KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chargers strode into a roiling cauldron at Arrowhead Stadium for “Thursday Night Football”, faced the challenge of containing Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his many offensive targets and then suffered a 27-24 loss that included an apparent injury to Justin Herbert.
Herbert had directed the Chargers to leads of 10-0 and 17-7, but they couldn’t hold them. Kansas City’s Matt Ammendola kicked a 19-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to tie the score at 17-all. The Chargers were poised to take a 24-17 lead when Herbert was intercepted.
Rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson picked off Herbert’s pass at the Kansas City 1-yard line and returned it 99 yards for the tie-breaking score. It was Herbert’s first interception of the season and his first in three career games at Arrowhead Stadium, and it was a game-changer.
The Chargers lost Herbert with 5:01 left in the game when Kansas City defensive end Mike Danna slammed him to the turf after a first-down completion to tight end Gerald Everett at the 34-yard line. Chase Daniel replaced Herbert before yielding back after the Chiefs had taken a 27-17 lead.
It was a stunning turn of events for the Chargers, who appeared to be in control for the better part of the game. But then Herbert threw an interception and then was injured on consecutive possessions after Kansas City had rallied for a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter.
Herbert’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Palmer cut it to 27-24 with 1:11 left.
Mike Williams seemed like an afterthought during the Chargers’ 24-19 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday at SoFi Stadium, catching only two passes for 10 yards as Herbert shared the wealth among nine receivers among 11 targets in the season opener.
Williams moved back into the spotlight on Thursday, with Herbert hitting with his first two passes for gains of 9 and 15 yards as the Chargers’ opening drive produced a 31-yard field goal from Dustin Hopkins and a 3-0 lead only 5:58 into the highly-anticipated game.
Herbert extended the Chargers’ lead to 10-0 with a 1-yard scoring pass to rookie fullback Zander Horvath, who has become a favorite target in short-yardage situations in the red zone. Horvath also caught a 1-yard scoring pass from Herbert on Sunday against Las Vegas.
Williams caught a 39-yard pass from Herbert to the 1-yard line, setting up the touchdown pass to Horvath two plays later.
Then, on the Chargers’ opening drive of the second half, Williams snared a 15-yard scoring pass from Herbert to extend the lead to 17-7 with 9:52 left in the third quarter. Williams simply took the ball away from a Chiefs defender in the right corner of the end zone.
The Chargers’ defense caused plenty of trouble for the Chiefs on their opening possessions. Linebackers Khalil Mack and Drue Tranquill combined to sack Mahomes, and Joey Bosa had one tackle for a loss, highlighting a stellar defensive showing in the first half.
Slowing down Mahomes is one thing, but stopping him entirely is quite another. Early in the second quarter, he led the Chiefs on a drive that resulted in a 9-yard scoring pass to running back Jerick McKinnon. Kansas City cut the Chargers’ lead to 10-7 with 11:38 left in the half.
More to come on this story.