The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Los Angeles Chargers to end the regular season. They now have a first round bye in the playoffs and currently ride a six game winning streak. The report cards are in. Who’s stock is rising or falling following the regular season finale? Let’s find out, with this week’s version of three up and three down.
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Damien Williams continued his impressive return to the lineup with a determined effort. He again showed improved vision, along with new found burst. The tough runs up the middle were eventually open for Williams in the latter half of the contest. Meanwhile, his ability to make defenders miss or look flat out silly, energized the rest of the Chiefs offense. On an 84 yard touchdown run, Williams spun through three different attempted tackles by the Chargers defenders. It was a happy, yet astonishing, reaction from Williams and the Arrowhead Stadium crowd once he had broke free. Patrick Mahomes also was in sync with Williams in the passing game. Most of all, Williams looks ready to rock, roll and deliver in the playoffs, following an up and down campaign for the Chiefs running backs.
The rookie from Georgia came through with an increased opportunity on Sunday. Mecole Hardman made a tough reception with a LA defensive back closing in on him quickly. The reception gained 30 yards on a third down to keep the Chiefs drive alive. Kansas City scored a touchdown on the next play with just over a couple of minutes left before halftime. Later on, the speedster blazed past everyone for a 104 yard score on the kick return. He has been improving as a kick returner, and the play was blocked very well by Kansas City’s special teams unit. Both of those plays gave the Chiefs new found life and energy, on a day where it was slow at times.
The Honey Badger or the Landlord, Tyrann Mathieu thwarted the opposition once again. He was all over the field. Many times, the Chargers were forced to convert on a short down and distance situation. Mathieu made plenty of tackles to hold LA to a gain of five or six, when it could have been nine or ten. His interception in the end zone right before halftime sucked away any momentum the Chargers were carrying at that time. Despite his height difference against the long Mike Williams, Mathieu was in perfect position to take the ball away.
Juan Thornhill left the game fairly early on Sunday. It was pretty obvious that the injury was serious. He did in fact suffer a torn ACL. This is so unfortunate and disappointing. Thornhill had started in all 16 games and recorded 58 tackles, three interceptions and one touchdown. He had developed well as a tackler as the season went on. Additionally, his range and ability to go from 0 to 60 in the open field will be sorely missed. He and Mathieu were quickly becoming a top safety duo in the league. The injury sets up an interesting timetable for the beginning of 2020 as well. We hope Thornhill has a safe recovery.
Even with the Chiefs being down to three running backs, LeSean McCoy was still not used. He was active. However, the veteran received zero snaps. Obviously, Williams was doing well. But, the recipe from the last few weeks does not bode well for McCoy’s case in the crucial postseason games.
Overall, the Chiefs linebackers were not horrible. They were stuffing Melvin Gordon on runs up the middle. Yet, Gordon and Austin Ekeler were gashing the linebackers in the passing game. They would catch swing passes and cutback inside against the defenders. This forced too many missed tackles and the positive plays were happening too often. We talked about how the linebackers were going to be crucial in stopping the Los Angeles running backs. The Chargers knew it, and the RB duo combined for 119 receiving yards on 15 catches. The playoffs will provide a good test in this regard for the Kansas City defense.
That will wrap up this week’s version of three up and three down. Even though the Chiefs have the first round bye, be on the lookout for more 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.