With 8:15 remaining on Thursday evening, the Kansas City Chiefs took what appeared to be a commanding 28-14 lead over the Los Angeles Chargers in a highly-anticipated AFC West match-up. However, Philip Rivers and the visitors had very different ideas at Arrowhead Stadium, pulling off a wild comeback and escaping with what became a 29-28 victory in the final seconds.
The Chiefs led virtually wire-to-wire, with MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes connecting on two touchdown passes in the first quarter to give Kansas City to a 14-0 lead. To make matters worse for Los Angeles, Rivers uncorked two woeful interceptions before halftime and, if anything the underdog Chargers were likely fortunate to enter the halftime break down only seven points.
Then, Kansas City scored a touchdown out of the halftime break and Damien Williams, replacing both Kareem Hunt and Spencer Ware as the team’s primary running back, was able to find a groove in the second half. Still, the stars did not quite align for the Chiefs to fully put the game away and, in the final minutes, it was all Chargers.
First, a Justin Jackson three-yard run capped a 75-yard drive to bring Los Angeles within a 28-21 margin with 3:49 to go but, with all things equal, the more difficult task was still ahead. The Chiefs deploy one of the league’s best offenses, but Los Angeles engineered a three-and-out on the defensive side, pushing Kansas City back five yards and setting the stage for Rivers to lead the decisive drive.
The Chargers took over with 60 yards to go and immediately moved the ball into plus territory, but there was a road block on 4th-and-7 from the 36-yard line. Rivers connected with Travis Benjamin on a timely 26-yard gain, though, and the fireworks were just beginning.
Los Angeles actually did not receive the benefit of the doubt on what appeared to be a personal foul, as Rivers was struck in the head with a tackle after his knee made contact with the ground. Seconds later, the referees (who operated in controversial fashion throughout the evening) gave one back to the Chargers with an “interesting” defensive pass interference call and, despite ugly clock management from Rivers and the offense, a connection was made with Mike Williams for a touchdown with just four seconds to go.
There was an official review (and the play seemed close) but the Chargers never appeared to even consider kicking the game-tying extra point, instead opting for a two-point conversion and an attempt to escape with a win. Rivers found Williams, with the help of a coverage bust, and that was that.
Though Rivers was far from perfect, the veteran finished with 313 yards and two touchdowns, while Williams enjoyed a breakout game of sorts with seven catches for 76 yards and both scores through the air. In addition to the already apparent level of difficulty associated with a comeback against a very good team, the Chargers made a bit of recent history when compared to the rest of the league this season.
Both the Chargers and Chiefs will leave Arrowhead with 11-3 records and, even before the game started, it was clear both squads were headed to the playoffs. That should not diminish from what Los Angeles was able to pull off, though, and this was one for the ages in a time slot not always associated with elite-level NFL football.