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Chiefs vs. Chargers: 10 Observations

Posted Dec 17, 2017

Here’s what stood out Saturday night

The Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) beat the Los Angeles Chargers (7-7) by a score of 30-13 Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium, which gives them a commanding lead in the AFC West with just two regular-season games left to play.

The Chiefs host the Miami Dolphins next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, which could see them successfully defend their division title with a victory for the first time in franchise history. 

Overall, the Chiefs have won the division eight times, but they have never won it in back-to-back years. They now have an opportunity to do that because of the win over the Chargers on Saturday night.

Here are 10 observations from the game:

1. The atmosphere was what you’d expect

It didn’t take long to notice that the Chiefs’ players were ready for the moment, and it took even less time to see that the crowd was also ready for theirs.

The first Saturday night regular-season primetime game in Arrowhead Stadium history was a memorable one.

The usual noise we’ve come to expect from Chiefs Kingdom was there from the Chargers’ first offensive possession, and then the Chiefs jumped out to an early lead, which is exactly the opposite of what the Chargers had talked about wanting to do all week.

They needed a fast start to try and quiet down the crowd, and instead they got a raucous crowd with even more reason to share their feelings one decibel at a time.

Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid said everyone took it up a notch on Saturday night, including the crowd, and running back Kareem Hunt said that Chiefs fans “are the best in the league.”

It’s tough to argue after that performance, which came when they needed it the most.

2. The Chiefs’ responded in the biggest moment of the year thus far

Early in the third quarter and as they were trailing 10-6, the Chargers took their first second-half possession and marched 88 yards down the field on just six plays as quarterback Philip Rivers hit tight end Antonio Gates to finish off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown.

Just like that, the Chiefs, who had led and controlled the momentum for the entire first half, were put to the test—trailing who many believed was the hottest team in the NFL, 13-10, midway through the third quarter.

Rivers also went 5 for 5 for 88 yards on the drive, which took just 3:27 off the clock.

It was the biggest gut check of the year for the Chiefs, and the way they would respond would go a long way in figuring out what this team was all about.

And the response was special.

Quarterback Alex Smith matched Rivers on the drive, going 5 for 5 himself, and rookie running back Kareem Hunt had 39 yards from scrimmage on a drive that lasted more than seven minutes and covered 69 yards on 12 plays, culminating with a three-yard touchdown from Smith to Hunt.

The Chiefs had to convert four third-downs on the drive, which was ultimately the game-winner as the defense stepped up and the Chargers wouldn’t score the rest of the day.

3. Marcus Peters had a day to remember

Just a week after serving his team-issued one-game suspension, Chiefs’ All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters returned to the field and had one of the best games of his young career.

Peters finished the game with two interceptions, a forced fumble, and had a phenomenal open-field tackle on Chargers’ receiver Travis Benjamin on a key third down late in the game. He was targeted six times and didn’t allow a reception.

The two interceptions from Peters now gives him 19 for his career, which is still tops in the league since 2015, when he was the Chiefs’ first-round pick (No. 18 overall) out of Washington.

Furthermore, four of Peters’ 19 career interceptions have come against the Chargers, including three this year. Peters had a pick off Rivers in their first meeting back in Los Angeles.

4. Ron Parker joined the pick-parade

On the ensuing fourth-down play after Peters’ fantastic open-field tackle on Benjamin, which left the Chargers facing a fourth-and-1 from the Chiefs’ 47-yard line, Rivers threw one in the direction of veteran safety Ron Parker.

And as he explained after the game, Parker had seen this play and this route before, and he knew exactly what to do.

Parker’s interception came when the Chiefs were leading 23-13, and the Chiefs’ offense would return Parker’s gift 75 yards on just seven plays and punch it into the end zone on Hunt’s 5-yard touchdown run.

5. The Chiefs’ defense closed out the game with a turnover party

On the Chargers’ four offensive possessions that followed the key drive by the Chiefs’ offense late in the third quarter that gave them the lead back, they each ended up resulting in a turnover.

The Chargers went interception, fumble, interception, interception, after the Chiefs punched back.

It was the third time the Chiefs had three interceptions in a game this season, with one of the other games being the Week 3 matchup against the Chargers in Los Angeles.

6. Hunt sets another franchise record

For the second-straight week, Hunt went over the 100-yard rushing mark, and on Saturday night, he also made history.

Hunt passed the late-Joe Delaney for the most rushing yards in a season by a rookie running back in franchise history.

Hunt needed just 76 yards coming into the night to pass Delaney’s single-season mark of 1,121 set back in 1981, and he finished with 24 carries for 155 yards and a score on the ground, but also added seven catches for 51 yards and a score in the passing game as well.

It’s another line in the long and ever-growing resume for Hunt’s offensive rookie of the year candidacy.

Furthermore, Hunt accumulated 327 yards rushing in his two games this year against the Chargers, setting a new franchise record for most rushing yards against one opponent in a single season. The previous record of 315 was held by Jamaal Charles (vs. Denver in '09).

Hunt now has the rookie franchise record for most carries in a season (242), yards rushing (1,201), and 100-yard rushing games (6).

Also, Hunt’s 1,201 yards rushing currently places him 10th on the franchise’s all-time list for yards rushing in a single season.

7. Chiefs got pressure on Rivers early, which helped lead to takeaways late

It was a story coming into the game, but there haven’t been many teams who have found success getting Rivers to the ground this season. He had been sacked just a league-low 15 times coming into Saturday’s game, but the pressure dialed up by defensive coordinator Bob Sutton Saturday night was effective and impressive.

On the Chargers’ first offensive possession, they faced a third-and-9 from midfield and Sutton sent second-year safety Eric Murray on a blitz up the middle, which Murray had perfectly timed and he brought Rivers to the ground to stymie the Chargers’ first drive.

It was a sign of things to come.

On the Chargers’ next few possessions, Justin Houston would get pressure and Chris Jones would also get a sack of his own—giving him sacks now in back-to-back games.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Chiefs’ defense got pressure on Rivers on 13 of his 38 drop-backs, and they took advantage of that pressure, forcing him to go 5-11 for 83 yards, two interceptions, two sacks, and a 31.8 passer rating.

8. Alex Smith hit Tyreek Hill deep, again

It’s still a thing.

We all talked about it at training camp, and it’s still happening.

Smith, who came into the game leading the NFL with a passer rating of 124.8 on balls that travel at least 21 yards down the field in the air, hit Tyreek Hill for a 64-yard touchdown on third-and-2 midway through the second quarter.

Smith hit him in stride. We saw the peace sign. It was great.

The Chargers’ defense gave Smith a single-high look pre-snap and cornerback Casey Hayward, who came into the game graded as PFF’s top cornerback this season, was one-on-one with Hill on the outside.

Hill blew right past him for the 11th touchdown of at least 50 yards in his career. The play also pushed Hill right past the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the season. He’s just the 12th player in franchise history to accomplish that feat.

And Hill, who has 20 career touchdowns after Saturday’s game, is now averaging a ridiculous 51 yards per play on those scores.

Smith, who finished the game 23 of 30 for 231 yards and two touchdowns, also set a new career-high in touchdown passes in a season with 25. His previous career-high was 23.

9. Chiefs defense held the Chargers in check

Over their last four games, the Chargers were averaging more than 460 yards of total offense per game, and they were averaging 6.7 yards per play.

On Saturday night against the Chiefs, the Chargers not only turned it over four times, but they managed just 307 yards of total offense and averaged just 5.1 yards per play.

Rivers finished the game 20 of 36 for 227 yards with three interceptions and a touchdown.

10. Dustin Colquitt climbs up the record books

With his appearance in Saturday’s game, Chiefs’ punter Dustin Colquitt has now played in 204 career games with the franchise, which ranks as the third-most in franchise history.

Only Nick Lowery (212) and Will Shields (224) have played in more.

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