The Chargers took their second straight loss out of the bye week to fall to 2-4 after they let a potential win over the Chiefs slip away again. For most of the game, they were within one possession. They went scoreless in the second half.
The loss turns Sunday Night Football’s primetime matchup at home vs. Chicago into a must-win situation for LA. But before diving into that one, let’s talk about who stood out in the Chiefs game.
Stud: WR Joshua Palmer
By any metric, Joshua Palmer had the best game of his career on Sunday. Five receptions for 133 yards with multiple explosive plays is undoubtedly something not many were expecting. But in the last two weeks since the BYE, Palmer has looked much more comfortable in the WR2 role than in the immediate absence of Mike Williams.
Palmer posted the highest yards per route run and PFF offensive grade of his career. After having 160 yards in his first four games, he has 193 yards in his last two. The routes look crisper, and Palmer looks more confident going up for balls near the boundary in a Williams-esque way.
Dud: HC Brandon Staley
It’s impossible to talk about the Kansas City game without discussing the defensive game plan in the first half. Travis Kelce went for over 100 yards in the first two quarters as the Chargers sat in soft zone for most of the first half. Michael Davis and Derwin James both acknowledged that it was what the Chargers intended to do coming into the game.
The Chargers experienced many of the same problems they did against Dallas. Michael Davis was dropped so far back that receivers ran simple out routes or curls for easy first downs. The entire first half was effectively Kelce running to the spot and turning around.
Two things made the initial game plan particularly frustrating. In Brandon Staley’s lone win against the Chiefs in 2021, he ran man coverage 67% of the time per TruMedia. All of Staley’s other successful games generally had them hover at or about 50%. The Chargers’ most successful plays in this game, including Asante Samuel Jr.’s interception and several of their 3rd down stops in the second half, came from playing more physical pressing coverage at the line.
Staley acknowledged that while the team adjusted better in the second half, the “damage” was done in the first. Even the second half still had oddities, including a 3rd and 15 conversion where Patrick Mahomes picked up a conversion with his legs because the defense played prevent.
Stud: LT Rashawn Slater
Dealing with an ankle injury, Rashawn Slater was not his usual self in the last two games. He led the team in individual pressures allowed in each contest with ten combined pressures.
Against Kansas City, it was back to business as usual. Slater allowed just two pressures with a higher pass-blocking efficiency score. He was critical in pinning defender Michael Danna on the outside to spring Joshua Kelley’s 49-yard sprint to the end zone.
Slater being back to his standard form would be a big win for an offensive line that is reeling.
Dud: S Derwin James
Ultimately, Staley’s defensive game plan in the first half is tied to how any performance in the secondary is viewed. That being said, Derwin James was expected to be the main guy responsible for Kelce. The ankle injury likely played a part in things, but James didn’t seem quite like his usual aggressive self until late in the game.
The Chargers’ safety allowed his highest NFL passer rating of the season when Patrick Mahomes targeted him. His PFF coverage grade was his lowest of the season.
Stud: RB Joshua Kelley
75 yards on seven carries with a long touchdown sprint was a good bounce-back game for Kelley. The former UCLA product had just 79 yards in his last three games. His pace from the season’s first two weeks had slowed. If he can return to the complementary back production seen with Austin Ekeler in Week 1, the Chargers will be in a good position from now on.
Dud: QB Justin Herbert
Justin Herbert led the offense well in the first half, but the second half was unusually poor form from him. The Chargers’ quarterback threw two interceptions while completing 43% of his passes. Herbert threw for his lowest passer rating of the season.
The offensive line certainly did have an impact, as Herbert is still getting pressured at a decent clip over the last month. It’s also hard not to think the broken finger is causing him some discomfort still. The Chargers’ quarterback mentioned that his splint was ripped off midgame and had to be put back on.
Going against Mahomes, Herbert had to be dialed in at a higher level than he was. Staring down his targets has become an issue in recent weeks and some batted balls at the line, a similar issue he had in 2022.