After a couple of occasionally sloppy first games – one of which still resulted in a win – Brandon Staley’s Los Angeles Chargers (2-1) got their first huge win of the new era by taking down the defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs 30-24. There are plenty of heroes to go around on the offensive side of the ball – such as Justin Herbert, of course, who threw four touchdown passes. Then there’s Mike Williams, who caught two of those touchdowns including the game-winner. But the defense played just as much of a part in winning this game, giving the Chargers the opportunities they needed to win the game.
Tevaughn Campbell, Los Angeles Chargers Defense Come up Big Against Patrick Mahomes
A Surprise Breakout Player
The Chargers forced four turnovers in total, three of which came in the first half and helped the Chargers dash out to a 14-0 lead. That lead did not ultimately hold, but there was plenty of good defensive play. The biggest surprise was cornerback Tevaughn Campbell, who was playing in the slot in place of the injured Chris Harris. While he had shown himself in the past to be capable of grabbing interceptions when they came his way, his coverage ability was inconsistent. However, he showed himself to be capable of making other big plays on the ball as well as he forced two fumbles – one on Tyreek Hill, and one on Clyde Edwards-Helaire. (It should also be noted that Michael Davis was the one who recovered both fumbles, so he gets credit for awareness and quick reacting.)
This was a strong performance by Tevaughn Campbell, who had been presumed to merely be a depth piece. In addition to the two forced fumbles, he also had two pass deflections (most of the day for the team). But now he is showing himself capable of making big plays against tough opponents.
Strong Secondary Performance
The secondary had a strong day in general. They had two interceptions, but that was not the only success of the day on their part. The other big part was keeping Tyreek Hill from making any big plays. He had five catches for 56 yards and a few first downs, but no big 50-yard+ touchdowns like what happens to a lot of teams – and what happened to the Chargers late in the Week 2 game last year when they shut down Patrick Mahomes for three quarters before finally giving way. They were not quite as lucky at shutting down Travis Kelce, who had a little over 100 yards, but keeping Mahomes from making any big plays with Hill is a very good thing.
Then there are the interceptions, of course. The first one was only partially Mahomes’ fault – it was a no-look pass, but it was still in the receiver’s hands. It bounced off and Asante Samuel Jr made a great catch to bring in the pick, thus getting an interception for the second straight week and continuing the strong start to his rookie campaign.
The big one, however, came late in the fourth quarter. With the score 24-24 and the Chiefs having the ball, one could assume that the Chiefs were about to drive the ball down for a field goal and win the game. But instead, Mahomes overthrew the ball and it landed in the hands of backup safety Alohi Gilman. It was a huge play for the Chargers to get the ball back with less than two minutes to go, and also for Gilman – who apparently the team had so little faith in during his rookie year that he scarcely got any playing time even when the safety corps were depleted to their near end by injuries.
The run defense still looked problematic without Justin Jones as they gave up 100 yards from Clyde Edwards-Helaire alone, who had struggled the first two weeks of the season (even if they did force a fumble off him). And of course, one can usually only lock down Mahomes so much – hence why they still allowed three touchdowns from him. But by taking away the big plays and by forcing the turnovers, they helped give Herbert the opportunity to do his job – which he did in what was easily his best performance of the year so far.
It cannot be understated how much of a huge win this was for the Chargers. They performed well on both offense and defense, and they knocked off the juggernauts of the AFC. While there is still an issue or two to work on, it’s worth wondering if the first two weeks was just the team working out the kinks with an entirely new coaching staff. If they can continue to win big games like this, they should be able to return to the playoffs this year.
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