Tight end Travis Kelce and quarterback Patrick Mahomes were in sync when the Kansas City Chiefs needed them the most, proving it would be no easy task to defeat the former AFC West champs twice in one season.
Mahomes shined down the stretch making big plays, the most pivotal being a 34-yard score to Kelce in overtime, allowing the Chiefs to defeat the Los Angeles Chargers 34-28 in a thrilling divisional showdown on Thursday night at SoFi stadium.
Kelce had a career-high 191 receiving yards, finishing with 10 catches and two scores, while wide receiver Tyreek Hill had 12 receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown. Mahomes completed 31 of 47 passes for a season-high 410 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
“Everybody is talking about him losing a step, he looked fast to me,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after Kelce’s career night. “His endurance down the stretch for an elder statesman — he’s not over the hill — his acceleration is something.”
The Chiefs have now won seven consecutive games to improve to 10-4 and moved up two games in the AFC West. The Chargers dropped to 8-6 and saw a golden opportunity to overtake first place in the division be squandered away in the loss.
“I really liked the way we managed the entire game tonight. It didn’t go down for us today, but we gave ourselves an opportunity. We just didn’t finish the game off defensively,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said.
In a scary moment, Chargers tight end Donald Parham Jr. was stretchered off in the first quarter after hitting his head in the grass and was rushed to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center where he was later diagnosed with a concussion.
Quarterback Justin Herbert impressed by completing 22 of 38 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough as Los Angeles was just 2 of 6 on fourth down attempts. Wide receiver Keenan Allen finished with six catches for 78 yards and a touchdown for Los Angeles.
“To be able to have four downs in a drive I think is huge, especially as short as they have been,” Herbert said. “We need to convert those. We need to be better.”
Mahomes engineered an 11-play, 95-yard drive that ended with fullback Michael Burton finding the end zone on a seven-yard rushing score in the first quarter.
Kicker Harrison Butker added a field goal in the second to give Kansas City a 10-0 lead only to see Herbert respond with a one-yard rushing score, followed by finding wideout Jalen Guyton on a four-yard touchdown to capture a 14-10 lead at halftime.
The Chargers decision to continuously go for it on fourth down was the main topic of discussion following the game but Los Angeles echoed that is the culture they are building.
“My mindset is I know the quickest way to win a game like that is to score TDs not FGs, especially considering who’s on the other side… I don’t think any decision was a gamble. We felt like it was an advantage situation,” Staley said of their aggressive mindset.
“Leave the game in our hands. I don’t want to kick the ball, watch it and hope. I’d rather be out there and let us do it,” Allen said.
Leading 14-13, Los Angeles running back Joshua Kelley fumbled on the goal line from the one with 11:02 left in the fourth to give Kansas City life. However, the Chargers responded with a big play of their own.
Mahomes’ pass, that was intended for rusher Clyde Edwards-Helaire, was intercepted by linebacker Uchenna Nwosu at the KC four, immediately setting up running back Austin Ekeler to find the end zone on a two-yard rush to go up 21-13.
“Obviously it (stinks) in the moment. I mean, I promise you I felt as bad as anyone about that throw and that situation, and knew how bad it looked. But you will get another chance and you better be ready for that moment,” Mahomes said.
The Chiefs were down but not out only due to Mahomes leading Kansas City on a five-play, 75-yard drive ending with a one-yard touchdown to Hill. Mahomes then found Edwards-Helaire for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 21-21 with 7:44 remaining.
Five minutes later, Herbert connected with Allen for an eight-yard touchdown to take a 28-21 lead, but it was the one, two punch of Mahomes and Kelce who were too much for the Chargers to handle.
Mahomes rushed up the sideline for 32 yards and then found Kelce for a seven-yard score on the next play, tying the game at 28-28 with 1:16 left. The duo then connected once more in overtime, putting the game away after converting an emphatic game-winning 34-yard walk-off touchdown.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a walk-off touchdown or anything like that, so to be in that moment, find him underneath and him making such a dynamic play where, I mean, he cut back, ran by people,” said Mahomes. “You think he’s old. He can’t run by people. But he’s still running by people. And he got in the end zone.”
The Chargers will next travel to take on the Houston Texans on Dec. 26., looking to get back to their winning ways with only three games remaining in the regular season.