KANSAS CITY —
The Chargers lost 27-24 at Kansas City on Thursday to fall to 1-1.
They led for much of the game, with Justin Herbert and Mike Williams providing most of the offensive highlights and the defense again looking greatly improved from a year ago.
Here are some observations from another thriller between these AFC West rivals:
Confidence in Herbert’s status
Herbert was not made available to the media after suffering a rib injury with about five minutes to go.
The Pro Bowl quarterback remained down after being drilled by Chiefs defensive end Mike Danna. The hit came as Herbert was throwing to tight end Gerald Everett for what would be a 12-yard gain.
Herbert left for one play, with Chase Daniel entering and handing off to Sony Michel for a four-yard run.
Upon returning, Herbert, in obvious discomfort, threw an incomplete pass as he was being hit by Frank Clark.
The extent of Herbert’s injury remained unknown immediately after the game, with coach Brandon Staley downplaying the potential severity.
Safety Derwin James Jr. also expressed confidence that Herbert would be OK, if only because he’s Justin Herbert.
“I know Justin will be fine,” James said. “He’s a warrior. He’ll be good. I ain’t worried. That boy different. His blood different.”
Center Linsley has knee injury
The pressure on Herbert ratcheted up after Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley was lost because of a knee injury, missing the second half.
“I just talked to him, and he seems OK,” Staley said of Linsley. “But we’ll know more [Friday].”
The Chargers also lost right tackle Trey Pipkins III because of an ankle problem in the third quarter. Staley said he did not know how badly Pipkins was hurt.
Will Clapp replaced Linsley and Storm Norton came in for for Pipkins.
“That’s why you create depth,” Staley said. “That’s what we were after.… Those guys gave us a chance to compete.”
Behind the crushing interception
Everett explained that he was trying to leave the game about four minutes into the fourth quarter because of a sore ankle suffered in the Chargers’ season-opening victory over Las Vegas.
He had caught passes on the previous two plays as the Chargers moved to the Chiefs’ three-yard line looking to break a 17-17 tie.
“Just injured, playing injured,” he said. “It happens in the game. Trying to let one of my guys come in and get me instead of me being out there hurt. But that’s how the game goes.”
With the Chargers deciding to go up-tempo, Everett was unable to leave the field. Herbert then threw in Everett’s direction near the goal line, where Kansas City’s Jaylen Watson picked off the pass and ran 99 yards for a stunning touchdown.
“I guess Justin thought I was going to box the guy out,” Everett said. “But the DB played it pretty well. He just kind of sat on it. I tried to stutter him and get to the pylon, but the ball was in the air by the time we realized we weren’t on the same page.”
Bucking the stat trend
In the second quarter, Staley twice opted to punt on fourth and two — at the Kansas City 47 and 48 — when the Next Gen Stats model recommended going for it.
Each time JK Scott left the Chiefs inside their own 15-yard line and the Chargers defense forced a punt.
Still, the decisions were notable coming from a coach whose fourth-down aggressiveness last season became an almost weekly theme.
“Just wanted to give our defense a chance to compete,” Staley said. “I loved the way we were playing. I felt like that was the formula, to flip the field there.”
Perfect on fourth-down conversions
The Chargers did convert all four fourth downs they did go for. Herbert executed a quarterback sneak to pick up fourth and one at the Kansas City 49 in the first quarter and Austin Ekeler rushed for three yards to pick up fourth and one at the Chiefs’ 18 in the third quarter.
Both those drives ended in touchdowns.
The other two conversions came on the Chargers’ final possession, Herbert hitting DeAndre Carter for a 35-yard gain on fourth and one from the Kansas City 43 and Joshua Palmer for a seven-yard touchdown on fourth and goal.
The pass to Carter was particularly impressive as Herbert threaded the ball along the seam while he was clearly hurting.
“That throw,” Staley said, “was as good of a throw under the circumstances as you’re going to see in pro sports.”
Two interceptions nullified
After Asante Samuel Jr.’s apparent interception five minutes into the third quarter, the Chargers were looking at first and 10 at the Kansas City 35 with a 17-7 lead.
But the play was overturned after video review.
“I thought they were going to let it stand because they ruled it a catch,” James said. “There was a little [ball] movement. But he had his hand under the ball, so I thought it was a pick.”
Walt Anderson, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, told a pool reporter that the ball hit the ground.
“That was a big turning point, but there were a lot of plays in that game that I felt like changed things,” James said. “We just gotta play better as a defense and make our plays on the ball within the rules.”
The Chargers had two interceptions, one by James and the other by Nasir Adderley, nullified by penalties.
Staley took exception to the call on the Adderley play when Chargers corner Bryce Callahan was flagged for illegal contact. Staley said it was “an obvious offensive pass interference.”
“I mean, I’m not out there officiating,” James said. “My job is to play football.… I’m not trying to get into a reff-ing game.”
Rust or a great play?
J.C. Jackson made his Chargers debut after missing the opener while he recovered from an Aug. 23 surgical procedure on his right ankle. He said he felt fine throughout the game, finishing with six tackles.
But Jackson did get beat by Justin Watson for a 41-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter.
“Just bad technique by me,” Jackson said. “He didn’t do anything. He didn’t beat me. I beat myself. Just poor technique.”
Jackson acknowledged that the misplay might have been the result of “just rust.” He later softened his assessment.
“It was a great play by him,” Jackson said. “Great offensive call by the Chiefs.”
Williams comes up big
Williams finished with eight catches for 113 yards and one touchdown. The touchdown was his seventh at Arrowhead Stadium, the most by any visiting player.
Williams also became the first visiting player to have three consecutive games with 100-plus yards receiving and a touchdown.
His performance came on a night when the Chargers were without Keenan Allen, who missed the game because of a hamstring injury.
“We gave him a bunch of opportunities,” Staley said. “We were trying to be aggressive to get him the football, get him off to a good start. I really like the way we featured him tonight. I thought he played a whale of a game.”