Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs have faced their share of challenges this season. The two-time defending AFC champions are peaking at the right time for another playoff push.
Kelce had a career-high 191 receiving yards and scored on a 34-yard pass from Mahomes in overtime as the Chiefs rallied for a 34-28 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night.
Kelce caught a tying 7-yard touchdown pass with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter, then ended the game with his catch-and-run in overtime. On first-and-10, Kelce pulled in Mahomes’ pass at the 30 and eluded two tackles en route to the end zone, where he was swarmed by teammates.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a walk-off touchdown or anything like that, so to be in that moment, find him underneath and him making such a dynamic play where, I mean, he cut back, ran by people,” said Mahomes, who completed 31 of 47 for a season-high 410 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. “You think he’s old. He can’t run by people. But he’s still running by people. And he got in the end zone.”
The Chiefs were 3-4 at the end of October but have won seven straight to improve to 10-4 and go up by two games in the AFC West.
Kelce had been held to six total receptions the past two games, but he broke out in a big way. He had five of his 10 catches for 142 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime. He also had a 69-yard reception that led to Tyreek Hill’s 1-yard touchdown and a 2-point conversion that tied it at 21.
“Everybody is talking about him losing a step, he looked fast to me,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after the 32-year-old Kelce had his sixth career game with at least 10 catches. “His endurance down the stretch for an elder statesman – he’s not over the hill – his acceleration is something.”
Mahomes bounced back after a costly fourth-quarter interception led to Austin Ekeler’s touchdown and gave the Chargers a 21-13 advantage. He was 10 of 16 for 197 yards and three TDs after the turnover.
“Obviously it [stinks] in the moment. I mean, I promise you I felt as bad as anyone about that throw and that situation, and knew how bad it looked. But you will get another chance and you better be ready for that moment,” Mahomes said.
Justin Herbert gave the Chargers a 28-21 lead with 2:19 remaining on a 8-yard TD pass to Keenan Allen, but couldn’t make it hold up. It is the second straight season the Chiefs have come to the Chargers’ Hollywood Park home and won in overtime.
“The goal is always to score. We needed to put up points, and we got in the end zone, and that was our mission,” Herbert said. “We would have loved to have been able to run the clock down and not have any time, but this is the NFL, and you have to get in the end zone.”
Los Angeles’ defeat came after a terrifying injury to tight end Donald Parham. The 24-year-old appeared to lose consciousness after slamming his head on the turf in the first quarter. He was helped off on a stretcher and taken to a hospital, where the team said he is in stable condition.
Herbert threw two touchdowns and ran for another score, but the Chargers (8-6) came up empty on three red-zone drives. Herbert completed 22 of 38 passes for 236 yards and an interception.
“I really liked the way we managed the entire game tonight. It didn’t go down for us today, but we gave ourselves an opportunity. We just didn’t finish the game off defensively,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said.
The Chargers fell behind 10-0 early in the second quarter before scoring on two straight drives to take a 14-10 lead at halftime. Herbert scored on a 1-yard keeper off left end and then connected with Jalen Guyton for a 4-yard TD on the next drive.
The Chiefs benefited off Chargers’ mistakes for their first 10 points. After Los Angeles turned it over on downs, Kansas City went 95 yards in 11 plays, culminating in Michael Burton’s 7-yard run up the middle.
The Chiefs then turned Anthony Hitchens’ interception of Herbert into points on Harrison Butker’s 30-yard field goal.
BIG NIGHT FOR HILL
Hill had 12 receptions for 148 yards and a TD. It is his fourth game this season with at least 11 catches.
SIX STRAIGHT FOR EKELER
Ekeler scored a touchdown for the sixth straight game with a 2-yard run off left end to extend the lead to 21-13 early in the fourth quarter. The TD came after Uchenna Nwosu tipped Mahomes’ screen pass intended for Clyde Edwards-Helaire at the KC 4 and returned it 2 yards.
It is the third time since 1994 a Chargers player has reached the end zone in at least six consecutive games. LaDainian Tomlinson had a seven-game streak in 2004 and Natrone Means had a six-game run in 1994.
RED ZONE WOES
The Chargers could have had at least a 20-10 lead at halftime had Staley opted for a field goal instead of going for it on fourth down. Andre Roberts took the opening kickoff 75 yards and Los Angeles drove to the 5 before turning it over on downs on four straight incompletions by Herbert.
The Chargers could have kicked a field goal on the last play of the first half, but Herbert couldn’t connect with Allen on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Early in the fourth quarter, Los Angeles had second-and-goal, but Ben Niemann recovered Joshua Kelley’s fumble at the 2.
The Chiefs also were not immune to red-zone failures. They were down 14-13 and had fourth-and-goal at the 2 when Mahomes’ pass to Mecole Hardman was incomplete.
Chargers: S Derwin James aggravated a hamstring injury during the third quarter.
Chiefs: Host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 26.
Chargers: Travel to the Houston Texans on Dec. 26.