Written by: Tre LyDay – Staff Writer (@trelyday03)
The Chiefs came into the 2016 season with high expectations after making the playoffs, and winning their first playoff game in two decades last season. Coming into their week one matchup against the Chargers, the Chiefs had won ten straight regular season games dating back to last season, and the Chiefs need every last second of that game to win their 11th straight game.
Side Note: It’s not over ‘till it’s over, because I have a friend that said, and I quote “If the Chiefs go down 21-3 they lose”, and that they can “chalk up the L”.
The Chiefs slept walked through the first 43 minutes minutes of the game, and it was very evident. After taking a 3-0 lead on the first drive the Chiefs who were third in defensive efficiency last year conceded 24 straight points. The secondary was getting shredded, and the front seven was getting gashed on the ground. Melvin Gordon scored his first two career rushing touchdowns in the first half alone. Veteran All-Pro linebacker Derrick Johnson who is one of the smartest linebackers in football jumped the wrong gap on multiple occasions, and All-Pro corner Marcus Peter was even pulled from the game at one point.
The defense as a whole all received bad grades from Pro Football Focus, that included new starting linebacker Justin March-Lillard finishing with a team low 31.5 grade. Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard did not record a single pressure on 51 pass rush snaps, and the usually sure tackling Derrick Johnson missed on three tackles. Tamba Hali and Eric Berry finished with defense high grades of 77.4 and 71.6 respectively.
Offensively after the first drive, it was a lot of punting. The Chiefs punted on five straight drives which included two, three and outs. The Chiefs even last year were known to go on these offensive dry spells, where they either shoot themselves in the foot, or questionable play calling. Fans have grown accustomed to Andy Reid calling a motion swing pass on a short third and two, leaving fans scratching their head. Those same play calls though seem to pan out in the end, and it helped them erase a 24-3 deficit with four minutes left in the third quarter.
I mentioned to look for Tyreke Hill to make some plays this year during my training camp recap, and he started the comeback catching a screen pass, making a defender miss, and scoring a nine yard touchdown. After an interception, the Chiefs scored on every possession the rest of the game, led by Spencer Ware who only carried the ball 11 times for 70 yards, but also led the team in receiving with seven catches for 129 yards. The Chargers linebackers had no chance at all when it came to covering Ware out of the backfield. Travis Kelce also provided clutch plays in the second half after a quiet first half. Including a crucial third down catch to keep the drive alive in overtime.
The biggest bright spot of the day was actually the much maligned offensive line. After having to basically abandon any semblance of a balanced offense, the offensive line stood tall and protected Smith. Not a single lineman earned a negative grade in pass protection per PFF, and Laurent Duvarney-Tardiff who hasn’t given up a sack or hit since week eight of last season, led the group with a 79.4 grade, and a positive run blocking grade. Mitchell Shwartz also graded top five offensively with a 75.7 grade.
The Chiefs mounted the biggest comeback win in franchise history, because they protected the quarterback, made plays, but we can’t forget the fact that the Chargers really helped them out. After Keenan Allen got hurt it was downhill from there offensively. Rivers was 16-20 for 151 yards and a touchdown before Allen went down; he was 9-16 for just 92 yards after Allen went down.
Defensively the Chargers linebackers Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman had absolutely no chance when it came to covering the Ware and West out of the backfield. The Chargers as a whole have also had a bad habit of blowing games. Sunday was the third largest blown lead in franchise history, and they blew five games in which they had a lead in the fourth quarter last season.
The Chiefs resiliency showed why they are an elite football team. They could have rolled over at home down by 21, but the fought, and clawed their way back into the game, and eventually to victory. They shouldn’t make a habit out of this though, because even though they erased 21 points in basically a quarter. The teams they’ll have to play in the playoffs won’t blow those kinds of leads.