Star of the game vs. Chargers overcame personal Kryptonite

The Kansas City Chiefs rallied behind quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce for a game-winning fourth-quarter touchdown drive, defeating the Los Angeles Chargers 30-27 Sunday night at SoFi Stadium.

Here are the grades from Sunday’s game:


Kelce claims this spot thanks to his standout performance while going against a player who has previously locked him down: safety Derwin James.

Kelce, who caught six passes for 115 yards with three touchdowns, beat James twice for scores, including the go-ahead TD in the final minute. According to NFL Next Gen StatsKelce had a combined four receptions for 14 yards in his previous six games when James was logged as his closest defender.

That narrative flipped Sunday, as Kelce had two catches for 21 yards with two scores against his old nemesis.

Next: The Chiefs will play their second straight Los Angeles opponent next week, hosting the reigning Super Bowl champion Rams for a 3:25 pm Central Time kickoff. The contest will be televised on Fox.


Passing offense: A

Mahomes took another significant step towards NFL MVP with his clutch performance on the Chiefs’ game-winning drive. He also threw for his 329 yards while playing without wideouts like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman and Kadarius Toney because of injuries.

Kelce seemed to break a tackle on every catch, while rookie Skyy Moore easily had his best game with six receptions. KC averaged a healthy 9.7 yards per attempt while Mahomes limited the potential downside, taking just one sack with no interceptions.

Rushing offense: A-

Perhaps this should be graded more on a curve because of the opponent — the Chargers entered as one of the NFL’s worst run defenses — but the Chiefs were mainly successful when they went to the ground game.

Isiah Pacheco continued to bring energy with his running style while rushing 15 times for 107 yards, and KC’s 6-yard average was his best mark all season.

The most significant credit here should go to the offensive line, which opened numerous holes and created lanes for each of the team’s backs. Right guard Trey Smith, in particular, seemed to show that he’s completely over early-season injuries, as his physical play was noticeable on a few blocks that cleared the way for big gains.

Passing defense: C-

The Chiefs had five sacks for the second consecutive game, which was the most encouraging part of the team’s pass-defense performance.

On the back end, it wasn’t as pretty, as KC had to adjust to an in-game injury to safety Juan Thornhill while also going through some rookie pains in the secondary. Keenan Allen out-bullied Joshua Williams for one of the game’s biggest plays — a 46-yard pass down the sideline on third-and-18 late in the fourth quarter.

And even though LA’s Mike Williams left early after re-injuring his ankle, the Chiefs had issues keeping up with everyone else; that included Joshua Palmer, who had eight catches for 106 yards. Justin Herbert’s line — as usual — was brutally efficient: 23-for-30, 280 yards, two touchdowns, 9.3 yards per attempt.

The Chiefs probably hoped they could put up more resistance than this.

Rushing defense: C

LA isn’t much of a running team, and it didn’t have crazy success with that facet Sunday with a 3.8-yard average and a long rush of 11 yards. It still had some crucial wins on those run plays, though, especially on third-and-short-distance to keep drives alive.

The Chargers were 8-for-14 overall on third downs, while going 5-for-6 when they stayed on the ground. So while the Chiefs weren’t awful in this aspect, plenty of missed opportunities kept this grade from being higher.

Special teams: C

Pacheco made a mistake when he didn’t let a kickoff sail out of bounds for a penalty, choosing instead to catch it inside the 10-yard line before following over the end line. It was a costly error that hampered the Chiefs’ field position at a crucial moment.

Overall, though, it’s difficult to ding the special teams too much when Harrison Butker was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals and 3-for-3 on extra points during a competitive game when the Chiefs desperately needed each score. Tommy Townsend was fine punting too, so one gaffe shouldn’t mar what was otherwise a solid effort.

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