
Up next, the Chiefs return to Arrowhead for a mid-afternoon matchup with the Los Angeles Rams. Kickoff for that one is gonna be at 3:25.