What a crazy game. I watched the condensed version the next morning, but accidentally caught the final score, so you can imagine I was wondering how it got there for most of the second half. In the end, it was Philip Rivers who played like the league MVP, not Pat Mahomes.
• Rivers managed 313 yards (8.2 YPA) and two TDs while missing Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. Don’t forget he’s been missing rising star tight end Hunter Henry all year. It puts Matthew Stafford’s utter collapse without Golden Tate and Marvin Jones in perspective. Rivers did throw two bad picks in the first half and took five sacks. Still, he dropped passes into tight windows under pressure on the road in a hostile environment, even in unfavorable downs and distances.
• Justin Jackson filled in for Gordon and played well enough – 16 carries for 58 yards and a TD and 4-3-27 as a receiver. Detrez Newsome ran well (6-for-34) and also caught two passes for 19 yards.
• In Allen’s absence, four targets stepped up: Mike Williams (9-7-76-2) who looks unstoppable in the red zone (and who ran for a TD and also caught the wide open game-winning two-point conversion), Tyrell Williams (12-6-71), Travis Benjamin (3-2-57) and Antonio Gates (5-4-54.)
• Mahomes made some great plays in the first half, converting impossible third downs in the face of a heavy rush, but lacked rhythm in the second half. The Chargers are a tough pass defense, and Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce simply weren’t that wide open, except on the long ball that hit Hill in the helmet which would have been called back anyway due to offsetting penalties. Mahomes finished with 243 yards, two TDs, no picks and two sacks.
• Damian Williams looked awfully spry filling in for Spencer Ware who had taken over from Kareem Hunt. He had 10 carries for 49 yards and two scores and went 6-6-74 as a receiver. Chalk one up for the “Running backs don’t matter” crowd, though I think it’s more like they do matter, but the Chiefs system makes it easy for them if they have any natural talent.
• Kelce (9-7-61) and Hill (7-4-46) never got it going against the Chargers’ tough secondary, even with Mahomes extending plays in the first half.
• It was bold of the Chargers to go for two at the end of the game, but it made no sense to do it then and not on the previous score. At least if they missed the first time around, they could have gone for two again the second time and gone to overtime had they made it.
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• Watching the condensed version, I didn’t get to see the replays of all the penalties (mercifully), but it sure seemed there were a lot of ticky-tack (and massively important) flags on both sides. The Chiefs final scoring drive had a few, one of which converted a long third down, and the Chargers got the massive end-zone PI to set up the game-winning score. The rule of thumb should always be: “Err on the side of omission, not commission.”