The Los Angeles Chargers played another close game against their divisional rival but came up short 31-21 to finish 5-11 on the season.
The Kansas City Chiefs deferred to start the game and the Bolts received the opening kickoff in what may have been Philip Rivers’ final game as a Charger.
It didn’t take long for Rivers to start jawing at the Chiefs, getting into it early with defensive tackle Chris Jones. After multiple first downs to get out near midfield, the Chiefs defense forced the Chargers backwards on back-to-back plays. After a draw on 3rd-and-20 that failed to move the chains, the Bolts punted the ball away. (Rivers entered the medical tent following the drive, likely from getting taken down by Jones).
There were actually two moments on the Chiefs’ initial drive where the Bolts’ defense secured interceptions off of Mahomes but both were wiped-out due to off-sides penalties by Uchenna Nwosu and Joey Bosa, respectively.
Unlike their normal offensive possessions, the opening drive by the Chiefs was long and methodical, getting some needed help by the aforementioned penalties by the Chargers. Twice, Mahomes actually moved the chains with his feet. In the end, the defense stiffened and linebacker Drue Tranquill kept tight end Blake Bell from converting a third down within their 20-yard line to force KC to kick a field goal for a 3-0 lead.
On the ensuing Chargers drive, wide receiver Mike Williams snagged a pair of passes which pushed his receiving total for the year over 1,000 for the first time in his career. With help from Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson moving the chains, the Chargers were able to cap the drive off with a touchdown pass from Rivers to Keenan Allen.
The score marked Allen’s sixth score of the season, matching his total from both the 2017 and 2018 season.
The Chiefs’ second drive of the game was more of the same. No chunk-plays and calmly marched down the field and into Chargers territory. After a loss and a holding call, the Chargers forced the Chiefs into another punt on 4th-and-15.
On their third drive of the day, Trent Scott was rotated in at left tackle for Trey Pipkins who was instantly called for a false start to set the team back before the drive began. After a couple passes, the Chargers made it 3rd-and-1 but failed to gain the needed yard and punted it right back to Mahomes and the Chiefs.
It didn’t take Andy Reid long to draw up some money plays as the Chiefs took less than four plays to find Demarcus Robinson in the end zone and push themselves ahead once again 10-7. Before the score, Robinson had only four catches in the last five game leading up to that score.
The Chargers went into their 2-minute offense as the second quarter came to a close. Ekeler and Allen both made multiple catches to quickly get themselves into field goal range with over a minute left in the half.
All the momentum the Bolts had was quickly stripped away when Rivers was intercepted in the end zone by safety Tyrann Mathieu who was all over Mike Williams. It was especially impressive given that Williams possesses a seven-inch advantage in height over the Honey Badger.
The game hit the halfway point with the Chiefs protecting their 10-7 lead over Los Angeles.
To even things up, on the second play of the second half, Michael Davis picked off an ill-advised pass by Mahomes and returned it back to the Chiefs’ 10-yard line to set the Chargers up well-within field goal range.
Three plays, and three runs with Melvin Gordon later, the Chargers found the end zone to retake the lead 14-10 less than two minutes into the second half.
Not to be out-done, rookie wide receiver Mecole Hardman took the ensuing kickoff from four-yards deep in the end zone and turned on the jets. After just a single cut towards the left sideline, Hardman hit another gear and scorched up the field before cutting back inside to cap his 104-yard return with a touchdown.
After two touchdowns on back-to-back plays, the Cheifs maintained the lead at 17-10.
Needing to respond in a bad way, Anthony Lynn rolled the dice on a fourth-and-inches and Gordon succeeded in punching the ball up the middle to keep the chains alive. Two plays later, Rivers hit a leaping Hunter Henry over the middle for a gain of 19.
Center Scott Quessenberry was penalized for being too far down field on second down which pushed the Chargers back to their own 40-yard line. An incompletion and a Terrell Suggs sack on Rivers later, Ty Long was called on again to kick the ball away.
The theme of quick scores continued as a would-be four-yard run by Damien Williams went an additional 80 yards to the house after three missed tackles by the Chargers. In fact, at one point it looked like the entire team just stopped pursuing an allowed Williams to scamper up the sideline for six. The score put this one further out of reach, 24-14.
Still showing some fight, the Bolts marched right back down the field all the way to the Chiefs five-yard line. Needing to convert on fourth down to keep this game close, the Chargers tried their inside zone from the shotgun that converted an earlier fourth down but came up less than a foot short. Chiefs ball.
With 12 and a half minutes remaining in the game, the Chargers were able to force a punt which got a decent KC bounce and pinned LA inside their 15-yard line.
The Chargers escaped a fourth-and-2 with a run from Ekeler and received some help from the Chiefs with a defensive holding call to get themselves out from the shadow of their goal posts.
Wide Receiver Andre Patton was targeted twice and allowed the ball to ricochet off his chest both times, the second drop looking like a surefire touchdown were he to have hung on. Luckily for Patton, Allen was able to secure a pass over the middle and keep the drive alive around the Chargers’ 47-yard line.
A check-down pass from Rivers to Gordon for 15 yards helped convert a third-and-nine and got the Chargers all the way to the Chiefs’ 40. On the next play, Gordon took another pass 23 yards the the 17.
After a short pass to Ekeler for a handful of yards, Rivers found Henry over the middle who managed to drag a Chiefs’ defensive back four yards before fully-extending the ball over the goal line to make it 24-21 Chiefs.
The Bolts’ defense started out strong on the next drive and got the Chiefs to third-and-seven. But remarkably, Tranquill got matched-up with Hill on the play and Mahomes hit him over the top of number 49’s head for a 44-yard gain.
The Chiefs’ Williams crashed into the end zone from seven yards out to make the score 31-21 with a little over two minutes remaining in the game. That drive was kept alive by several penalties on the Chargers’ defense, including a holding call on defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.
With 60 seconds remaining in the game, the Chargers failed on a 4th-and-17 when Rivers threw his 20th interception of the year to Chiefs’ safety Brad Sorenson. Sorenson was also the one who picked-off Rivers to end the Mexico City game.
With no more timeouts, the Chargers watched as Mahomes knelt the rest of the game away.