- READ: Chadiha: Chiefs show they still know how to win
- READ: Staley says Herbert 'OK,' after sustaining apparent ribs injury
- READ: Chiefs rookie Jaylen Watson's 99-yard pick-six keys win
- READ: Patrick Mahomes 'livin' right' after several near-interceptions
- READ: Staley more conservative on fourth down in Bolts' loss
- 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.
- A little-known rookie is the hero. The Chiefs appear to have a 2022 draft class they can be proud of -- Trent McDuffie, George Karlaftis, Skyy Moore, Isiah Pacheco and others have stepped into key roles early on. But with McDuffie out for this game, another rookie defensive back stepped up in a big way. Seventh-round pick Jaylen Watson made the play of the game in the fourth quarter, stepping in front of tight end Gerald Everett to pick off a pass from Herbert and race 99 yards for the go-ahead score -- the longest go-ahead fourth-quarter TD by a rookie in NFL history, per NFL Research. One series earlier, Chargers second-year cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. had a chance to do the same thing but couldn’t haul in Patrick Mahomes’ pass. Watson is an overlooked member of this rookie class, but after a four-tackle, one-INT night in a huge win, it’s hard to do that now. He certainly outshined fellow rookie DB Bryan Cook, who was guilty of two boneheaded penalties late in the game that became immaterial.
- Is the Chargers’ injury bug back? Anyone who has followed the league for a minute knows that the Chargers can’t, as they say, win for losing. Put another way: If they didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck at all. Luck didn’t lose them Thursday’s game, but injuries played a big role. Before Herbert went down, they lost Linsley to a knee injury and Pipkins to an ankle. Their replacements, Will Clapp and Storm Norton, were not up to the challenge. After the Chiefs' pass rush was quiet early, it got really hot once Linsley and Pipkins went out. The Chargers had managed their OL situation enough at one point in the fourth quarter and were in a position to go up a touchdown with about 10 minutes to go. But a miscommunication with Everett led to a pick-six -- after the Chargers missed a shot at one of those the drive before. Everett seemed to be raising his hand, asking for a breather, after his 26-yard catch and run the play prior. The Chargers didn’t sub him out, though, and Everett and Herbert were on different pages on the fateful route. Herbert started the game dialed in, but L.A. scored only seven points in nearly a 43-minute span to end the game. The blocking played a part in that inefficiency.
- Mahomes did just enough. The Chargers took the judicious route in defending Mahomes (unlike the Cardinals in Week 1), rushing four most often, playing coverage and making the Chiefs beat them with a thousand paper cuts. The strategy mostly worked, as the Chiefs really only flourished on two long drives and Mahomes was mostly held in check. They were burned on one of their selective pressures when Mahomes hit Justin Watson on a 41-yard TD, beating J.C. Jackson in his first game as a Charger. But Mahomes called it “an ugly win” more than once on the Prime Video postgame show, and for good reason. The Chargers didn’t force a turnover but could have had three picks. Samuel should have had a pick-six on a line-drive throw near the Chargers’ goal line at the end of the third, dropping an interception for the second week in a row. Mahomes had a pick wiped out in the first half on a questionable illegal contact penalty -- and they eventually converted that into six points. Kyle Van Noy also had his hands on a late pass that could have been picked. Mahomes barely even looked to scramble. It was a weird outing, but it had the feeling of Michael Jordan on an off day: He’s still better than you are and will find ways to win. The TD passes went to Watson and Jerick McKinnon. Travis Kelce had a quiet night by his standards. Andy Reid was a bit passive on some game-management decisions. The Chargers played well enough defensively to win. But Mahomes did enough to overcome all that.
- Is Brandon Staley OK? A few of the Chargers’ game-management decisions early were a surprising exercise in caution. Staley passed up a few fourth downs we’re used to seeing him go for. Did the way the last season unfolded change the way he approaches these situations? On their first possession, the Chargers opted for the field goal over going for it on fourth-and-2 from the Chiefs' 13-yard line. Not criminal but out of character, at least from what we’ve come to know of Staley. Then near the end of the half, they punted on fourth-and-2 from the KC 48 -- after going for it earlier in the game on fourth-and-1 from the plus-49. According to Next Gen Stats, all three were slight leans toward going for it. Hmm ... It worked out because Reid didn’t call timeout (perhaps worried Staley might change his mind) and let the clock roll down more than 30 seconds; the Chiefs ended up punting. Then on the first drive of the second half, Staley went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Chiefs’ 18; they not only converted it but also turned the drive into a touchdown and a 10-point lead. Should they have been more aggressive early on? It feels that way, but hindsight can be blinding. The Chargers were in every single game last year and averaged two fourth-down tries every time out. Then again, they missed the postseason. Has Staley changed his hyper-aggressive style? It might be something to monitor. Or perhaps he just felt good at the time about how his team was playing in this game. Of course, we know now that didn’t end up mattering, and Reid played it conservatively, too, passing up a shot at a TD on fourth-and-goal from the Los Angeles 1 -- with a backup kicker!
- Mike Williams is fine, we think. Coming off a quiet Week 1 (two catches, 10 yards), Williams surpassed those totals on the first and second offensive snaps of the game for the Chargers, catching 9- and 15-yard passes. He’d finish with eight catches for 113 yards and a brilliant TD grab, stepping up in a big way with Keenan Allen out with an injury. Williams has always been streaky one week to the next in his career. Then, boom! You look up at the end of the season and he’s got 1,000 yards, at 15-plus yards a grab. A lot of that production has come against the Chiefs, too. Williams is a notorious Chiefs killer, especially at Arrowhead, and it was no different Thursday night. The Chiefs were shorthanded in the secondary and did what they could to bracket Williams when they went man-coverage, but also played a lot of zone, which allowed him to find soft cushions in the defense. Williams’ best grab was a thing of beauty, a 39-yard diving catch despite being held and interfered with. Assuming Herbert doesn’t miss time, Williams should be in line for a big season -- which is always great to see after a player signs an extension. If he played on a different team, Williams’ star might be far bigger.
Next Gen stat of the game: After Jaylen Watson’s 99-yard INT return, the Chiefs’ win probability jumped from 31% to 85%. That’s the biggest win probability swing (a 54% increase) on any pick-six over the past three NFL seasons.
NFL Research: Mike Williams is the first visiting player with 100+ receiving yards and 1+ receiving TD in three consecutive games at Arrowhead Stadium. Travis Kelce is the only Chiefs player with such a streak.