Chiefs edge Chargers, head to Arizona on Sunday
November 24, 2022
Some things never change. If the Kansas City Chiefs are playing the Chargers in Los Angeles, it is safe
to predict that the game is going to be close, and it is going be a heartbreaking loss for the Chargers.
Sunday’s game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood was no exception as the Chiefs came from behind in the
last minute of the game to beat the Chargers, 30-27.
The Chiefs have never lost to the Chargers in Los Angeles. They are 6-0 against the Chargers in Los
Angeles. The Chiefs have won nine straight on the road against the Chargers. The last time the Chiefs
lost to the Chargers on the road was in 2013. In the last three games, all at SoFi Stadium, the Chiefs have
trailed in the last two minutes of each game and have won all three.
The common thread in the last three games has been the inability of the defense to get a stop when
needed. Or put another way, the inability to stop Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end
Travis Kelce. Mahomes is a challenge for any defense. The 2018 NFL MVP is difficult for a good defensive
team to slow down, and the Chargers are not a good defensive football team.
But the Chargers cannot match up with Kelce. In the three games at SoFi Stadium, Kelce has caught
25 passes for 396 yards and six touchdowns. Kelce has caught the game winning touchdown in the past
two games, including a walk-off 34-yard touchdown reception in overtime in the Chiefs 34-28 win over
the Chargers last season at SoFi Stadium.
The loss dropped the Chargers to 5-5 for the season. When asked about the performance of his
defensive unit, head coach Brandon Staley did not have much to say other than, ‘I thought that we
played good in stretches, but, ultimately, didn’t rush well enough, didn’t cover well enough tonight.”
The Chiefs improved to 8-2 for the season and have a three-game lead over the Chargers, who they
have beaten head-to-head twice this season, so it is really a four-game lead over the Chargers. The
Chiefs had 485 yards in total offense, which was better than their league leading average of 429 yards
One Chief offensive series was particularly disturbing. Trailing 20-16 with about four minutes left in
the third quarter, the Chiefs were facing a 3rd-and-17 from their own 7-yard line after a seven-yard sack
by Chargers safety Derwin James, who literally tossed blocking back Isiah Pacheco to the side on his way
to the sack of Mahomes.
Somehow Mahomes found a wide-open Justin Watson for 25 yards in the middle of the Charger
defense and a first down at the Charger 32-yard line. Seven plays later in the same offensive drive,
Mahomes connected with Kelce for a 32-yard touchdown pass to give the Chiefs a 23-20 lead early in
the fourth quarter.
Staley was very honest about the performance of the Chargers defense on third down. “We have to
make more plays,” Staley said. “It’s as simple as that on third down. We’re not covering well enough on
third down. That’s all there is to it.”
The Charger defense is currently ranked 25 th in total defensive yardage allowed per game, 29 th in
points allowed per game, 30 th in rushing yardage per game allowed, and they are last in average rushing
yardage per carry at 5.5 yards per carry. The injuries have not helped but this defense has not played
well enough and been consistent all season.
On their first offensive series of the second half, the Chiefs went on a nine play, 56-yard drive that
took just under 5 minutes. The drive consisted of eight runs and one incomplete pass. All of the yardage
came on the ground. When the top passing offense in the NFL can run the football with ease through
your defense, it is demoralizing. The drive culminated in a 30-yard field goal from Harrison Butker.
Charger quarterback Justin Herbert had a good game, completing 23 of 30 passes for 280 yards and
two touchdowns. Herbert appears to be over the rib injury he suffered earlier in the season, and he is
moving better outside of the pocket. Wide receiver Josh Palmer had the best game of his career, with
eight catches for 106 yards and two touchdown receptions.
The return of pro bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen helped. Allen has been fighting a hamstring pull
since the first game of the season and had only played a total of 45 offensive snaps in two games. In this
game, Allen made it through the whole game without reinjuring his hamstring and was able to play 44 of
65 offensive snaps.
Allen caught five passes for 94 yards, including a clutch 46-yard bomb from Herbert in the fourth
quarter that set-up a 6-yard touchdown pass to Palmer with 1:46 remaining in the game, giving the
Chargers a 27-23 lead. Unfortunately for the Chargers, that was a short-lived lead.
Mahomes drove the Chiefs downfield on a 75-yard touchdown drive in six plays that took just 1:15,
connecting with Kelce for a 17-yard touchdown pass for the winning score. On the scoring play, Kelce
was covered man-to-man by Derwin James, the Chargers best defensive player. Kelce got off the line
without being touched or impeded and ran away from James for the touchdown reception.
The Chiefs were without starting wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster due to a concussion and lost their
other starting wide receiver, Kadarious Toney, to a hamstring injury. Wide receiver Mecole Hardmann
was recently placed on injured reserve with an abdominal injury.
The injuries did not slow down Mahomes and the passing attack, because the Chiefs have depth at
their receiving positions. Mahomes threw 15 of his 31 pass attempts to a tight end. Kelce caught six of
his ten targets for 115 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Jody Forston caught two passes for 51
yards and tight end Noah Gray caught two of three targets for 15 yards.
Herbert threw one pass to a tight end the entire game, that being a six-yard completion to recently
acquired tight end Stone Smartt. The other two tight ends on the Chargers, Tre’ McKitty and Richard
Rodgers, were not targeted in the game and are not considered receiving threats. McKitty has caught
seven passes for 49 yards this season and Rodgers one pass for four yards.
With starting tight end Gerald Everett out with a groin injury, Herbert has no receiving options at
tight end. Tight end Donald Parham has played a total of 37 snaps due to injuries and is currently on the
injured reserve, so he is not a viable receiving option at this point of the season. The Chargers need to
improve their depth at tight end in the offseason.
The Chargers will head to Arizona this Sunday, November 27 th , for a matchup with the Arizona
Cardinals in Phoenix. The game will be start at 1:05 pm and will be televised on CBS. The Cardinals are 4-
7 on the season and are coming off a 38-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The Cardinals were without
quarterback Kyler Murray in the loss to the 49ers, but he is expected to return for this game.
The Cardinals are coming off a playoff appearance last season and can be explosive on offense with
Murray and three-time All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The Chargers will likely be without wide
receiver Mike Williams, who reinjured his ankle in the Chiefs game. Everett is questionable for the game
This is a huge game for the Chargers. As Staley said after the game, “We’re 10 games into the season.
We’re 5-5. Everything is in front of us. We have to make improvements and it starts this week with
Arizona.” The Chargers need a win this week in Arizona and a win next week in Las Vegas against the
Raiders to stay in the playoff hunt.