3 Takeaways from Chiefs' Week 15 Win
When the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 3, it was easy to think the Chiefs may not be as good this season as they had been in recent years. That was especially the case once Kansas City was 3-4 through seven weeks.
The Chiefs are still really good. They've been proving that recently, and they did so again in an AFC West rematch against the Chargers on Thursday night.
Kansas City erased a late fourth-quarter deficit, then went on to notch a 34-28 victory over Los Angeles in overtime at SoFi Stadium. Patrick Mahomes threw a game-winning 34-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce on the opening drive of OT to lift the Chiefs to their seventh consecutive win.
If the Chargers had won, they would have been in first place in the AFC West. Instead, the Chiefs improved to 10-4 and now have a two-game lead in the division with three weeks to go in the regular season.
Here are three takeaways from Kansas City's Week 15 win.
Kelce Outperformed His Own Lofty Standards
Need to see an example that proves Kelce is the best tight end in the NFL? Look no further than the final play of Thursday night's game, because there aren't many who would have ended up in the end zone after catching the ball at the 30-yard line with a host of defenders surrounding him.
But Kelce weaved his way through the Chargers' secondary, turning Mahomes' short pass into the game-ending, 34-yard touchdown. Because of that, it took the Chiefs only five plays that spanned one minute and 15 seconds to win in overtime.
Not only did Kelce score that TD, but he also had a seven-yard touchdown catch that tied the game at 28 with 1:16 to go in the fourth quarter. He finished the night with 10 receptions for a career-high 191 yards, 142 of which came in the fourth and OT.
"Everybody is talking about him losing a step, he looked fast to me," Kansas City head coach Andy Reid said of the 32-year-old Kelce, per Joe Reedy of the Associated Press. "His endurance down the stretch for an elder statesman—he’s not over the hill—his acceleration is something."
Kelce was coming off back-to-back games in which he had only 27 receiving yards in each and was kept out of the end zone. But he reminded everybody with this performance how talented he is, especially now that he's recorded more than 1,000 yards in six straight seasons.
The Defense Came Up with Big Stops on Fourth Downs
The Chiefs' defense gave up 28 points and 428 total yards, so it was far from their best performance. However, there were numerous times Los Angeles tried to push the game out of reach by going for it on fourth down, and Kansas City came up with some big stops.
The Chargers went 2-for-5 on fourth downs, but the three times they failed were all crucial. On their opening drive, they went for it on a 4th-and-goal at the Chiefs' five-yard line, then they turned it over on downs on an incomplete pass by quarterback Justin Herbert.
With three seconds to go in the first half, Los Angeles had a 14-10 lead and faced a 4th-and-goal at the Kansas City one-yard line. Again, Herbert's pass attempt was incomplete.
The Chargers were still ahead with 7:48 to go in the third quarter, and they were ahead 14-13 when they had a 4th-and-2 at the Chiefs' 28-yard line. Instead of kicking a field goal, they went for it, and Herbert threw another incomplete pass.
If Kansas City hadn't come up with those stops, this game may have never made it to overtime, because Los Angeles may have won. So while the Chiefs' defense may not have been perfect, those stops proved to be hugely important.
The Chiefs May Be Heading Toward AFC's No. 1 Seed
Entering Week 15, the Chiefs were one of three teams atop the AFC with 9-4 records. Now, they're the first in the conference to reach 10 wins. But the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans will both be in action later this weekend, so it's possible Kansas City won't be in first for long.
But the Chiefs are well positioned to capture the No. 1 seed down the stretch. Their final three regular-season games are against the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1), Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) and Denver Broncos (7-6), a trio of teams that are currently not in playoff spots.
If Kansas City continues to play the way it has been, it's not unreasonable to think it could win out. It would then just need New England and Tennessee to have missteps, which is quite possible with four weeks to go.
The Chiefs are experienced and have been in these positions before. In fact, they've been the No. 1 seed in the AFC in two of the past three seasons. It's never wise to count them out, especially when it gets to be this time of year, and that could become even more clear in the upcoming weeks.