The Los Angeles Chargers opened the regular season with a 38-28 loss at the hands of AFC West Divisional rivals Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 9 at StubHub Center.
“They outplayed us,” Chargers second year head coach Anthony Lynn said matter-of-factly.
With four dropped passes, a muffed punt return, and an interception, the Chargers fell into a deficit that the team could not overcome.
“It’s one of those games that you’re sick that you let it get away because you didn’t make all the plays,” added Philip Rivers, Chargers quarterback.
In the first quarter alone, Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill scored two touchdowns. The first was a 91-yard punt return for a score followed by a 58-yard touchdown reception thrown by Patrick Mahomes.
“Tyreek Hill is unbelievable to watch,” Rivers commented. “What a dynamic player. I don’t know if I’ve seen anybody better, the things he can do speed-wise, in all my time playing.”
Hill’s offensive performance was all the momentum Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes needed to gain confidence early. Hill recorded 169 yards on seven receptions in the opener.
Following the first Chiefs’ touchdown, the Chargers were able to get on the board with a 45-yard Caleb Sturgis’ field goal.
In the second quarter, Chargers’ rookie safety Derwin James made consecutive splash plays to shift the momentum in favor of his team. He displayed his athletic ability by breaking up a pass intended for Los Angeles native DeAnthony Thomas in the end zone.
“That play he made on the ball over the top was spectacular,” Mahomes remarked. “I said it to him on the field, I threw it and I thought it was a touchdown. For him to flip around, find the ball and then knock it down, that’s a special play that you’ll be great in this league with.”
James then showed his defensive prowess by getting to Mahomes for the sack on the next play. With 7:47 left remaining in the second quarter, Los Angeles cut the Chiefs’ lead to within 2 points, 14-12, as Rivers connected with Austin Ekeler for a 13-yard touchdown pass. The team then attempted a 2-point conversion that was unsuccessful. With the Ekeler touchdown, Rivers surpassed Fran Tarkenton for the sixth most touchdown passes in NFL history.
To open up the second half, the Chiefs advanced their lead to 24-12 on a Mahomes touchdown pass to Thomas, a former Crenshaw High School and University of Oregon standout, for the score. It was an 11-play, 75-yard drive. The next Chiefs’ drive was anchored by a Holmes touchdown pass to fullback Anthony Sherman on a slant route to put the Chiefs up 31-12.
“He’s got crazy hands,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.
After two straight Chiefs’ scores, the Chargers were able to respond with a 20-yard touchdown pass to star wide receiver Keenan Allen. They rounded out the drive with a successful two-point conversion to tight end Antonio Gates in the fourth quarter.
“I think the way he finished last year, it obviously showed he had a little more juice left in the tank,” Rivers said of the veteran tight end. Gates returned to the Chargers for his 16th season on a one-year deal.
The Chargers’ defense forced a three and out on the next drive. On the punt return, Chargers’ JJ Jones muffed the punt, only for it to be recovered by Chiefs’ James Winchester. It ultimately led to another Chief’s touchdown by Hill from the 1-yard line, as the Chiefs took a commanding 38-20 lead.
Chargers were able to put together another scoring drive. This time Rivers connected with wideout Tyrell Williams for the score and another completed two-point conversion, 38-28.
The Chargers’ defense had a major hole with defensive end Joey Bosa out with a foot injury. Bosa is still week-to-week according to Lynn.
Running back Melvin Gordon III posted a career-high 102 receiving yards for the Chargers; the first time in his career that Gordon eclipsed 100 yards receiving as his previous best was 91 yards against the Chiefs last season.
This became the Chiefs’ ninth straight win over the Chargers. Though Los Angeles echoed sentiments of disappointment in dropping their first home game, there was a sense of optimism moving forward.
“We have 15 games left and we’re going to get better,” Lynn said. “This is a long season, so we’re not down by any means.”
The Chargers travel to New York for their first away game of the regular season to face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. ET.