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Kansas City Chiefs seize early control of the AFC West, defeat Los Angeles Chargers

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KANSAS CITY — The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 27-24 on Thursday night as Patrick Mahomes completed 24 of 35 passes for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns to outduel Justin Herbert.

Kansas City Chiefs

Jaylen Watson seemed almost to be an afterthought when the Kansas City Chiefs made him their third cornerback selected after taking him in the seventh round this year. Already Watson has become a crucial player for the Chiefs.

Playing because starter Trent McDuffie went on injured reserve this week, Watson delivered the Chiefs’ biggest play of what could eventually prove to be their biggest win of the season. Watson intercepted a pass from Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert in the fourth quarter and returned it 99 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. The Chiefs went on to beat their AFC West rivals 27-24.

When the Chargers snapped the ball from their 3, they had a win probability of 73%, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That probability swung to 81% for the Chiefs after Watson’s pick-six.

Big win: The Chiefs (2-0) are the only AFC West team without a loss, giving them an early advantage in the standings.

Buy/sell on a breakout performance: Wide receiver Justin Watson caught a 41-yard touchdown pass and one other ball as he passed rookie Skyy Moore on the depth chart based on snap counts against the Chargers. Watson worked well with Patrick Mahomes during training camp, so his play isn’t a surprise. He was most effective during camp in the red zone, where he used his size well at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds. Watson should get significant playing time as long as he’s the fourth wide receiver, which he clearly was on Thursday night.

Troubling trend: The Chiefs’ short-yardage offense struggled. They were 1 of 5 on third-and-three or less. These struggles led coach Andy Reid to call for a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the fourth quarter with the Chiefs trailing 17-14. — Adam Teicher

Underrated statistic to know: Eight different Chiefs players had at least two catches, tied for the most in a game in the Patrick Mahomes era (since 2018). It is the second time Kansas City has done that over that span. The first also came against the Chargers, in Week 3 last season in Kansas City.

Next game: at Colts (1:00 p.m. ET, Sept. 25)


Los Angeles Chargers

Inside a raucous Arrowhead Stadium, where a Week 2 matchup featured a playoff atmosphere, the Los Angeles Chargers were reminded that despite an offseason of star acquisitions, there’s still work to be done to take the AFC West from the six-time defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs eliminated a 10-point deficit to come from behind and defeat the Chargers, 27-24, on Thursday night.

The Chargers knew entering the season that their upgraded roster, which now features All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack and Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson, would be tested early, playing back-to-back division games against the Las Vegas Raiders and Chiefs in a five-day span.

They went 1-1, and now have an early gauge of what must improve to win a division title, or at a minimum, make it out of the daunting AFC West.

Pivotal play: With 10:43 remaining, the scored tied 17-17, and the Chargers driving to the Chiefs’ 3-yard line, quarterback Justin Herbert fired a pass intended for tight end Gerald Everett that was picked off by rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson. Watson returned the interception 99 yards for a touchdown to give the Chiefs their first lead of the game, 24-17. On the previous play, Everett gained 26 yards on a catch and run, to set up first-and-goal. But the pick-six illustrated the growing pains felt between Herbert and Everett throughout training camp. The Bolts signed Everett over the offseason to a two-year, $12-million deal.

Promising trend: Receiver Mike Williams‘ productivity. Coming off a quiet Week 1 performance (2 catches for 10 yards), and with Keenan Allen inactive because of a hamstring injury, Williams stepped up in a big way. In the first half, Williams caught a 39-yard pass to set up a touchdown that gave the Chargers a 10-0 lead. Out of halftime, Williams made a circus-like play for a touchdown, as he dove and reeled in a one-handed grab for a 15-yard score to put the Chargers up 17-7. The touchdown reception had a completion probability of only 31%, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, and it was the second one-handed touchdown catch of Williams’ six-year career. Williams finished with eight catches for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Eye-popping stat: Rookie Zander Horvath caught a one-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to put the Bolts up 10-0. A seventh-round pick from Purdue, Horvath also had a one-yard touchdown reception in a Week 1, 24-19 win over the Raiders. Horvath becomes the first seventh-round pick to catch a touchdown pass in each of his first two career games since Chansi Stuckey for the Jets in 2008. Stuckey caught a touchdown pass in three straight games to start his career. — Lindsey Thiry

Underrated statistic to know: Justin Herbert‘s pick-six was a rare one. It’s the only pick-six this century that came in the red zone, in a tie game in the fourth quarter.

Next game: vs. Jaguars (4:05 p.m. ET, Sept. 25)

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