KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert spent more time looking at the sky than downfield at his wide receivers on Sunday.
Herbert was sacked five times by Kansas City’s suddenly stingy defense, and even when the Chiefs failed to get to him, they had a disrupting impact on his game. Charles Omenihu tipped a pass that was picked off in the red zone, and the defense nearly got to Herbert again in the fourth quarter, when his second interception clinched a 31-17 loss to the Chiefs.
“I thought we came out well in the first half and moved the ball,” Herbert said. “We have to execute better in the second half. We have to put up points in the second half. The defense made some big stops, so it’s on us as an offense to be there for them.”
It was a stunning meltdown by the Chargers offensive line, which had allowed 10 sacks total through the first five games, and only the third time Herbert had been sacked five times in game. One of the others came against Kansas City last season.
“It’s frustrating,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “We’ve got a good football team. We’ve got to keep doing the little things well, because this is a good group of guys.”
Herbert finished with 259 yards passing and a touchdown along with the two interceptions. And a pocket that was constantly closing around him was one of the many reasons that he was thoroughly outplayed by Chiefs rival Patrick Mahomes, who threw for 424 yards and four touchdowns in helping Kansas City to a sixth straight win.
Another reason: Travis Kelce, who had 12 catches for 179 yards and a score.
Joshua Palmer did his best to give the Chargers some equally productive offense, catching five passes for 133 yards. Keenan Allen added four catches for 55 yards and Gerald Everett had three for 26 yards and a touchdown before leaving with an injury.
It was the constant pressure provided by the Chiefs that played an understated role in the outcome, though.
It began on the opening series, when Herbert was sacked by George Karlaftis on third-and-2 near midfield and ruined a chance for a productive start to the game. On the second series, it was Willie Gay Jr. who brought down Herbert just outside the Kansas City red zone, and that ultimately forced the Chargers to kick a tying field goal.
Omenihu’s sack foiled another promising drive near midfield late in the second quarter, when the game was still tied 17-all, and the Chiefs took possession with just over 2 minutes to go. Mahomes completed four straight passes, got some help from a pass interference call in the end zone, and hit Kelce with a touchdown pass to give Kansas City a 24-17 lead at the break.
That’s how it remained until late in the fourth quarter, when the Chargers went three-and-out. The Chiefs got a 50-yard punt return from Mecole Hardman to set up a short field, and Mahomes’ touchdown pass to Isiah Pacheco made it a two-score game.
“We tightened it up a little bit,” Omenihu said. “That’s a great team over there. They have a good quarterback. We just tightened it up. It helped getting turnovers, and our offense was rolling.”
Perhaps fittingly, it was former Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill who provided another sack just after the 2-minute warning, when they were desperately trying to score quickly. Herbert was picked moments later and the Chiefs ran out the clock.
“You look at the stops in the second half, the pressure on the quarterback – that was an settled position for him today,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, whose team has won four straight against the Chargers. “The guys got after him a bit. Whether they were sacking him or hitting him, he had people around him quite a bit.”
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