KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the second week in a row, an opposing NFL head coach’s fourth-down gamble late in the game paid off as the Kansas City Chiefs wilted once again in the fourth quarter.
But the Chiefs have only themselves to blame.
It’s hard to overcome any turnover deficit in the NFL, and Kansas City was minus-4 — two interceptions and two fumbles — against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, which proved too much for the much-maligned defense to overcome.
“We scored 24 points with four turnovers," said quarterback Patrick Mahomes. "You’re not going to win games with four turnovers in this league."
The Chiefs committed turnovers on their first three drives of the game and Mahomes got picked off for the second time on a scramble drill two plays after the two-minute warning.
“We were moving the football,” Mahomes said. “We just weren’t executing when we got to the red zone. The play that I threw to Kemp. It was just a tad behind him, popped up in the air and got intercepted. If he catches it, it probably is a touchdown.”
First-year Los Angeles coach Brandon Staley stubbornly refused to try a game-winning field goal — perhaps because Tristan Vizcaino had already missed an extra point and would soon miss another — even after an illegal shift backed up the Chargers to fourth-and-9 from the Chiefs’ 35-yard line in the closing minute.
Instead, Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles offense got bailed out on a fourth-down out route to Jalen Guyton. Deandre Baker was whistled for defensive pass interference, though it was announced on Daniel Sorenson.
“We had a pretty good call and we had pretty tight coverage,” said linebacker Anthony Hitchens. “That’s all you can ask for on fourth down.”
The call wasn't a popular one in the stadium, obviously with fans booing a replay that appeared to show fairly minimal contact, which was initiated by Guyton, before the flag was thrown.
“From my vantage point,” Dave Toub, assistant head coach and special teams coordinator, said with a laugh, “it was hard to tell. You’d have to go back and look at the tape to really see it. It was a bang-bang play. It’s unfortunate, but those things happen. Those things go both ways.”
Toub spoke with reporters after the game because Reid was transported from the stadium by ambulance with an undisclosed illness, according to information from the Chiefs communications staff and media reports.
Two plays later, Herbert tossed his fourth touchdown of the day and second in the second half to Mike Williams for a 30-24 lead.
Mahomes’ prayer at the end game went unanswered as the Chiefs lost back-to-back games for the first time since Weeks 5 and 6 during the 2019 season.
The Chiefs’ offense averaged 6.6 yards per play and faced only one third down on its first three drives but had nothing to show for it.
Turnovers — the first coming on a diving tip-drill interception from Asante Samuel Jr., the second on a Tyreek Hill fumble and the third on Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s second fumble of the season — short-circuited Kansas City each time.
The Chargers took advantage, building a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
“Four turnovers in a game is completely unreasonable — and we completely understand that,” said running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who had his third career 100-yard rushing day in the loss. “It’s supposed to hurt because this is our profession and this is what we do. We want to come out with a W, but ultimately we watch film, see what we can get corrected, and right now it’s turnovers.”
Kansas City grabbed a lifeline late in the first half, driving 70 yards for a Harrison Butker field goal in the closing 30 seconds before halftime.
The Chiefs received the opening kickoff in the second half and finished in the end zone this time.
Mahomes threw a 2-yard laser beam to tight end Jody Fortson for his first career touchdown.
After Kansas City’s defense forced a three-and-out, Mahomes led another TD march and delivered Kansas City's first lead on a 10-yard screen to Edwards-Helaire, who finished with 17 carries for 100 yards and added two catches for 9 yards.
The Chargers and Chiefs traded touchdowns from there — Williams scoring his first on a blown coverage and Mecole Hardman Jr. scoring on an 8-yard pop pass.
Vizcaino tied the game with 2:17 remaining on a 24-yard field goal, giving Kansas City plenty of time for a game-winning drive for the second straight week.
Last Sunday night in Baltimore, it was Edwards-Helaire’s fumble and a fourth-down conversion by Lamar Jackson that made the difference late.
Against Los Angeles, it was Mahomes’ second pick, which he lobbed as he rolled right and tight end Travis Kelce broke off his route to freelance with Mahomes, and the pass interference call that made the difference as Kansas City slipped to last place in the AFC West.
“It was just a missed connection,” said Mahomes, who finished 27 of 44 for 260 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. “He rolled out and I thought he was about to roll toward the sideline. I was just going to throw it up with him. He’s usually pretty good at jumping up and catching those. Then, at the last minute, he cut back.”
Mahomes, who became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 15,000 passing yards, also ran for 45 yards. It is only the fifth time in 49 regular-season appearances Mahomes has thrown multiple interceptions in a game.
The Chiefs are now 2-3 in those games and have a losing record for the first time since starting the 2015 season 1-5.
“It is what it is,” Hitchens said. “We’ve got to live with it.”