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Chargers-Chiefs Game Recap: Bolts complete tank, lose 5th straight to end 2023 season

The Chargers almost cost themselves in this year’s draft with a near-win over the Chiefs.

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Chargers tried to ruin the tank, but they came through in the end as they fell to the Chiefs 13-12 to finish the 2023 regular season with a 5-12 record. After the Giants lost to the Eagles, the Bolts have secured the fifth-overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft which will set the incoming general manager and head coach up with a nice starter pack to begin their tenure with the franchise.

Good luck with that cap situation, though!

Stick finished with 258 passing yards on 28-of-47 passing. He also led the Chargers in rushing with 77 yards on 13 carries.

Tight end Donald Parham led the team with 88 receiving yards on five receptions. In potentially his final game with the Chargers, Austin Ekeler led the team with seven receptions but totaled just 11 rushing yards on 10 carries.

Derwin James led the Chargers with eight total tackles. Khalil Mack recorded his 17th sack, tying him with Shawne Merriman and Leslie O’Neal for the Chargers single-season franchise record.

For the compete quarter-by-quarter recap of today’s game, continue on below.


First Quarter

The Chargers won the toss and chose to defer. The Chiefs will start on offense.

Defensively, the Chargers got out to a strong start by forcing a three-and-out by Blaine Gabbert and the Chiefs offense. On the other side, Easton Stick and the offense responded with a 18-play, 70-yard drive that unfortunately ended in a fumble Stick in which the Chiefs returned 97 yards for a touchdown. With just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Chiefs held an early 7-0 lead.

The Chargers managed to convert another first down on their ensuing drive but that was it as they punted back to the Chiefs. Kansas City did the same thing before Khalil Mack recorded his 17th sack of the season by bringing down Gabbert on third down.

Stick hit Palmer for a short gain on the first play of their third drive before the period came to a close.

Second Quarter

After a six-yard gain to begin their drive, the Chargers stumbled with a run for no gain by Austin Ekeler followed by an incomplete pass on third down. The Chargers and Chiefs would go on to trade more punts until the Chiefs found their momentum on offense.

Taking five minutes and 35 seconds off the clock, the Chiefs went 66 yards in 12 plays, moving all the way up inside the Chargers five-yard line. However, Khalil Mack came unblocked off the edge to force a loss of three yards by tackling running back La’Mical Perine in the backfield. An incompletion on third down forced the Chiefs to kick the short field goal to increase their lead to 10-0.

The Chargers finally got on the board late in the second quarter behind five-play, 44-yard drive spurred on by a massive 33-yard defensive pass interference called on the Chiefs. The penalty was drawn by Quentin Johnston who had a step on cornerback Jaylen Watson. Three plays later, Cameron Dicker would come on to kick a 49-yard field goal and shrink the Chiefs’ lead to 10-3.

On the Chiefs’ next drive, Gabbert hit wideout Mecole Hardman for a big gain to midfield to get them rolling. On a third-and-10 just a few plays later, Gabbert overthrew Hardman on a deep crossing route and ball floated right into the hands of safety Alohi Gilman. That pick was Gilman’s second of the season, giving him a new single-season career high.

Stick and the offense were aided one more by another spot foul as corner L’Jarius Sneed got too physical with Johnston on a Go route up the left sideline. A 14-yard gain to Donald Parham and couple more short passes brought the Chargers to the Chiefs 22 yard-line but Kansas City’s defense held them there. Dicker came on for a 40-yard field goal to which brought the score to 10-6 as both teams headed into the break.

Third Quarter

The Chargers and Chiefs couldn’t muster up much excitement together in the third quarter as the most exciting storyline was Kansas City defensive tackle Chris Jones and his continued effort towards his incentive that would kick in as soon as he nabbed his 10th sack of the season. Andy Reid continued to advise him not to go back in, but Jones was not going to be denied, apparently.

Stick and the offense continued their streak of field goals with Dicker’s eighth successful kick dating back to the beginning of last week’s loss to the Broncos. The Chargers put together another long drive — this one 12 plays — but couldn’t find the end zone after making it to the Chiefs 14-yard line. Dicker was good from 43 yards and the score was down to 10-9.

Fourth Quarter

The Chargers waited most of the game to finally turn the suspense knob up to 11.

With nothing to play for outside of draft position, Stick and the offense got all the way back inside the Chiefs five-yard line, threatening to score their first touchdown in the past two games. Behind by just one point, the Chargers could have continued with the tank but go too close not to take the lead on a 20-yard Dicker field goal.

On the other side, the Chiefs’ Gabbert found his legs as he rushed for two huge first-down conversions to help move the offense into field goal range. Harrison Butker was good on his kick to retake the lead 13-12.

Stick and the Chargers offense did what they needed to in order to close out the game (for the tank) but they’d fall short of any chance at a comeback.

The Chargers finish the season 5-12 and will have the fifth-overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.