Despite a valiant effort from the Los Angeles Chargers, the team fell on Thursday Night Football to their division rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs. In a game in which Justin Herbert outplayed his counterpart, Patrick Mahomes, the team was unable to secure an in-division victory on the road due to some mistakes in key moments and a couple of questionable calls by the referees.
Chargers’ Strong Start
The Chargers came out of the gates on a mission, with the team’s defense forcing the Chiefs’ offense to punt on their first two drives on offense. On the other side of the ball, quarterback Justin Herbert and wide receiver Mike Williams were toying with the Chiefs’ offense, combining for 5 completions for 76 yards on the team’s first two drives and leading the team to a 10-0 lead.
In the midst of what seemed to be an utterly dominant effort by the Chargers‘ defense, quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the Chiefs’ offense eventually started clicking on all cylinders. The Chiefs answered their 0-10 deficit against the Chargers with an 7-play drive capped off by some Mahomes magic that ended up becoming a 9 yard touchdown reception for running back Jerrick McKinnon.
After coming out of the first half with a 10-7 lead over the division rival Chiefs, the Chargers appeared to have zero intention of taking their foot off the gas. On the team’s opening drive, the Chargers marched down the field and capped it off with a 15-yard one-hand touchdown reception by Williams.
On the following drive, Patrick Mahomes threw a pass directly into the hands of Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr., who failed to secure it initially before leaping to the ground and recovering what the referees originally called an interception. After going to review, the referees ended up overturning the ball, stating that Samuel Jr. failed to secure the football before it made contact with the ground. As Peter King said when speaking with Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk there was no “indisputable visual evidence” that would have warranted overturning the original call on the field.
After that mishap, the Kansas City Chiefs immediately responded with a 41-yard touchdown from Patrick Mahomes to wide receiver Justin Watson. Watson’s score happened to take advantage of busted coverage by All-Pro cornerback J.C. Jackson, who saw his first live game action of the 2022 season. This score from the Chiefs was what appeared to be the turning point of the game. Despite the fact that the Chargers’ defense was holding their own against Mahomes and the Chiefs, allowing just 14 points through three quarters of football, it became evident that the Chiefs were not going down without a fight.
The fourth quarter is where things truly began to unravel for the Chargers, who were slowly losing grasp of the momentum they carried throughout the beginning of the contest. The Chiefs’ offense tied things up at 17-17 to start the final quarter, which set up Justin Herbert and company with the opportunity to take back the lead and momentum of the ballgame.
Quarterback Justin Herbert led the offense into the Chiefs’ red zone while going 6/6 for 53 yards. After connecting on back-to-back plays with tight end Gerald Everett, Herbert decided to go back to his trusted target on a quick flat route that was intercepted by Chiefs cornerback Jaylen Watson who returned it for a 99-yard touchdown, giving the Chiefs their first lead of the night.
This interception took all of the wind out of the Chargers’ sails and truly shifted the narrative of what the game had been up to that point. What seemed like a potential upset victory on the road against a division rival quickly began to feel like any other disappointing, yet frustratingly competitive, Chargers loss.
The Chargers ended up punting on their following two drives, the second of which had a play where Justin Herbert went down with an apparent rib injury, forcing him to leave the game for a snap. Once Herbert returned, it became very evident that his injury was physically inhibiting his ability to perform to his potential.After Herbert’s injury, the Chargers’ defense gave up a field goal to the Chiefs’ offense, putting the Chargers at a 17-27 deficit.
With less than four minutes left in the game and trailing by two scores, the outcome of the game seemed all but certain. Despite being in noticeable pain and discomfort, Justin Herbert trotted back onto the field with the rest of his offense and led them down the field, capping it all off with a 7-yard touchdown to second year wide receiver Joshua Palmer. Unfortunately, there was not enough time left in the game for the Chargers’ offense to get the ball back before the game clock ran out.
The game ended with the Chargers suffering a 24-27 loss to the Chiefs. This loss will have lasting impacts on the remainder of the Chargers’ 2022 season, considering Justin Herbert’s injury and the fact that they now trail the Chiefs by one head-to-head victory in the race for the AFC West Division title.
The Chargers now hope to bounce back in Week 3 when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had a dominant 24-0 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. With Justin Herbert currently listed as day-to-day with a rib injury, this matchup at home against the Jaguars may not be the guaranteed W that I would have project before the season began.