Have you ever lost something, searched everywhere, gave up, then asked someone for help and they found it immediately? That’s what happened to Andy Reid when he lost the Chiefs offense. After coming out of the gates with a 5-0 start so hot that Alex Smith looked like an MVP candidate, the Chiefs dropped six of their next seven matchups in large part because the wheels fell off of the offense. To stop the slide, head coach Andy Reid gave up play-calling duties and handed them over to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy ahead of Week 13. In the two games before Nagy took over, the Chiefs managed a combined 19 points and 599 yards. In the first two games after Nagy took over, the Chiefs scored 57 combined points and gained 882 yards. Nagy’s third game calling plays (and his toughest challenge) came Saturday with the division lead on the line against the Chargers, who also held a 7-6 record despite starting 0-4. It’s safe to say Nagy found the offense: The Chiefs’ 30-13 romp over Los Angeles tightened their grip on the division title to a stranglehold.
Under Nagy’s guidance, Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt finished with 155 rushing yards, a touchdown on 24 rushing attempts, seven catches for 51 yards, and another touchdown as a receiver. It’s the first time Hunt eclipsed 200 yards from scrimmage since Week 1, when he blowtorched the Patriots in the first game of his pro career. His Saturday performance against the Chargers was thanks in large part to Kansas City’s offensive line, which consistently tore open holes in the Los Angeles rush defense (ranked 26th by DVOA entering the week). Meanwhile, Alex Smith quieted calls for Chiefs first-round pick Patrick Mahomes II to take over under center, finishing with 23 completions on 30 attempts for 231 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. Tyreek Hill finished with 88 receiving yards on five catches and a touchdown, including a 64-yard bomb where he burned cornerback Casey Hayward.
As great as Kansas City’s offense looks on the stat sheet, it was their defense that did most of the heavy lifting. The Chiefs swiped four turnovers on four consecutive drives in the second half, which the offense turned into 13 points. Marcus Peters accounted for three of those turnovers, intercepting Rivers twice and forcing a fumble from Chargers running back Austin Ekeler. Rivers finished with 227 passing yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, snapping his streak of 164 pass attempts without an interception, which was the longest active streak in the league.
It’s a rough loss for the Chargers, who unraveled and then tangled like earbuds in the second half of a winnable game. With the Chargers dropping to 7-7, they’re still in the playoff hunt, but they’ll need help. They have to win their remaining two games against the Jets and Raiders, which will be harder if wide receiver Keenan Allen’s back injury is serious enough to keep him off the field. The Chargers entered Saturday on a four-game win streak and hoped to make the playoffs as one of the league’s hottest teams, despite dropping their first four games. Instead, this loss may be the beginning of the end to what’s been a heartbreaking (and bizarre) first season in Los Angeles.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, look reborn. Kansas City, with a one-game lead and the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Chargers, now has the inside track for the AFC West, and with games against the Dolphins and Broncos left, they look safe to win the division. With Nagy at the offensive helm, the Chiefs could enter the playoffs more like the world-beater they began the season as instead of the sputtering mess they’ve been for the last two months. Heed Andy Reid’s lesson—never be afraid to ask for help.