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Week 15 Game Recap: Los Angeles Chargers 13, Kansas City Chiefs 30


What you need to know

Los Angeles Chargers

Philip Rivers turned in his worst performance of the season at the worst possible time. He entered the game with the longest streak of consecutive passes without an interception, but then threw three in a short span in this one. He did manage to find the end zone to somewhat salvage his performance, but the entire passing game looked shockingly out of sync.

Keenan Allen entered the game on fire, and left the game on a cart. With four straight 100-yard receiving games, he has appeared virtually uncoverable. He was significantly slowed down by Kansas City defenders, and was taken into the locker room late in the game with what was deemed to be a back injury. There was no immediate update available on his condition.

Melvin Gordon ran hard and was the lone bright spot for an offense that looked completely out of sorts. What's more, Austin Ekeler made another costly turnover at a very critical juncture on a play where he broke his hand. It would be surprising if Gordon didn't get just about the entire running back workload over the final two games of the season.

Tight End Hunter Henry suffered a lacerated kidney while blocking on an Austin Ekeler reception. He will almost certainly need to miss some time, although no official update was given as to his status for any upcoming games.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City beat the Los Angeles Chargers 30-13 in a game that very well could decide who wins the AFC West. Alex Smith played an efficient game, completing 23 of 30 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing three times for 13 yards. Kareem Hunt had a monster game for the Chiefs, rushing 24 times for a 155 yards and a touchdown, while also adding seven catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. Tyreek Hill led the Chiefs receivers with five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Travis Kelce added six catches for 46 yards, with the rest of the Chiefs receivers combining for five catches and 46 yards.

Los Angeles Chargers

QB Philip Rivers, 64 offensive snaps, Pass: 20 - 36 - 227 - 1 TD / 3 INT
After spending most of the past nine games in perfect sync with his receivers, Rivers led an offense that was very out of sorts. There were numerous instances of miscommunication even with his most veteran players, and he was actually fortunate that he only turned it over three times because it could have been a lot worse. He was sacked on the opening third down of the game, as a defender came right up the middle on him virtually unblocked. It was a sign o things to come, as Rivers was under heavy duress for a lot of the game (a rare departure from most games this season, as Rivers came into the game as the least-sacked starting quarterback in the league). Losing two different offensive lineman for periods of time certainly didn't help any. Early on, Rivers made it a point to take shots deep down the field to Tyrell Williams. On the first instance, the ball was perfectly thrown and Williams actually got his hands on it, but the defense was perfect. Following a miscommunication with Antonio Gates and another sack, he again looked to Williams over the middle. The pass was batted down and nearly intercepted, and following the play Rivers went over to talk to Williams as there appeared to be more miscommunication about where Rivers thought his receiver would be. Late in the half, Rivers showed a lot of trust in Williams throwing him a deep ball into the end zone in double coverage. It should have been picked off, but the defenders bounced into each other. They actually deflected it up in the air and nearly into Williams' arms for the touchdown, but he couldn't corral it. In the second half, the Charger offense actually looked in sync for one really nice drive. Rivers led them down the field, culminating in a touchdown pass to Gates in the corner of the end zone. It was a perfect read, and Rivers saw the veteran break to the corner and he put it where only his guy could get to it. But on their next possession, Rivers lost LT Russell Okung to an injury. On his first play, he heaved up another deep ball to Williams. There was a hand in his face and maybe rushed the pass a bit, but this one was easily picked off. After the pick, he was seen asking Williams where he was going, as the two were again not on the same page. But it's tough to see how Williams being in a different spot would have changed anything. The ball was thrown into double coverage, and was yet another in a long line of poor decisions by Rivers. It was his first interception in 164 pass attempts (which had been the longest streak in the league). After a few Kansas City scores put the Chargers almost in desperation mode, Rivers had to force things a bit. On a fourth down pass play, he found himself under pressure and needing to flip it up for grabs. He was hit as he threw, and the wobbly floater never made it to Gates, instead getting intercepted. And late in the game, he targeted Travis Benjamin deep down the seam but the receiver didn't turn his head in time to find the ball and Rivers was picked off for the third time in the game.

RB Melvin Gordon, 53 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 78 - 1, Rec: 6 - 91 - 0 (8 targets)
Gordon was the lone bright spot on an otherwise tough day for this offense. While the passing game was turning the ball over repeatedly and miscommunicating on seemingly every other play, Gordon was running hard and with purpose. He had some very nice moves at the point of attack, displaying his customary patience and vision, often waiting for his spots and then quickly darting through any openings that were there. He regularly moved the pile forward, and the team fed him work despite trailing for most of the action. He was equally effective in the passing game, leading the team in both receptions and receiving yardage (including a huge 49-yard catch and run on the team's first offensive play of the second half - he outran a linebacker on the crossing route, turned upfield, and could have gotten a few more but he stumbled when trying to shake the defensive back). Late in the first half, he caught a few passes out of the backfield to help set up a first and goal from the 5-yard line. He was stuffed on first down, picked up a few yards on second down, and finally pushed his way through the line on third down for the score. There were two defenders about to hit him untouched, but he made a quick cutback just as he took the handoff so that he completely avoided them. Late in the game, the Chargers trailed by 17 with just over a minute left. Rather than take to the air, they opted to hand off to Gordon for a couple of "garbage time" carries that ended up netting him about 15 or so additional yards (for those who own him or played against him where that ended up being the difference in their fantasy matchup). Of key importance, after the game it was revealed that change of pace back Austin Ekeler had suffered a broken hand on a reception/fumble, which likely means Gordon's workload will only go up over however many games remain in the Chargers' season.

RB Austin Ekeler, 10 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 13 - 0, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 (1 targets)
Ekeler was in and out of the game with some regularity early on, mostly working in the change of pace role to Melvin Gordon on third down situations. He had a nice 13-yard run up the left side in the first half, but only had one other touch until late in the game. He caught a short pass in the flat for first down yardage, but had the ball stripped away by a defender and recovered by the Chiefs. Needless to say, it was an extremely costly play and likely would have cost Ekeler playing time the remainder of the season anyway; but it was revealed after the game that he broke his hand on the play. It's unknown if he'll play the rest of the season with a cast on his hand, or if the team will just opt to shut him down.

WR Keenan Allen, 47 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 54 - 0 (8 targets)
Allen was in the midst of the best stretch of his career with four straight 100-yard performances coming in. But he couldn't really get going in this game, with his long gain going for just 15 yards. He nearly made a nice sideline grab on the opening drive, but couldn't quite keep his toes inbounds. In the second half, he hauled in a wide open floater to convert a third down with nobody around him. But other than that, his name wasn't really called much. And late in the contest, he was seen being carted to the locker room with what was termed a back injury. There were no immediate updates on his condition after the game.

WR Tyrell Williams, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 31 - 0 (7 targets)
Williams was a busy receiver, if not an effective one. He was targeted on three different deep balls that all fell incomplete and all featured extremely tight coverage (or double coverage in some cases). The first was a deep ball down the right sideline that Williams actually had his hands on, but the ball was knocked away. It was a perfect pass, but didn't have a great chance of being completed. The second was thrown in the end zone and should have been picked off, but the defenders bumped into each other and actually almost tipped the deflection to Williams for a score. But he juggled it too and it fell incomplete. Later in the game, he was again targeted on a deep ball in double coverage, but this time it was actually intercepted. After the play, Rivers incredulously wondered aloud where Williams was going, but it didn't seem to matter. The ball was horribly thrown regardless of where the receiver was going. Williams did have a couple of short grabs over the middle on his trademark crossing routes, but never came close to scoring and certainly outweighed by the negatives on the deep balls.

WR Travis Benjamin, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 7 - 0, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (4 targets)
Benjamin did not play a good game. He had one rushing attempt on an end-around early, and one reception late. But in between those, he went in motion and inadvertently kicked one of his own linemen, injuring him...caught a pass with a chance to pick up a first down with a quick dive upfield but instead tried running to the sideline and avoiding contact (resulting in coming up short of the marker, which set up a desperation fourth down that turned into an interception)...and failed to turn around in time on a deep ball down the seam that the defender easily jumped in front of and intercepted. If it was a failure to get open or win a jam off the line, it would be more tolerable than the mental mistakes that Benjamin seems to be making with some regularity. And it could help explain why a player with his skill set has failed to continue producing numbers as a Charger.

TE Hunter Henry, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 28 - 0 (3 targets)
Henry was having a solid, if not spectacular, game catching the football. He had a few short grabs over the middle and several on third down to keep drives moving. But on a short reception by Austin Ekeler, Henry ended up getting injured and had to leave the game. Afterwards, it was revealed he had suffered a lacerated kidney on the play. His status for any upcoming games is unknown at this point, but it's not typically an injury we see players attempting to play through.

TE Antonio Gates, 22 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 10 - 1 (3 targets)
Gates has been pushed way to the back of the pecking order for targets over the season's second half, but that didn't stop him from a perfectly classic Rivers to Gates connection early in the third quarter. As long as he's been in the league, he still is a mismatch for linebackers in one on one coverage. Gates broke upfield and to the left corner of the end zone, leaving the defender in his wake so Rivers could drop a perfect pass in his arms for the score. The two had failed to be in sync on an earlier floater over the middle, but more than made up for it once they hit the red zone. After the game, it was revealed that Hunter Henry had suffered a lacerated kidney in the game. His status is still unknown, but it would stand to reason that Gates could potentially see some more targets over the final two weeks of the season if Henry is to miss any time.


Kansas City Chiefs

QB Alex Smith, 66 offensive snaps, Pass: 23 - 30 - 231 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 13 - 0
Alex Smith completed 23 of 30 passes for 231 yards and two touchdown, and also ran three times for 13 yards. Smithís total stats do not look prolific, but he played very well considering the fact that the Chiefs ran the ball 32 times compared to only 30 passes. The one constant in the Chiefs offense this year has been when Smith is able to push the ball downfield, their running game is often very effective. This was no different against the Chargers, as Smith was able to find Tyreek Hill for a 64 yard touchdown pass. Hill ran a straight go-route right past his defender and Smith threw an accurate ball that hit Hill in stride for about as easy as you will see a 60+ yard touchdown in the NFL. This one play had a huge effect on the game, as the Chargers were forced to play more men in coverage, allowing Kareem Hunt to gain consistent yards on first and second down, and set up easy third down conversions for the Chiefs.

RB Kareem Hunt, 43 offensive snaps, Rush: 24 - 155 - 1, Rec: 7 - 51 - 1 (9 targets)
Kareem Hunt rushed 24 times for 155 yards and a touchdown, while also catching seven passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. Huntís 206 total yards were the most heís gained since his week three game against, you guessed it, the Chargers (183 yards from scrimmage). Huntís longest play of the game went for 23 yards, so unlike the first four weeks of this season, he didnítí do most of his damage through long gains. Instead, the Kansas City offensive line did a great job of beat the Chargers defensive line at the line of scrimmage, and Hunt did the rest. He made several nice one-cut and go runs, where he recognized a hole and hit it hard, getting to the second level of the Chargers defense and forcing several defenders to bring him down. The Chiefs coaches also did a great job of confusing the Chargers by sending players in motion, as well as using play-action to keep the defense off balance. On one such play, Alex Smith took the snap in shotgun formation and the entire Chiefs offensive line set up their blocks while shading to the right side of the formation. With Hunt floating through the line it looked as though it would be a screen play to Hunt the entire way. Instead, Hunt broke his route off and ran directly to the left sideline allowing Smith to hit him in stride, which set up a 21 yard first down. When the Chiefs can spread opposing defenses out and get their playmakers in space, they are as dangerous an offensive team as there is in the league.

WR Tyreek Hill, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 88 - 1 (6 targets)
Tyreek Hill led all Kansas City receivers in yards, catching five passes for 88 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers on Saturday. Most of Hillís yardage came on a 64 yard touchdown where he ran right past Casey Hayward and Alex Smith hit him in perfect stride for an easy, long touchdown. While his other four catches only went for 24 yards, it is impossible to quantify how much that one play mattered because it came midway through the second quarter. It seemed as though the Chargers secondary was concentrated on not allowing another long play, so they were able to contain Hill while allowing Kareem Hunt to destroy them in the run game for the rest of the game. With Travis Kelce lining up all over the field, and with Huntís versatility, it is very hard for defenses to contain all three of the Chiefs star offensive players. Hill has grown leaps and bounds as a receiver in his first two seasons, and his big play ability is the single most important aspect to the Chiefs offense.

TE Travis Kelce, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 46 - 0 (7 targets)
Travis Kelce caught six of his seven targets for 46 yards against the Chargers on Saturday. Kelce could have easily caught 100% of his passes on the night, but he made a rare drop in the red zone that could have given him a much bigger game from a fantasy perspective. On this night, it was the Kareem Hunt show, with an assist from Tyreek Hill, and on these nights Kelceís stat line is sure to suffer because it is difficult for the Chiefs offense to sustain three fantasy studs in each game. While Kelce didnít have a lot of yards or find the end zone, it was obvious how often Smith looks Kelceís way when the Chiefs need a first down. Heís as difficult a cover as there is in the league, because he runs routes with the precision of a wide receiver, while enjoying a size/speed advantage of traditional cornerbacks and linebackers. Kelce is line for a big game next week against the Dolphins, and the Chiefs are fighting for a playoff spot so the offense will not be taking any weeks off.