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Happy days: Chiefs rally behind Patrick Mahomes-to-Travis Kelce connection

Chiefs Chargers Football
Posted at 11:08 PM, Nov 20, 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes presented Henry Winkler an autographed jersey before the game, and Travis Kelce wore a T-shirt in warmups honoring Winkler’s iconic Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli character from “Happy Days.”

By the time the dust settled Sunday night at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, it was a happy day indeed for Mahomes, Kelce, Winkler and all of Chiefs Kingdom.

Kelce’s third touchdown and linebacker Nick Bolton’s deflected-pass interception closed out a ninth straight road win for the Kansas City Chiefs against the AFC West division rival Los Angeles Chargers.

“That’s big-time football at the right time,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid said.

Mahomes completed the 30-27 comeback win when he found Kelce streaking across the field on a drag route with safety Derwin James trailing behind.

"He got the better of me for the majority of the game," Kelce said of James. "It's one of those things where you'd hope to get the right things dialed up at the right moments. And sure enough, I knew he was kind of sitting on my outside shoulder on a lot of the stuff, so anything vertical and anything outside he was locking me up pretty good. Coach Reid saw that and called a play where I could try to beat him with my legs, these ol' 33-year-old legs."

The 17-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left effectively iced another AFC West title in the process for the Chiefs, who improved to 8-2 and opened a three-game lead in the division standings with the season sweep.

Effectively, Kansas City has a four-game lead with seven games to play in the quest for a seventh consecutive AFC West crown.

Los Angeles had taken the lead on the second play after the two-minute warning when Justin Herbert darted a 6-yard touchdown to Josh Palmer, who also scored the game’s first touchdown.

But it was Kelce who’d score the game’s last TD as Mahomes made easy work of a game-winning 75-yard drive after getting the ball back with 1:46 remaining.

"We do this a lot," said Mahomes, who went 3 of 4 for 48 yards and also had two scrambles for 22 yards on the drive. "Coach Reid prepares us for these moments. We knew we had a lot of time on the clock, we knew we had some timeouts, so we didn't rush. We just kind of went through what we do every single day at practice."

Bolton, who finished with a game-high 14 tackles, tracked more than 20 yards downfield to intercept Herbert in the closing seconds and polish off the win.

Kansas City’s defense, which was gashed for 240 yards in the first half, stiffened in the second half.

The offense found its legs — literally — despite losing Clyde Edwards-Helaire to a first-quarter ankle injury.

Isiah Pacheco, who overtook Edwards-Helaire as the starter four weeks ago, finished with 15 carries for 107 yards. He’s the first Kansas City running back to top 100 yards in the regular season since Week 4 last season.

"We needed every yard of that today," Reid said.

The Chiefs — who entered the game without JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman Jr. then lost Kadarius Toney in the first half — had a chance to put the game away midway through the fourth quarter.

After Butker’s 30-yard field goal in the third quarter cut into LA’s 20-13 halftime lead, Kansas City retook the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Kelce, who finished with six catches for 115 yards and three scores, rumbled 32 yards for his second touchdown and Bolton popped the ball free from Keenan Allen on the Chargers’ ensuing possession.

The Chiefs’ march toward a potential game-clinching score ended when Jerick McKinnon coughed up his own fumble.

But LA left too much time on the clock to stave off the inevitable Mahomes magic.

“It seems like every time we come here, it comes down to something like this,” Reid said. “It’s ridiculous.”

All five matchups between the teams with Mahomes and Herbert at quarterback have been one-score games.

Mahomes finished 20 of 34 for 329 yards — his fifth straight game with at least 300 yards.

The Chiefs spotted the Chargers a seven-point halftime lead.

Kansas City’s defense allowed an opening-drive touchdown for the first time this season when Herbert found a streaking Josh Palmer for a 50-yard touchdown.

The Chiefs had grabbed a 3-0 lead on a 33-yard field goal by Harrison Butker to start the game, but fell behind on Herbert’s bomb and remained behind after the second drive ended with a 52-yard Butker field goal.

Kelce’s first touchdown, a 4-yard catch and run, put Kansas City back in front 13-10 before Los Angeles scored the final 10 points of the first half.

Austin Ekeler capped an impressive 13-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown as the Chargers pulled back in front.

Cameron Dicker closed the second quarter with a 21-yard field goal. He’d hit a 46-yard field goal earlier in the half.

The Chiefs haven’t lost on the road in the rivalry with the Chargers since 2013 when their backups, led by Chase Daniel, dropped a Week 17 contest in overtime against the then-San Diego Chargers.