Chargers drop yet another close game against Kansas City

Chargers fail to slow down the Chiefs offense while L.A. can only find the end zone once in the second half.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — For the second week in a row, the Chargers were close to finishing off a very good team on national television. Keywords “were close.” The Chargers dropped to 5-5 after a 30-27 loss to the 8-2 Kansas City Chiefs.

It felt like déjà vu watching the Chargers put up points in the first half and their quarterback, Justin Herbert, playing at a high level. The offense combined to score seven points in the second half of the 49ers and Chiefs game. The Chargers defense gave up big plays that led to big points.

A team left frustrated after losing two games in a row that they had in the palm of their hand.

“You should be frustrated,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “We just lost to a good team at home. We had the lead. We weren’t able to close it out. That’s an outstanding team that we played. To not beat those guys is disappointing because we felt like our level was good enough to win, but we didn’t finish plays in that fourth quarter to get it done. That group in there has a lot of pride. We have played two really tough ones in a row against two fantastic teams.”

Here are some takeaways from the loss:

1. Chargers offense needs to show more urgency

It seems like the Chargers offense got a boost on Sunday when receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams returned to the lineup. Williams would only last a couple of plays until he caught a 15-yard pass and came down on his ankle.

Allen, though had five catches for 94 yards on Sunday. He did have a fumble in the fourth quarter that seemed like it would cost the Chargers, but linebacker Troy Reeder was able to cause a fumble and get the ball back.

The Chargers faced third and 18 late in the fourth quarter when Allen made a tremendous 46-yard grab to put the offense in the red zone.

“For the guys, I felt like I owed them,” Allen said. “Definitely no fumbling the fourth quarter against a team like that can go down way harder than it did. Defense came through, got us the ball back, put us in position and was able to come down with a big catch.”

The Chargers would score on a Josh Palmer six-yard touchdown, but that was their only score of the second half. 

Where is the offense after halftime?

In back-to-back weeks the Chargers have been outscored 29-7. 

“Just not executing,” receiver DeAndre Carter said. “That’s all. We got to come out of the half better. Execute better and more attention to detail.”

The Chargers came out of the half with a penalty on the opening kickoff but then had two straight three-and-outs. Staley and Herbert pointed to executing better on third downs while limiting the penalties.

2. Chargers defense can’t slow down Mahomes and Kelce

The Chargers defense has had some good moments this season, but then they have nights like Sunday where it doesn’t look good.

They made a big play by recovering the fumble caused by Reeder, but they couldn’t slow down Mahomes even with Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman missing the game.

The connection between Mahomes and Travis Kelce was on display once again. They connected on six passes for 115 yards and three touchdowns.

“They fight,” Allen said. “I said it earlier in the week, they always find a way to come out and win the game. Travis Kelce and Pat Mahomes are magicians. They always find a way.”

For most of the night, Kelce took advantage of Kenneth Murray, Asante Samuel or Michael Davis covering him. He didn’t have success against safety Derwin James until the final play.

James lined up against Kelce, but the tight end ended up in the end zone to close the game out.

“It was a man to pick route,” James explained. “They ran a good play. Executed it. He (Travis Kelce) ran a drag route and was running away from my leverage. When I did try to catch up the dude got in my way. I got to make that play. That is what they pay me to do.”

3. Chiefs vs. Chargers delivers yet again

This is one of the most fun matchups in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes was his usual self but yet different. He is growing as a quarterback. This season he hasn’t had Tyreek Hill, so he has needed to develop his chemistry with his other weapons.

That is why even though he was missing two big pieces to the offense, plus losing running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, he was still able to deliver a victory to his team.

On the other side, Justin Herbert made big-time throws like the 50-yard rocket to Joshua Palmer, who had a big game with eight catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns.

“Josh [Palmer] just stepped up big time,” Herbert said. “He’s one of those guys that is able to win against man coverage. He’s not playing like this in his second year. We trust him completely. He’s picked up the offense very quickly and has really established himself.”

These two teams put on a show, while the final score is only separated by a touchdown or less. The last time it was a bigger margin with Mahomes or even Alex Smith on the field was in 2019 on December 29th (Not counting January 2021 matchup Mahomes didn’t play).

Since the Mahomes/Herbert era started, these games have come down to the final play.

“I think a lot of the games in the NFL come down to the final drive,” Herbert said. “That’s a really good team that we were playing up against. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way. We didn’t put up enough points today.”

The Chargers, though, have now lost this contest three times in a row, and Sunday’s loss was tough because it could have kept them in AFC West contention.

“That one hurts,” James said. “That is a tough one, especially against that team.”

The Chiefs now sit three games ahead of the Chargers in the AFC West. At 5-5, it seems like division is all but wrapped up, but now it seems like it is a wild card is what the team will be fighting for now.

Performances like tonight can’t happen. They must learn to close out games on both sides of the ball.

“Close isn’t good enough in this league,” James said. “I didn’t make enough winning plays to win the game and it hurts but we got to move on and get ready for the next one.”

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