The first Chiefs and Chargers matchup of the 2022 season ends in a victory for Kansas City.
The NFL has come to expect nothing less than fireworks when the Chiefs and Chargers face off. With their electric quarterbacks — Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert — under center, this division rivalry is becoming must-watch TV. For so many years we had Marino and Elway. Then we had Manning and Brady. Now, the NFL has the pleasure of watching Mahomes and Herbert.
This matchup between the two teams was more of a defensive showing for Kansas City than we’ve seen in previous years. Sure, Herbert collected his fair share of stats. He finished his day with 334 passing yards and three touchdowns. However, the Chiefs’ defense stepped up when it mattered most and Mahomes got a rare taste of victory on the back of his defense.
The Chiefs First Half Saw Struggles On Offense, Odd Play Calls
The Chiefs received the opening kick-off after Los Angeles won the coin toss and elected to kick. Kansas City punted four times in the first half — a career-high for the Patrick Mahomes-led offense. However, sandwiched between the two stalled drives that ended in a punt was a much more normal seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
On the drive, Mahomes and the offense utilized a mixed attack of run plays and short passes that ultimately culminated in a touchdown reception for Jerick McKinnon. The play saw Patrick Mahomes scramble around and sidearm the pass in normal Mahomes fashion for the score. This put the Chiefs within range, down by three, 10-7.
The score would remain until the start of the second half. On defense, the Chiefs showed great promise against the high-powered Chargers offense led by Justin Herbert. Mike Williams started off the game strong, with a couple of impact receptions over Rashad Fenton and Jaylen Watson. In the absence of Trent McDuffie, who landed on the IR earlier this week, the defense struggled early against the pass.
Second Half For The Chiefs Sees The Defense Made An Impact
The Chargers got the ball to start the second half and scored on their very first drive. The 11-play, 75-yard effort to kick off the second half looked to bury the Chiefs. Now down ten, and with the offense struggling to find itself, momentum was clearly on the side of Los Angeles and things looked bleak. The touchdown to Mike Williams — on his eight catch of the night — had things looking bleak for the Chiefs.
However, the Kansas City offense answered on their ensuing possession and got the team back within striking distance. The talk of the NFL tomorrow may very well be an overturned interception call on that drive. Mahomes made a poor decision on the second pass of the drive. The pass was tipped forward by Chargers’ cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. The ball bounced off his thigh and he made a diving play to attempt to intercept the pass.
It looked like he had. The Chiefs’ defense took the field and was ready to go before the referee — John Hussey — announced that the play was under review. In a somewhat controversial call, despite the ball looking somewhat controlled, it moved forward on the ground and Samuel had not gained full possession of the ball before it hit the ground.
The Chiefs gunslinger made the most of his second chance. Later in the post-game interview, Mahomes discussed the second-half adjustments with Richard Sherman. He mentioned that he felt the team needed to make some deep shots to open up. Hit some deep shots is exactly what the Chiefs would do. Mahomes hit Clyde Edwards-Helaire for a chunk 21-yard gain. Then, on the very next play, he launched a beautiful deep ball to Justin Watson for a touchdown. Watson ran an outstanding route and beat J.C. Jackson one-on-one.
The Chiefs drove again late into the third quarter after forcing the Chargers to punt on two straight drives. The Kansas City defense truly found themselves to open the second half. Those two drives following the Mike Williams touchdown reception saw the Chargers go three and out twice, earning a total of just one yard on offense. This defensive showing would continue well into the fourth quarter as well.
The Chiefs Defense Puts The Team On Its Back In The Fourth
The very first play of the fourth quarter saw the Chiefs kick a game-tying field goal from the one-yard line. Los Angeles took the ball to their own 40-yard-line following a Bryan Cook penalty on the ensuing kick-off. The Chargers drove the ball quickly, moving 57 yards on just five plays to get the ball into the Red Zone. Herbert got his offense down to the Kansas City three-yard-line after a 26-yard pass to Gerald Everett that set up first and goal. On that first-and-goal play, Jaylen Watson made his mark:
According to NFL Research, Watson’s interception return for 99-yards became the longest go-ahead fourth-quarter score by a rookie in NFL History. That touchdown put the Chiefs ahead 24-17 and they would never trail again in this game. The Chargers went just three plays for one yard on their next drive before punting. Kansas City punted the ball back, but once again the defense stood strong and held the Chargers to just 24 yards on six plays and again L.A. punted the ball to Kansas City.
In what became one of the most underrated plays of the game, Clyde Edwards-Helaire put his mark on this game. He had already made his own share of impactful plays in this game, but this 52-yard play to start the Chiefs late-fourth quarter drive was the biggest for sure:
Edwards-Helaire finished his day with 74 rushing yards on eight attempts and 44 receiving yards on four receptions. The drive would stall out from there for the Chiefs, but the damage was already done. The impressive fun from “Glyde” put Kansas City in range for a 31-yard field goal by their “rental kicker” Matt Amendola.
Amendola was effective in his short-notice start for the Chiefs at Kicker. He made each of his extra point attempts and added two key field goals in the win for Kansas City. His final field goal put the Chiefs up by ten points and iced the game. Justin Herbert attempted a comeback, however. Despite clearly suffering from a rib injury of some sort, after taking a hit late in the fourth quarter, Herbert drove his offense down the field 73-yards on just nine plays to bring his team within range. The Chargers trailed 24-27 but the ensuing onside kick would prove unsuccessful.
Herbert’s grit should be admired. He looked as if he should be in the medical tent, but instead was on the field making plays. For one play, he actually left the field. Chase Daniel, the Chargers backup, took just one snap before Herbert was back on the field and ready to continue willing his team back into the game. In all, this was yet another classic between these Chiefs and Chargers. Part one went the way of the Chiefs, but mostly thanks to their impressive defense and a couple of key, dominating plays by Patrick Mahomes.
The Chiefs now have at worst, a one-game lead over the rest of their division mates. Week Three will see Kansas City head to Indianapolis to take on the Colts on September 25.