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Chargers-Chiefs Recap: Bionic Justin Herbert, Chargers fall short at Arrowhead 27-24

This one was TOUGH to watch. It’s never boring at Arrowhead between these two teams.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers gave the Chiefs all they could handle on in primetime. The offense moved the ball at will for large chunks of the game and the defense had Patrick Mahomes in hell more often than not. But this game came down to just a few key plays, including ones that technically didn’t happen at all.

The Chargers picked off Mahomes three times. The first two were negated by very questionable penalties while the third was overturned on replay despite a lack of strong evidence to push it the other way.

However, the one interception that did end up counting in the box score was the one thrown by Herbert at what couldn’t have been a worse moment of the game.

This Chargers team is certainly better than it was a year ago, but it’s tough to battle Mahomes in his own stadium as it is. When you add an officiating crew that seems to have the Chargers’ number, I’m not sure what else you can do.

In the end, the Chiefs escaped with a 27-24 victory and remain the only undefeated team in the AFC West.

Below you can check out the entire recap of tonight’s wild Thursday Night Football contest.

First Quarter

The Chiefs started with the ball and had themselves a pretty good drive going. The Chargers hunkered down when they crossed the fifty-yard line and managed to force a punt after a huge tackle for loss by Joey Bosa on an end-around to Mecole Hardman.

On the Chargers first offensive drive, Herbert methodically marched them down the field, hitting Mike Williams several times to move the chains. The Chiefs reciprocated the tough defense in their own territory and forced the Chargers into a field goal for an early 3-0 lead.

The Chiefs took a haymaker to the face on their possession. The Bolts forced a quick three-and-out that was highlighted by a huge sack on second down where Drue Tranquill and Khalil Mack combined to force a nine-yard loss. Derwin James shut the door with a tackle for loss on a screen attempt the very next play.

The opening period came to close with the Chargers taking the ball all the way down to the half-foot line thanks to a big contested catch by Williams. The Chiefs were called for pass interference which only pushed the Chargers ever closer to the goal line. On the ensuing first down, Sony Michel was stopped a hair before paydirt.

Second Quarter

The Chargers capped off the drive with another play-action pass to fullback Zander Horvath. That is Horvath’s second touchdown in as many games.

The Chiefs responded on their next drive by capitalizing on a free play stemming from Bosa jumping offsides. Right before that play, Bryce Callahan was called for defensive holding on Marquez Valdez-Scantling despite on replay, MVS was the one who threw Callahan to the ground. If you want to talk about a gut punch, this was certainly one of those moments.

Several plays later, Mahomes escaped the pocket to his right, evaded a would-be tackler, and threaded a sidearm pass to running back Jerick McKinnon for the team’s first points of the game.

The Chargers unfortunately weren’t able to respond with points as their next drive ended after a missed throw behind Josh Palmer. Up to this point, the connection between him and Herbert just seemed to be off. Luckily, the Chiefs could not respond on their ensuing drive, either. The front seven buckled down and earned. huge stop on third thanks to an excellent run fit by Tranquill who upended Clyde Edwards-Helaire a yard short of the first down marker.

Both teams swapped drives that ended in zero points for either. They headed to the locker room at the break with the Chargers leading 10-7.

Third Quarter

In a surprise twist, the Chargers offense trotted out on the field to begin the second half without starting center Corey Linsley. Backup Will Clapp took over at the pivot and, to everyone’s surprise, played well enough to help lead the Chargers all the way down the field en route to a spectacular one-handed touchdown by Williams.

Seriously. It was amazing.

But the sunshine and rainbows of that drive evaporated at an excruciating pace once the Chiefs got the back.

On back to back plays, the Chargers picked off Mahomes. The first interception was negated by offsetting penalties. The second pick — a diving grab by Asante Samuel Jr. — was overturned without much evidence to go with it. At that point, you just knew something bad was about to happen.

Just a few plays later, Mahomes found a streaking Justin Watson for a 41-yard touchdown. J.C. Jackson was initially beat, he recovered well, but the ball placement from Mahomes was just on another level. It sailed inches over Jackson’s outstretched hand and for a split second, I thought it was a pass breakup. It couldn’t have been closer.

With all the momentum shifting away from them, the Chargers couldn’t muster anything more than a three-and-out on their next drive. They did, however, force the Chiefs into a three-and-out on the other side, but they managed to back the Bolts all the way inside their 10-yard line with an excellent punt. Chargers went nowhere but backwards before JK Scott shanked a short punt to the Chargers’ own 33-yard line.

Like clockwork, the Chiefs went for blood. Within a handful of plays, they moved inside the Los Angeles’ five-yard line. Prior to the end of the period, the Chargers strung three-straight stops before facing a fourth-and-one at the one on the other side of the break.

Fourth Quarter

When play resumed, Andy Reid surprisingly sent out his kicker to secure the tie as opposed to going for six. It didn’t make a ton sense based on the analytics, but the Chargers likely didn’t mind a 0-0 game with 15 minutes to play.

The Chargers took the field once more but this time, they were without Trey Pipkins at right tackle. Storm Norton was in and the Bolts were now faced with driving down the field while having three-fifths of their starting offensive line.

But things looked good! The Chargers found a way to get all the way down inside the Chiefs’ five-yard line. Tight end Gerald Everett was the author of two big plays where he added two big chunks of YAC. They were the types of plays he was brought in to make for this offense. Following his big gain that put the Chargers near the goal line, tragedy was waiting around the corner.

When Everett got up off the turf, he signaled to the sideline that he needed a breather and was going to come off. Apparently Herbert and the staff wanted to go to a hurry-up look which forced Everett to stay in the game. On the very next play, Herbert fired a rocket to Everett who ran a short hitch. As Herbert began to fire to Everett’s inside, the tight end floated outside and the ball was undercut by rookie Jaylen Watson who took it all the way back for a touchdown.

Just like that, after threatening to go up by a touchdown, the Chiefs were the one to find the end zone and break the tie.

Oh, wait! But there’s more pain and suffering to come!

A few plays into the next Los Angeles drive, Kansas City linebacker Nick Bolton laid into Herbert as he threw. While it didn’t look like he landed with his weight on the quarterback, Herbert was extremely slow to move on the ground. With all of the Chargers fandom holding their breath, Herbert missed just one snap before coming back onto the field. He threw it twice with both passes being unusually poor decisions that led to incompletions. The Bolts would punt.

Edwards Helaire, who hadn’t recorded a run of over 20 yards in all of last season, busted a huge run into Chargers territory just two plays into the next drive. The defense tightened and the Chiefs kicked a field goal to push their lead to 10.

As gutsy as ever, Herbert came back in and laced an unbelievable pass to DeAndre Carter on fourth-and-1 to put the Chargers at the five-yard line. Two plays later, he hit Josh Palmer over the top of a defender to bring the game within three with a little under 90 seconds in regulation.

But with one timeout, they were forced to kick an onside that sparked hope for about half of a second as it bounced off one Chief into the hands of another.

Kansas City knelt twice and that was the ball game.

Herbert finished with 334 passing yards to go with three touchdowns and one interception.

Austin Ekeler managed just 39 yards on the ground but found a groove through the air with 55 yards on nine receptions. Josh Kelley ran well once again in his limited snaps, notching 22 yards on four carries.

Mike Williams bounced back in a big way to lead the team with 113 yards on eight catches and his first touchdown of the year. Josh Palmer also caught a touchdown on his four receptions for 30 yards.

The defense managed to get bring down Mahomes just once, a split sack between Drue Tranquill and Khalil Mack. Derwin James led the defense with nine tackles and a tackle for loss. Joey Bosa finished with the team’s other TFL and three total tackles. While it won’t show on the scoreboard, the Chargers defense picked off Mahomes three times, but two were negated by non-penalties and the third was overturned on a terribly close replay.

The Chargers will get a nice long break before returning to SoFi Stadium to host the Jaguars in week three.