How the Chiefs beat the Chargers, explained by experts

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Here’s how the experts are analyzing the Chiefs’ Thursday night win over the Chargers. 

The Chiefs muscled out a 3-point victory in primetime on Thursday over the Chargers in one of the first inter-divisional battles of the highly competitive AFC West.

The Chargers honestly looked like the better team for about two and a half quarters. Justin Herbert and Mike Williams were connecting all over the field, with Williams looking like he could catch any ball thrown within 10 yards of his hands. Williams caught his eight (113 yards) with an average of just 1.36 yards of defender separation.

Defensively, Derwin James was all over the field for LA as well, securing a team-leading 6 tackles.

Pass rushing was the story on Thursday. LA blitzed Mahomes 36% of the time on dropbacks, compared to sub-25% last year in their two matchups.

The Chiefs seemed to fall asleep on defense until the end of the game, but for the Chargers final drives it felt like they would get Herbert on the ground every play.

Herbert suffered eight hits, many of them coming at the end of the game. Backup QB Chase Daniel started warming up following an apparent rib injury, but Herbert toughed it out and completed the game. After enjoying over 3 seconds of time to throw in Week 1, his time was limited to 2.75 seconds in Thursday night’s game.

Here’s what the experts are saying about the game last night:

Field Yates made a really good point observation about play before big INT

Field Yates pointed out just exactly how the major interception was set up by the Chargers not making a personnel change.

“Chargers tight end Gerald Everett for the Chargers had a 26-yard screen pass, he bobbed and weaved through the Chiefs defense, it was an amazing play… With one problem.

By the end of it, he was gassed, you could see him turning to the sideline, touching his head saying, ‘Take me out for a play.’ However, the Chargers kept him on the field and here’s why: In the NFL, the defense can change personnel and take its time if the offense also subs out some personnel. If the offense doesn’t sub anybody, the defense might get caught in a pickle because the offense can move as fast as it wants. The Chargers wanted to move fast and keep the same Chiefs personnel on the field, so Everett stayed on the field as well.

And on that interception, it was actually Everett who Herbert was intending to throw the football to. He was so tired, the route really wasn’t much of a route and Watson was able to muzzle up.”

Arrowhead Addict points to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who no one is giving enough credit to

From KC Proctor: 

With 74 yards rushing (9.4 yards per carry) and 44 yards receiving (11 yards per catch), Clyde Edwards-Helaire was by far the most impactful offensive player of the game.

Say what you will about the fact that his 52-yard run made up the majority of his production on the ground, but we are undoubtedly in the early stages of his break-out campaign. He had 74 all-purpose yards and 2 touchdowns last week, so Thursday’s performance should cement him as the guy moving forward.

Arrowhead Pride: Even when Mahomes is “bad” he’s good

From Rocky Magana: 

Sure… there were plays on Thursday night that were vintage Mahomes. But there were also plays where his mechanics were rushed because of pressure from the Los Angeles front four led by Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa. Mahomes not only flat-out missed a couple of throws, but also threw into coverage when he shouldn’t have. You could sometimes see the frustration on his face — but as usual, he never let himself get down; he just kept on trotting back out there, lining up under center and doing his best to execute the offense.

The result was a somewhat uneven performance — but he did just enough to win the game. This was a test of leadership and patience. Mahomes answered the call and got the victory. It was the sort of gutty performance that helps a team develop its identity.

Chargers defense was solid, but Mahomes can create something out of nothing

NFL.com points out how impactful Justin Herbert’s injury was

From Eric Edholm:

Justin Herbert had a rough second half. The Herbert injury, taking a shot to his ribs in the fourth quarter, is a story we clearly will be watching this week and next. After injuries to center Corey Linsley and right tackle Trey Pipkins, the Chargers simply could not protect their star quarterback, who was hit eight times. Chiefs edge Michael Danna slammed into Herbert with five minutes remaining, and Herbert clearly was in rough shape. When he returned to the game (after sitting out the requisite one play), Herbert was having trouble moving and throwing, at one point giving up on a play. But he found something inside him to keep going — and what a display it was. Despite dealing with obvious pain, Herbert delivered an absolute dime to DeAndre Carter on fourth down and completed the TD drive to give his team a chance. A truly gutsy performance in a losing effort, one his teammates are likely to remember for a long time. The good news? Herbert has 10 days to ice and rest those ribs … and hope the Chargers’ line gets good health news, too.

CBS Sports thinks luck had a lot to do with the Chiefs win

From Jordan Dajani and Shanna McCarriston: 

The Chiefs got lucky on some near interceptions by the Chargers, specifically from Asante Samuel Jr., that did not result in a takeaway. They nearly had a fumble by the goal line as well, with the ball coming out of Travis Kelce’s hands following a body slam by Derwin James, but he was ruled down by contact.

If any of these near turnovers ended up as actual Chiefs turnovers, this could have been a different story.

Speaking of turnovers, it was ultimately a turnover that made the difference. The Chargers were knocking on the door of the end zone, but a 99-yard pick 6 from Chiefs’ Jaylen Watson ended up giving Kansas City its first lead of the game. Another three points sealed the deal and the Chargers ran out of time to catch up.

The Chargers definitely had their hands on several passes and plenty of “oh-so-close” turnover moments, including the non-interception for Asante Samuel everyone is talking about.

ESPN points to the turning-point play: An exciting full-field INT from rookie Jaylen Watson

From Adam Teicher: 

Playing because starter Trent McDuffie went on injured reserve this week, Watson delivered the Chiefs’ biggest play of what could eventually prove to be their biggest win of the season. Watson intercepted a pass from Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert in the fourth quarter and returned it 99 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. The Chiefs went on to beat their AFC West rivals 27-24.

When the Chargers snapped the ball from the Chiefs’ 3, they had a win probability of 73%, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. That probability swung to 81% for the Chiefs after Watson’s pick-six.

Next Gen Stats had the interception as a 54% win probability swing, one of 14 win probability changes of the evening.

Next for the Chiefs is the Colts on the road. The Chargers host the Jaguars next week.

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