Chiefs vs. Chargers: Eric Fisher’s return and other overlooked points
By Matt Conner
The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Los Angeles Chargers in a rather sloppy game south of the border, but some important points remain overlooked.
In a way, it’s hard to know what to make of the Kansas City Chiefs’ latest win in primetime.
More than anything else, it feels good for the Chiefs add one to the win column, especially over a division rival like the Los Angeles Chargers. The fact that the Chiefs were able to come together on Monday Night Football and halt the negative momentum that’s gathered after the shocking loss to the Tennessee Titans feels important.
For now, the Chiefs remain in the driver’s seat in the AFC West. The team also saw their much-maligned defense come together for four turnovers and an equal amount of fourth quarter stops to keep the Chargers and Philip Rivers from driving to tie the game. Even when a heralded offense sputters in Mexico City, the defense was able to carry the team across the finish line. That’s a good sign.
All of these are good talking points. Everyone is abuzz about Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu. They’re giddy over Patrick Mahomes still making MVP-esque throws and the reliability of Travis Kelce. They’re rightly focused on the AFC West and the looming showdown with the Oakland Raiders.
However, we want to focus on some overlooked points. Here are a few things that deserve more attention than what they will likely receive after the Chiefs win over the Chargers.
Eric Fisher’s Return
Think back for a second to the last time you didn’t have to worry about Cameron Erving.
On Monday night, the Chiefs enjoyed the return of their long-time starting left tackle in Eric Fisher and Chiefs Kingdom breathed a sigh of relief at the team’s ability to place Erving back into his role of “super sub” along the offensive line. (What does that mean, really? Stefen Wisniewski was first in line for interior reps, so maybe he’s just a swing tackle now.)
All season long, Chiefs fans have claimed to not have appreciated Fisher as much as they should. A groin injury has kept Fisher from being able to play since Week 1, leaving the Chiefs without their primary blindside protector for Mahomes for more than a half season—just one injury along a patchwork offensive line.
A part of me questioned whether or not the Chiefs should have waited until after the bye week to let him return, but now Fisher has been able to work off some of the rust from not playing for months before he gets an additional week to rest and see how the injury feels after a full game.
The results weren’t back to his Pro Bowl form of last year, but Fisher was a significant improvement at the position and a reminder that the front line will be much steadier moving forward, especially as Laurent Duvernay-Tardif also stays healthy.
For a two week blip, the Chiefs looked like they’d somehow turned the corner. It was the middle of this season, when Mahomes was forced to miss a couple games due to a dislocated kneecap. With Matt Moore under center and AFC North powers visiting Arrowhead Stadium back to back, the Chiefs buttoned up their game with a clean efficiency we haven’t seen before or since.
In Weeks 8 and 9 against the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, the Chiefs committed a total of 7 penalties for 55 total yards. That’s an incredibly efficient total in two games, showing a maturity the Chiefs had lacked to that point. The belief was that maybe the Chiefs coaches had finally reached the players about their sloppy play—a huge win considering the Chiefs had committed 11 penalties per game in frustrating losses to the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans in previous weeks.
Then came the Chiefs loss to the Titans. Suddenly the same sloppy play was back to the tune of 9 penalties for 80 yards. On Monday, the Chiefs were even worse and gave the Chargers an additional 102 yards on 8 penalties. That’s a lot of additional yards to just give back to a team that already put up 128 more yards of offense.
If the Chiefs want to maintain this momentum, they have to get the penalties under control. They won’t last more than a week in the postseason if they have to overcome the opponent as well as their own silly mistakes.
Time to Recalibrate
LeSean McCoy reportedly has a concussion. Austin Reiter might have one as well. Damien Williams left with a rib injury. Tyreek Hill has a hamstring concern.
During a season in which the Chiefs have held this roster together with the same bandages used by so many players, they finally get to enjoy the spoils of a bye week. It’s a chance for every one of these injuries to potentially heal with two weeks between contests (the Oakland Raiders will be visiting the Chiefs in Week 13).
It’s hard to remember a team that likely need the sort of rest and recalibration that can come from the bye week. The offense has sputtered lately and the playcalling has gotten weird late in games. The defense has risen to the occasion in some games (e.g. Week 11) while still providing Bob Sutton levels of frustration in others (e.g. Week 10). Special teams hasn’t been special all season long. And the injuries… so many injuries.
In short, it’s a good time for everyone to go home for a bit and do some soul-searching. Get distracted and then focused. Forget about the game only to miss it and want to return. Whatever it takes to come back and realize the talent is still here for a Super Bowl run but not without mentally dialing it in—that’s what’s needed by coaches and players.
Fortunately the Chiefs are still in the driver’s seat. They might have forfeited some luxuries like a first round bye but a hot streak is all it takes and the Chiefs can most certainly put that together if they really want.