“Home of the Chiefs” rang from Inglewood to the Hollywood sign before kickoff last night between Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers, and an overtime thriller broke out at Arrowhead Coastal (a.k.a. SoFi Stadium). The Chiefs bested the Chargers, 34-28, to advance to 10-4 overall and 4-1 in the division in primetime.
The Chiefs’ win, however, was for more than just bragging rights. We’ve been calling each matchup “the most important game of the year” since the first of November, and on Thursday Night Football that certainly rang true. With Thursday’s victory, the Chiefs moved within an inch of their sixth straight AFC West title, and more importantly, for now, have assumed the first seed position in the playoff picture.
Here are our four favorite stats that defined the Chiefs tenth win of the season.
Chargers head coach Brandon Staley called for the offense to go for it on 4th down 5 (five!) times last night and was only successful twice. There’s a saying around the league that “you can’t beat the Chiefs with field goals,” but Staley may have taken that a bit far on Thursday night. They ran four offensive plays on 4th down within the Chiefs 30 yard line (three in the red zone), and ended up with no points to show for that effort.
It’s clear, given the explosive potential of Andy Reid‘s offense that head coaches across the league feel obligated to turn every ounce of momentum they receive into a touchdown. At some point, however, no matter who is on the opposing sideline, the game will normalize. Staley’s overzealous decision making deserves major kudos for the Chiefs W last night.
Patrick Mahomes, for the second game in a row, seemed to be the magician reborn. His arm talent was on display last night as he accrued 410 passing yards. He completed three deep balls of 20 yards or more (one for 40 yards where Tyreek Hill made a stellar grab), and two passes to Travis Kelce where he continued after the catch to gain over a hundred yards (one of which sealed the deal in overtime). The Chiefs rushing attack was frustrating last night, as they gained only 86 yards on the ground, so a big game from 15 was necessary for the win.
Nick Bolton had a career day in primetime with 14 tackles, which left him atop the stat sheet for both defenses. The kid was everywhere. He absolutely stuffed Austin Ekeler, the second-ranked fantasy running back in the league, on a number of occasions; got a hit on Justin Herbert; and even tipped a pass that was picked off by Anthony Hitchens late in the first quarter.
It’s fair to say that this effort was “vintage” Bolton, as it is his second excellent display against a top-tier rushing attack in his rookie campaign. If you haven’t removed the game from memory entirely, you’d recall that Bolton was an absolute monster against Derrick Henry in Week 7. His snap counts have hovered around 45%-50% on average this year, and he assumed a bigger role Thursday in the absence of Willie Gay Jr.
It seems safe to say that he is relishing the moment, and that he deserves a greater percentage of the defensive snaps moving forward.
That number is the total amount of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce’s receiving yards. That means there were only 71 yards of Mahomes’ 410 total) split between the other seven pass catchers for the Chiefs on Thursday night.
Kelce hauled in 10 catches for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Hill nabbed 12 passes for 148 and a score. Those numbers make perfect sense to casual fans and bystanders who only subscribe to roundabout Chiefs coverage. It’s always Mahomes, Hill, and Kelce in the graphic. Tyreek is the cheetah, and Travis is “old faithful.”
However, for those of us who have been invested in the 2021 campaign, this is special. It seems like a lifetime ago that this trio has really gone off all at once. Hell, Kelce has one touchdown in the past 8 weeks, and only one other 100-yard game to go with it. That’s not me nitpicking. We’re all spoiled rotten by the best tight end in football, but a guy gets used to seeing consistent dominance and it’s been a bit more infrequent this season.
Hill has already recorded 1,000 yards this season (the fourth such season in his career), but this is his first 100-yard receiving game since Week 4. The combination of Hill and Kelce popping off was absolutely paramount to Thursday night’s outcome.
The Chiefs final prime time game of the regular season was an awesome crescendo to a 7-game winning streak, and now the Kingdom gets to enjoy a mini-bye before week 16 action at Arrowhead against the Steelers. Enjoy the weekend off, and for the mean time, go Colts!