It was heralded as the fight for AFC West supremacy.
The Los Angeles Chargers were red hot. The Kansas City Chiefs were reeling. A changing of the guard atop the division seemed like a distinct possibility.
However, the hype would prove greater than the product. Kansas City once again staked its divisional claim with a 30-13 victory over the Bolts on Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs are in sole possession of first place in the AFC West after snapping the Chargers’ four-game winning streak.
While Kansas City outshined Los Angeles in every facet of Saturday night’s game, they were particularly impressive at clock management. The Chiefs held the ball for 10:28 in the first quarter. This included a 15-play drive that ended with a 31-yard Harrison Butker field goal. The Chiefs had taken a 3-0 lead.
Shortly thereafter, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith connected with wide receiver Tyreek Hill for a 64-yard touchdown in the second quarter. After a Butker extra point, Kansas City had increased their lead to 10-0.
Los Angeles quickly responded with an impressive 10-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a two-yard touchdown by running back Melvin Gordon. However, the Chargers kicking woes resurfaced, as kicker Travis Coons missed the extra point. The Chiefs would take a 10-6 lead into halftime.
As the second half got underway, the Chargers maintained their momentum. The defense was able to force a Kansas City-three-and-out to start the third quarter. Following a 49-yard reception by Gordon, Rivers found tight end Antonio Gates in the end zone for the 86th time in his career. The 10-yard score put the Chargers ahead 13-10 after Coons connected on the extra point.
Kansas City regained the lead when rookie running back Kareem Hunt caught a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Alex Smith. Kansas City now led 17-13, and they would not relinquish the lead again.
The Bolts simply turned the ball over far too often to win this contest. Rivers threw the first of his three interceptions to Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters. Peters returned it 62 yards to the Chargers’ six-yard line. The turnover led to a 24-yard Butker field goal, which increased Kansas City’s lead to 20-13. It was Rivers’ first interception in his last 163 pass attempts.
Rookie running back Austin Ekeler fumbled on the next Chargers possession. Rivers would go on to throw two more interceptions. The Chiefs closed the game with 20 unanswered points. Thirteen of those points came off of turnovers.
Defensive end Melvin Ingram collected his 10th sack of the season in the first quarter.
Wide receiver Keenan Allen had 54 yards on five catches.
Rivers finished the game 20-of-36 for 227 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions.
While the Chiefs look to be in control of the division, the Chargers playoff hopes are still alive. Undoubtedly, they will need to win, and get some help over the final two weeks of the regular season.
The Bolts suffered an unbelievable amount of injuries to key players in this game. At some point in this contest, injuries plagued each of the following players: Keenan Allen, Corey Liuget, Austin Ekeler, Hunter Henry, Russell Okung, Adrian Phillips, Joe Barksdale and Denzel Perryman.
The Chargers head to East Rutherford, New Jersey to take on the New York Jets in Week 16 at Metlife Stadium. Kickoff is Sunday, Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve) at 10 a.m. Pacific.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the Los Angeles Chargers and the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC