KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Los Angeles Chargers spent the entire season chasing the Chiefs, and with an opportunity to catch them in the race for AFC West title, head coach Anthony Lynn played winner-take-all as his team converted a two-point conversion with 4 seconds remaining to knock off Kansas City 29-28 Thursday night.
“We did not come here to tie,” Lynn said of his decision eschewing overtime and going for the win in regulation. “We came here to win. To me, it was a no brainer.”
The win helped the Chargers (11-3) clinch a playoff berth and also the lifted the club into a first-place tie with the Chiefs, who would have clinched the AFC West title with a victory.
The game certainly didn't look like a Chargers victory in the first half. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes staked his team to a 14-0 first quarter lead. A mesmerizing throw across his body on the run for a 5-yard strike to wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and a 11-yard dump off pass to rookie running back Darrel Williams put the Chiefs in charge early.
Mahomes 24-of-34 passing for 243 yards and two touchdowns, but the Chiefs offense lacked its usual explosiveness. The team netted a season low 294 yards of offense on the night.
“They have a good defense,” Mahomes said. “When you don’t execute and you get penalties, that stalls out drives. We got some scores, but whenever we needed to move the ball at the end we didn’t execute.”
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers responded, connecting with wide receiver Mike Williams on a 3-yard touchdown pass. Williams finished the game with seven catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns, and also scored on a 19-yard touchdown run.
“Mike has been playing well all year,” Lynn said. “We only have one football. You can’t get the ball to everyone like we would like all the time, but Mike has been playing well all season. He just stepped up and made the plays that we know he can make.”
The Chiefs extended their lead to 21-7 opening the second half. Running back Damien Williams, filling in for injured starter Spencer Ware, scored from 2-yards out. He finished the game with 49 yards rushing and two touchdowns, adding in six catches for a career-high 74 yards. His 123 yards from scrimmage also marked a personal best.
But on the first possession of the second half for the Chargers, momentum began swinging their direction. Quarterback Philip Rivers struggled in the first half, tossing two interceptions and absorbing four sacks. But the veteran played nearly flawless in the second half, helping the Chargers breaking a nine-game losing streak against Kansas City.
When Mike Williams scored on a reverse to pull the Chargers within 21-14, Rivers felt victory within his grasp.
“In my typical fashion, I hollered, “This is going to be just like 2013!” Philips said, referencing a 27-24 overtime win in Week 17 against the Chiefs that boosted the Chargers into their last playoff appearance. “I didn’t know it was going to be very, very similar like that but winning like that at the end of the game was just like in 2013.”
Damien Williams plunged in from 1-yard out midway through the fourth quarter, giving the Chiefs a 28-14 lead. The Chargers responded, however, with rookie running Justin Jackson scoring from 3 yards out with 3 minutes, 49 seconds remaining.
The Chargers defense held the Chiefs to a three-and-out, giving Rivers and the Los Angeles offense the ball with 2 minutes, 37 left. Rivers marched the Chargers down field. A pass interference call in the end zone against Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller gave the Chargers a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Rivers connected with Williams again, setting up the game-winning two-point conversion.
Rivers finished 26-of-38 passing for 313 yards and two touchdowns. Lynn said the veteran quarterback took control down the stretch.
“After those two interceptions and to come back and play the way he did and lead this team down the field, that was awesome to see,” Lynn said. “He has been doing that all year long. It did not surprise us, but that is Phil. He is a clutch player.”
The Chiefs currently own the tiebreaker advantage over the Chargers, however, by virtue of their better record within the division. Kansas City can still clinch both the AFC West title and the No. 1 seed in the AFC with victories at Seattle and against Oakland in the season's final two weeks. Reid hopes his team learned its lesson with close games on Thursday night.
“You get in and you don’t take anything for granted at home or anywhere else,” Reid said. “You have to bear down and that’s a good football team. The best thing we can do is learn from it and make ourselves a better football team.”