Patrick Mahomes kept scrounging around the Kansas City sideline for a score update from New England, and all the Chiefs quarterback learned was that Tom Brady had thrown a touchdown pass and an interception against Miami.
That news blackout was by design.
Andy Reid didn’t want anybody to know what was transpiring in Foxborough, where the Chiefs needed the Dolphins to spring a big upset Sunday for any hope of a first-round playoff bye. Instead, the Chiefs’ coach wanted Mahomes and Co. to focus on beating the Chargers, a game they needed for the outcome in New England to have any consequence.
In the end, the two scores that mattered went Kansas City’s way: The Chiefs beat the Chargers 31-21 behind big games from Mecole Hardman and Damien Williams, and the Dolphins rallied to stun the Patriots 27-24 in the closing seconds.
Mahomes had 174 yards passing and a touchdown in a relatively low-key performance, but his supporting cast picked up the slack. Hardman returned a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown, Williams ran 84 yards for another score — and finished with 124 yards rushing and two TDs on just 12 carries — and the Chiefs (12-4) turned in another defensive gem.
Now, the Patriots have to play next week and the Chiefs can set their sights on the divisional round of the playoffs.
The Chargers (5-11) made it stressful for Kansas City in the fourth quarter, though, driving for a touchdown that got them within 24-21 with 5:23 to go. But the Chiefs answered with an eight-play, 77-yard scoring drive that allowed them to wrap up their sixth straight win overall and 11th victory in 12 meetings with their longtime division rival.
They held Philip Rivers to 281 yards passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions in what could be the veteran quarterback’s final game for the Chargers. His contract is up after this season, and while Rivers has said he would like to play next year, nobody is quite sure whether that will happen in Los Angeles.
The Chiefs’ offense has long been the headliner, but it has been their revamped defense under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo that has carried them on their current win streak. They had not allowed a touchdown the past two games, and Kansas City stretched that to 10 consecutive quarters when it forced a punt on the Chargers’ initial possession.
The streak finally ended when Rivers found Keenan Allen in the end zone early in the second quarter — a drive that proved doubly costly for the Chiefs. Safety Juan Thornhill (knee) and cornerback Bashaud Breeland (illness) left the game.
The Chiefs regained the lead late in the half. Mahomes zipped a 30-yard strike to Hardman that set up a 24-yard TD pass to Demarcus Robinson, giving them a 10-7 advantage heading into the locker room.
The back-and-forth continued in the second half. And it happened in a flash.
Mahomes threw just his fifth interception of the season, and second in two games against Los Angeles, and the Chargers punched into the end zone three plays later for a 14-10 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Hardman showed why he was voted a Pro Bowl return specialist, skirting the sideline for a TD return that restored the Chiefs’ lead.
The Chiefs scored almost as quickly when they got the ball back.
Williams took the first-down handoff and angle to his left, then turned up field. Three defenders converged on him but none of them wrapped him up. The oft-injured running back made a nifty pirouette, found the open field and sprinted the rest of the way with Tyreek Hill by his side for the 84-yard touchdown.