Timing is everything. That was true in the Kansas City Chiefs experience Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. It was a slow start, but many things turned to good fortune by mid afternoon. Timely turnovers by the Chargers offense, along with explosive scoring plays by Kansas City, set them up to win the game. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins helped out the Chiefs by defeating the Patriots at New England. This scenario allowed for the Chiefs to secure a first round bye in the playoffs. With a lot to uncover, it’s time to get things started with our Chiefs versus Chargers game recap.
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Mixing It Up
Week Seventeen can bring many surprises. I don’t think many were expecting the Chiefs to begin the game the way they did offensively. It was very option centric in the running game. Additionally, Patrick Mahomes was largely throwing the ball into the flats to Damien Williams.
Eventually, Kansas City was clicking so much on the short passes that the offense opened up. Chargers defenders were confused on stellar route running by Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson. The zone coverage of LA left a lot to be desired when it was all said and done. However, they were doing enough to confuse the Kansas City receivers. Mahomes was not quite on the same page with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce for much of the afternoon. The added time off will allow the Chiefs offense to sift through those kinks.
Next Man Up
One reason the Chiefs are set up better for this year’s postseason run, is because they are a complete team. The defense was locked in from the opening kickoff. The energy from players like Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Jones, Frank Clark and Terrell Suggs is important for guys like Daniel Sorensen, Armani Watts and Mike Pennel. Was it their most impressive day, technically speaking? No. But, everyone did their job. When the defense needed to get off the field, they either came up with a takeaway or a sack.
The disappointing news was the injury to rookie safety Juan Thornhill. Thornhill suffered a torn ACL. He has arguably been the Chiefs best rookie in 2019 and started in all 16 games. Him and Mathieu were building into one of the top safety duos in the NFL. His range and ability to fly up and make a tackle near the line of scrimmage will be missed the most. Overall, we hope he has a safe and steady recovery and returns with a vengeance in 2020. Kendall Fuller and the aforementioned Watts will presumably combine to replace the injured rookie.
As a whole, it was a slow start for the Chiefs offense. That includes the running game. Though, Damien Williams has returned to the lineup with great burst and improved vision. His effort the last two weeks has been exceptional. He was running through Chargers tacklers and getting them lost in spin cycles. On his 84 yard touchdown run, three Los Angeles defenders missed him point blank. The reaction of the crowd showed just how comical the play had become, in order for Williams to break free.
On the other hand, the offensive line was a lot more steady than the week before. The rushing attack had zero to little attack most of the season. Now, the Chiefs are showing they can get it done it that regard as well. The Chiefs passed the test against the Chargers.
Going into this game between the Chiefs and Chargers, we talked about the Kansas City linebackers needing to slow down the running backs. There were some nice tackles by Anthony Hitchens, Reggie Ragland and Damien Wilson on runs by Melvin Gordon up the middle. Yet, the inconsistency out in space is a recurring problem. Gordon and Austin Ekeler found open space for which to roam, with cutback runs.
The range in those areas is going to be missed with the loss of Thornhill. But, it’s not just that the defense will miss him. The team must add at least one more linebacker piece this offseason in free agency or the draft. The linebackers still made some timely plays on Sunday. Nevertheless, there is that void where opponents can exploit the Kansas City defense. The Chiefs were reminded of that against the Chargers.
The Chiefs definitely appreciate the help from Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins. Recent history indicates having a playoff bye helps teams reach their Super Bowl dreams. In six consecutive years, the teams to meet in the Super Bowl had a playoff bye. This allows the Chiefs a much easier path to the big game too, if they were able to reach it. A home game against the Tennessee Titans, followed by trips to New England and the Baltimore Ravens is a daunting task. In a deep conference like the AFC, it will be fun to see how the field plays out.
That will wrap up our recap for Chiefs versus Chargers. Be on the lookout for more Chiefs content throughout this week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.