An interception on his first pass of the game…
This week’s Thursday Night Football Game offered us one heck of a matchup between two legitimate AFC championship contenders. At 11-2 on the season, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs were looking to wrap up the division against the second-place Chargers at Arrowhead.
Almost immediately, it seemed to become clear how this game was going to go. Philip Rivers threw an interception on his first pass of the game. Just a few plays later, Patrick Mahomes tossed his NFL-high 44th touchdown pass of the season.
From that point on, the Chargers mounted a brilliant comeback. Down 28-14 in the fourth quarter, Los Angeles scored on its final two possessions — culminating in a game-winning two-point conversion from Philip Rivers to Mike Williams. It was some insane stuff.
These are among the biggest winners and losers from the Chargers’ brilliant 29-28 comeback win over Kansas City at Arrowhead.
Winner: Philip Rivers rallies his team from behind
Rivers had been playing at an MVP level for the vast majority of the 2018 season heading into Thursday night’s action against Kansas City. He didn’t play like it for the most part in Los Angeles’ biggest game of the season. But he sure came through in the end.
Rivers’ initial pass of the game was picked off by Chiefs defensive back Steve Nelson. We’re not going to blame him too much for taking that shot, but it did lead indirectly to the Chiefs’ first touchdown of the game.
Then, late in the second quarter, Rivers was picked off in the end zone. At that point, it was just a 14-7 Chiefs lead. But Rivers was at his absolute best en route to helping Los Angeles overcome a two-touchdown fourth quarter deficit. That included him completing 11-of-16 passes on the final two drives — culminating in a game-winning two-point conversion to give Los Angeles the astonishing win.
Loser: Chargers offensive line struggles
Los Angeles’ offensive line held up much better in the second half Thursday night. But it’s what we saw from this unit in the first two quarters that should have fans in Southern California a bit concerned. Pretty much the most immobile quarterback in the NFL, Philip Rivers was sacked four times and hit a total of seven times before the game even hit the second half.
The likes of Chris Jones, Dee Ford and Justin Houston dominated this previously stout pass-protecting group. That could very well be an issue once the calendar turns to January and the postseason starts. Simply put, this unit needs to do better.
Winner: The Williams “brothers’ come up big
Following the release of Kareem Hunt and injury to Spencer Ware, Kansas City needed to find someone to step up at running back behind Patrick Mahomes. After putting up just 53 yards in his first 13 games, former Oklahoma standout Damien Williams was going to get the first crack. He was followed in line by undrafted rookie free agent Darrel Williams from LSU.
It doesn’t look like the two missed a beat. They combined for 101 total yards and a touchdown in the first quarter alone. From there, the Chargers’ defense did better containing the tandem. When all was said and done, the Williams “brothers” ended with 158 total yards and three touchdowns on 19 touches. If the Chiefs can get anywhere near that type of production from these two, they are going to be in a tremendous spot moving forward.
Loser: Joey Bosa was pretty much a non-factor
Having missed the first nine games of the season to injury, we wouldn’t have blamed Bosa if he struggled the first couple weeks he returned to action. After all, a dominant pass rusher needs to get his sea legs back. Interestingly, Bosa came out with all hands on deck — recording four sacks in his first four games.
Whether it was the cold weather or something completely different, this Pro Bowl performer was a shell of his former self in a must win for the Chargers Thursday night. He recorded a grand total of one tackle with one quarterback hit and zero sacks. That’s just not going to get it done moving forward.
Winner: Mike Williams steps up in favor of Keenan Allen
With No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen exiting due to a hip injury in the first half, the Chargers needed another pass catcher to step up. That’s exactly what this second-year receiver did for Philip Rivers and Co. Williams entered Week 15 having put up a solid season. That included seven touchdowns.
No one expected him to have a career-best performance on the game’s grandest of regular season stages. Williams caught 7-of-9 targets for 76 yards. But that’s nowhere near the extent of it. With the game on the line late in the fourth quarter, Williams hauled in a second touchdown catch of the game to pull Los Angeles to within one. A play later, he converted the game-winning two-point conversion from Rivers — sending Los Angeles to an absolutely shocking win in the process.
Loser: Kelvin Benjamin is non-factor in Chiefs debut
With Sammy Watkins out for this one and Tyreek Hill hobbled by injury, the Chiefs were forced to rely on this former Buffalo Bills bust. Sure Benjamin might have played limited snaps Thursday night. But when he was on the field, the big-bodied receiver did nothing of substance.
Benjamin’s only catch on the game was a 17-yard strike from Mahomes. He was targeted a grand total of two times. Expectations weren’t high for Benjamin in the first place. He failed to exceed said expectations.
Winner: Chris Jones is a bad, bad man
It didn’t take this young defensive end long to enter the NFL record books. With a first quarter sack of Philip Rivers, the 24-year-old Jones recorded a sack in his 10th consecutive game. That tied a league record. But in no way was Jones done there. He put up another 1.5 sacks in the first half alone, leading a Chiefs defense that took Rivers down four times before the third quarter even started.
Jones has been somewhat of a sensation for Kansas City this season. He entered Thursday’s game having already put up 11.5 sacks. He came out of the game with 2.5 more quarterback take downs to his name.
Loser: Tyreek Hill obviously not 100 percent
This dynamic third-year receiver was questionable heading into Week 15 with a foot injury. But it seemed leading up to the all-important game that he was near 100 percent. After all, the Chiefs were coming off a short week. There’s no reason to believe they would have risked further injury.
Whatever the reason, Hill wasn’t his normal self against the Chargers. Sure he made a highlight-reel 33-yard catch. But outside of that, the receiver hauled in just three passes for 13 yards. It’s a clear sign that he’s not 100 percent.
Winner: Eric Berry returns to action
Not only did this former All-Pro make his 2018 debut Thursday night, it’s the first time Berry has been on the field since Week 1 of the 2017 season. That really is something to behold. And it tells us a story of a man that continues to overcome adversity in what should end up being a Hall of Fame career.
The better news here? Berry played like his old self in the defeat against Los Angeles. He ended the night having recorded six tackles and one pass defended in the loss. True to his nature, Berry was a ball hawk against Philip Rivers and Co. That could be a boon for Kansas City heading into the playoffs.