By Matt McMullen – Chiefs.com Reporter
The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Los Angeles Chargers, 31-17, at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday afternoon for their sixth-straight victory.
Leading by seven points with just over six minutes remaining in the game, Chiefs’ return man Mecole Hardman – who only re-joined the Chiefs last Thursday – broke free for a 50-yard punt return that set Kansas City up at the Chargers’ 35-yard line.
“I just wanted to give my team some momentum,” Hardman said. “[Chargers’ punter JK Scott] had been kicking it high and short the whole game, and finally, I saw one that I could return, and I made the most of it.”
Kansas City then cashed in on the big play a few snaps later when quarterback Patrick Mahomes found tailback Isiah Pacheco for an 8-yard touchdown that extended the Chiefs’ lead to two scores and essentially sealed the victory.
The score marked the fourth touchdown pass of the day for Mahomes, who completed 32-of-42 passes for 424 yards. A staggering 321 of those yards took place in the first half as Kansas City and Los Angeles combined for 34 total points.
The two teams matched each other blow-for-blow throughout the first half, racing to a 17-17 tie before Mahomes led Kansas City on a six-play, 96-yard scoring drive in the closing moments of the second quarter that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce.
It was part of a massive game for Kelce, who caught 12 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown on the day. In fact, Kelce’s yardage total marked the second-most in a single game of his brilliant career. The score was also the 50th career touchdown connection between Mahomes and Kelce.
“I think the main thing is the way he’s able to recognize coverage and adjust on the fly,” Mahomes said of Kelce. “We always talk about it, but it’s something that you can’t take for granted. It’s almost like he’s playing Madden – like he can read the coverage, stop in the windows, be open and be on the same page as me at all times. He did a great job. It seems like he does it week in and week out, and that’s why he’s the player that he is and why he’ll be a Hall of Famer one day.”
Kelce was the third member of the Chiefs to find the end zone in the first half, joining wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice. Valdes-Scantling hauled in a 46-yard score on the Chiefs’ second possession before Rice caught a 6-yard touchdown just one series later, matching a persistent Chargers’ offensive attack that hung with Kansas City drive-for-drive.
Kelce’s touchdown pushed Kansas City ahead prior to halftime, however, and despite a strong start from Los Angeles’ offense, the Chiefs didn’t yield a single point through the remainder of the game. The Chargers recorded five drives in the second half, logging three punts and two turnovers.
That defensive effort preserved the Chiefs’ seven-point lead throughout the second half, and once Mahomes found Pacheco for Kansas City’s final score late in the fourth quarter, the game was essentially a wrap.
The Chiefs have now won 13 consecutive AFC West matchups, and dating back to 2018, Kansas City is 28-4 vs. divisional opponents.
In terms of injuries, Head Coach Andy Reid mentioned linebacker Nick Bolton (dislocated wrist) following the game. Reid added that the athletic training staff was in the midst of working on the injury and they they’ll see how Bolton does moving forward.
The Chiefs will now turn their attention toward a third-straight AFC West matchup as they travel to Denver to take on the Broncos next Sunday.