The Kansas City Chiefs survived another slugfest with the Los Angeles Chargers to take a commanding lead in the AFC West.
With 1:46 remaining in regulation, the Kansas City Chiefs trailed the Chargers 27-23. That’s the kind of pressurized situation that would make a lesser quarterback fold. For the best in the business, one Patrick Lavon Mahomes, it creates a stage for him to advance his case for league’s Most Valuable Player award. He responded by going 3-for-4 for 47 yards and the game-winning touchdown to tight end Travis Kelce (his third of the night). Despite missing three receivers (JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman and Kadarius Toney), Mahomes would post a 120.8 rating on Sunday Night Football.
Rookie running back Isiah Pacheco gashed L.A.’s run defense at 7.1 yards per clip. His 107 rushing yards were a career best and the second in as many weeks. He’s made good on his offseason prediction to “take a grown man’s job.” Coupled with what might be a high-ankle sprain for Clyde-Edwards Helaire, he’s sure to be the featured back for the foreseeable future. It’s a promising sign that the Chiefs’ run game is tooling up down the stretch. Mahomes and company are far more dangerous with a productive running back room.
Pacheco would not be the only offensive rookie to contribute on Sunday. Wide receiver Skyy Moore had his best game of the season hauling in five balls for 63 receiving yards. Two of those receptions kept the chains moving in crucial third-down situations. Moore took advantage of former All-Pro Derwin James on a 3rd-and-7 play in the first quarter. On the penultimate drive that gave the Chiefs the lead, he bested Asante Samuel, Jr. for 13 yards to get Kansas City down to the Chargers’ 33-yard line.
Defensively, Steve Spagnuolo turned in another second-half masterpiece. His unit’s performance over the final 30 minutes of regulation may well be the story of the game. To put that into perspective, the Chargers had five second half drives that went as follows: punt, punt, fumble, touchdown, interception. It was simply a tale of two halves. In the opening two quarters, Los Angeles scored on four of its five first half drives.
Chris Jones has been a revelation for Kansas City this season. He posted another multi-sack game on Sunday, getting to Justin Herbert twice on the night. Defensive end Mike Danna would match him with two of his own. As a defense, the Chiefs posted another game with five sacks. That’s good for a total of 18 sacks in the past four games. Spagnuolo is clearly the team’s best coordinator at this stage. His defense hasn’t been perfect, but his second-half adjustments have been impressive.
Kansas City will enter Week 12 with a one-game lead in the conference and an eye-popping three-game lead in the AFC West with seven to play. In that seven-game slate, the Chiefs face just two teams above .500. If there was ever a time to clip a surging AFC opponent, it was Sunday night. Four offensive players were hobbled and starting safety Juan Thornhill was felled by an ankle injury. Unfortunately for the Chargers, Reid has forged his football team in the fires of adversity.
Next week, the Chiefs return to the cozy confines of Arrowhead Stadium with the lowly Los Angeles Rams coming to town. Kansas City is likely to be a double-digit favorite in Week 12. That line could move as more is known about Matthew Stafford’s availability. The Chiefs are riding a four-game win streak into the stretch run and things couldn’t be better at One Arrowhead Drive.