By Dave Thomas
While all good things must come to an end, this was an especially difficult pill for the Los Angeles Chargers to swallow in Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday evening.
In a game with first place in the AFC West on the line, the Chargers saw a 13-10 lead evaporate in the second half, as Kansas City scored 20 unanswered points in scoring a 30-13 win. The victory leaves the Chiefs alone atop the division with an overall record of 8-6. While the Chargers are not mathematically eliminated from winning the division, a number of things would have to bounce their way over the final two weeks of the regular season for that to happen.
Controlling the tempo and sporting a three-point lead in the second half, Los Angeles (7-7) watched as Alex Smith and Co. went on a long scoring drive that would see the Chiefs not look back.
In the end, Kansas City used the legs of running back Kareem Hunt and the defense of Marcus Peters (two INT’s) and others to salt away the victory.
After outscoring opponents 131-53 during the four-game winning streak, the Chargers could only muster 13 points on this late fall night at one of the toughest venues in the NFL to play in for visitors. Quarterback Philip Rivers had been all but untouchable during the win streak. On this evening, Rivers went 20-of-36 for 227 yards and one touchdown, along with three interceptions. Although it looked on a couple of the turnovers as if Rivers and his receivers were not on the same page, they counted nonetheless.
Running back Melvin Gordon looked to be a one-man show on the offensive side of the ball. While rushing for 78 yards (including one TD) on 19 carries, Gordon also caught six balls for 91 yards. After a recent four-game tear, wide receiver Keenan Allen was held to five catches for only 54 yards. Veteran tight end Antonio Gates had the other Chargers’ score on a 10-yard reception.
After three straight dominating performances (Dallas, Cleveland, Washington), the Los Angeles defense was not its usual self, especially in the second half. Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt had a stellar game, going for 155 yards on the ground and one touchdown. Hunt also did it on the receiving end, catching seven balls for 51 yards and a score.
For the Chargers, this was a game where it seemed the defense began to wear down, especially in the fourth quarter. On a cold but clear night in Missouri, the Chargers simply ran out of gas and were unable to corral Hunt on a number of runs. For the game, Adrian Phillips led the way with eight solo tackles before suffering an ankle injury. Teammate Melvin Ingram had the lone sack of Smith, who finished 23-of-30 for 231 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Special Teams: C
In a game where punter Drew Kaser only had to punt three times, it was a rather uneventful night on special teams. The Los Angeles placekicking woes at times did rear their ugly head again when Travis Coons missed an extra point on the Chargers’ first score. Los Angeles also missed a golden opportunity early in the game when Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill botched a punt return in Chiefs territory. After a mad scramble for the ball, Kansas City recovered and avoided Los Angeles having the ball in the red zone.
After riding high on a four-game winning streak, rookie head coach Anthony Lynn watched his team come back down to earth. Although the Chargers are still mathematically alive for both the division and playoffs, they are up against a wall at this point. It will be interesting to see what kind of effort the Bolts give come next Sunday in East Rutherford, New Jersey against a 5-8 New York Jets team (as of Saturday).
Los Angeles certainly has their work cut out for them. After flying halfway across the country to play the Chiefs and then head back home to Southern California, the Bolts will turn around and fly across the country at week’s end for the meeting with the Jets. The NFL schedule makers certainly did not do them any favors. Kansas City looks to wrap up the AFC West next Sunday when it hosts Miami.