Posted on December 17, 2017, by Travis Pulver
The Kansas City Chiefs have gone on a very interesting journey this season. They started the season as the hottest team in the league but then cooled off quickly. However, heading into Saturday night’s contest against the Los Angeles Chargers, they were in a position to practically lockdown the AFC West title.
All they had to do was beat a team that has also been on an incredible journey. The Chargers appeared left for dead after a 0-4 start but found their groove the last couple of months. They entered Saturday night’s game with a chance to take the division lead from the Chiefs.
They just had to play the kind of football they have been and minimize the mistakes—but they couldn’t do it. Four second-half turnovers combined with a resurgent Kareem Hunt were too much for the Chargers to handle.
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“As a coaching staff, we have to look ourselves in the face and say, ‘Why didn’t we get our guys ready to play their best in a big game like this?'” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said (ESPN). “We missed tackles. We didn’t execute well on offense, and we went back to some dumb penalties that we had earlier in the year.”
Three of the turnovers led directly to points, and the final one served as the nail in the coffin for a 30-13 loss to the Chiefs. It’s the eighth consecutive loss the Chargers have suffered at the hands of the Chiefs. Rivers had three turnovers when they lost to the Chargers back in Week Three.
“We kind of fell apart in a sense,” Rivers said after the game (ESPN). “We just didn’t execute. Obviously, give them credit. But just what we talked during the last four games, not turning the ball over and getting takeaways, we were just the opposite of that today.”
But the Chiefs didn’t win because of the Chargers mistakes. Kareem Hunt appears to have found the form that made him an early favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Back in Week Three, he ran for 172 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers. This time he ran for 155 yards and a touchdown (and had seven receptions for 51 yards and another touchdown).
Alex Smith had an efficient day completing 23 of 30 passes for 231 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Most of the work came on three plays. There was a 64-yard touchdown to Tyreek Hill that gave the Chiefs a 10-0 lead. Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce each had 21-yard receptions.
The Chargers playoff hopes are slim at 7-7, but they are not out of the running yet. They can still win the AFC West if they win out and the Chiefs drop their final two. With games against the Jets and Raiders remaining, it is not hard to imagine them winning out. But it is highly unlikely the Chiefs will lose to Miami and Denver.
That leaves the wild card race. But they will need some help to jump ahead of the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills and move into the No. 6 seed. Anthony Lynn had this to say about his team’s playoff hopes after the game (ESPN):
“Our playoffs have begun. And there’s no absolute that we’re going to the playoffs, even if we win the next two games. But if we don’t, we damn sure ain’t going.”
As for the Chiefs, the key to their success appears to be Andy Reid giving up play-calling duties. Since doing so earlier this month, the Chiefs offense has come alive. They can lock up the AFC West with a win over the Miami Dolphins next week.