Chiefs Head To AFC West Lead While Chargers QB Justin Herbert Headed For An MRI

The Kansas City Chiefs reminded everyone Thursday night they can win with a lineup of stars. And when those aren’t available, they can win with a rookie seventh-round pick starting his first NFL game and returning an interception 99 yards for a game-defining touchdown.

The Chiefs reminded us they’re really good when quarterback Patrick Mahomes performs well in leading a rally from 10 points down — and they’re really good when Mahomes is seemingly trying to throw interceptions but sheer luck and probably some bad officiating is saving him.

The Chiefs reminded us why they’ve won the AFC West six consecutive seasons and have a 32-5 record against the division since 2017.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – SEPTEMBER 15: Chris Jones #95 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates a sack with Travis Kelce #87 during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium on September 15, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Chargers, meanwhile, reminded us Thursday night they’re not yet ready to win on the big stage.

Not despite their many stars.

Not despite heroics by quarterback Justin Herbert who played hurt for the final 5 minutes of the game.

Not despite having seemingly more talent than the opposition.

Chiefs 27.

Chargers 24.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – SEPTEMBER 15: Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers is hit by Mike Danna #51 of the Kansas City Chiefs as he throws the ball during the fourth quarter at Arrowhead Stadium on September 15, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The news out of this one, aside from the fact the Chargers blew it, is that Herbert suffered a torso injury that left him in serious and obvious discomfort once he was hit by an onrushing Chiefs defender after he released a pass with 5:09 to play.

Herbert left the game for only one play but watching him wince and hold his rib area after virtually every motion, and lean away from the injury as to relieve pressure even as he was sitting on the bench were clear signs something was amiss.

Justin Herbert Injury Determination On Friday

He had X-Rays after the game and is scheduled for an MRI Friday morning, a source told OutKick. The tests will give everyone clarity about Herbert’s status. He was not made available to reporters after the game.

“He’s OK,” coach Brandon Staley said after the game. “It was a tough game. And you’re not going to see a quarterback in any level of football play tougher and do more for their team and will their team to give them a chance than him.

“There’s nobody that can do what he can do. Nobody. He showed a lot of guts. He showed what he shows every day, that we’re never out of the fight. He brought us back and gave us a chance.”

It’s hard to believe Staley about Herbert being “OK.”

We all saw he was quite far from being “OK.”

And even after the X-Rays were negative after the game, only the MRI can reveal if there is costal cartilage damage to the rib cage, the source told OutKick late Thursday. Recovering from a costochondral separation can take between 3 and 4 weeks, the source added.

It is unclear to what extent Herbert might be able to play in the next few weeks. And it is unclear how the Chargers could allow themselves to lose this game before possibly losing their quarterback.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – SEPTEMBER 15: Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers is helped off the field by the medical staff after being hit during the fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on September 15, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Chiefs Get Big Plays From Two Backups Named Watson

Understand what happened in this game:

Mahomes threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to backup receiver Justin Watson. Watson beat Chargers star free agent addition J.C. Jackson for the score. And the reason Watson did that?

“Justin Watson was in the game when Mecole [Hardman] was banged up,” Mahomes said. “So he got Mecole’s route and caught a touchdown pass when he went against a Pro Bowl, All-Pro cornerback.”

The Chiefs also got that 99-yard pick six from cornerback Jaylen Watson, who only three years ago was working at Wendy’s and was playing only because of an injury to rookie first-round pick Trent McDuffie.

A big reason Watson got the turnover is that Herbert threw to tight end Gerald Everett, who was running an option route near the goal line. Everett had asked out of the game moments before because he was tired.

Coaches told him to remain in the game and he rewarded them with a plodding, almost uninterested route understandable from a gassed player.

When Herbert delivered the ball inside, Everett, who had cut out, didn’t move to adjust. Yes, he was tired.

Is It Chiefs Success, Luck, Or Something Else?

“It was unlucky what happened,” Staley said. “Just unfortunate.”

Funny how teams that know how to win are blessed with luck while teams that fall short in big games seem chronically unlucky.

That’s exactly how it seemed with Mahomes, who threw no less than three interceptions that were either nullified by penalty or dropped — including a potential 102-yard pick six by Asante Samuel Jr had he not dropped the ball in his hands.

“I’m living right,” Mahomes said with a smile.

And while Mahomes was enjoying his good fortune, Staley was fuming about the officiating on an interception that was wiped out by penalty and other things.

“Yeah, I mean, the one guy clubs Bryce Callahan and it’s an obvious offensive pass interference at the minimum and we get the interception and that’s as tough as it gets because we were in perfect coverage and perfectly defended,” the coach, obviously not realizing his comments are about to get him fined.

“So that’s a tough one and Asante’s was close but that’s subjective and he needs to finish that play, he’s capable of it. When you get chances against that team, you got to make sure you capitalize and we had chances tonight and we didn’t finish them.”

This isn’t to suggest the Chargers won’t eventually find a way to finish strong or are somehow perpetually doomed to fall short in big games — as they did in the season-finale against Las Vegas last season with a playoff spot at stake.

But if this team doesn’t change this pattern, we’re going to be reminded there’s something missing — just like we’re often reminded the Chiefs know how to win no matter the circumstances.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

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