AFC West Thoughts: Week 5
Kansas City Chiefs, 5-0
Well, since we last checked in with the Chiefs, they’ve faced their two toughest defenses to date.
Last week, on Monday Night Football, the Chiefs traveled to take on the Denver Broncos, who at that time were 2-1. The Denver defense bottled up QB Patrick Mahomes II for most of the game. Still, the Chiefs kicked a field goal on their opening drive, Mahomes scrambled into the end zone for his first career rushing touchdown, and running back Kareem Hunt came to life, rushing for over 100 yards.
Then, in the fourth quarter, after the Broncos took what looked like a commanding 10-point lead with under thirteen minutes left to play, Mahomes took over, leading the Chiefs on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives. The first took 12 plays and covered 75 yards, culminating in a pass to TE Travis Kelce. The second–after the Chiefs defense forced a three-and-out–lasted 8 plays and 60 yards, ending with a Hunt rushing touchdown.
The Broncos had a chance to win it, yet failed. More on that in a couple of sections.
Yesterday, the Chiefs came home on a short week to face the best defense in the league, that of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mahomes threw his first two interceptions of the year and didn’t throw any touchdown passes, while the Chiefs hurt themselves with multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, one of which got DL Chris Jones tossed from the game.
No matter. Chiefs 30, Jaguars 14.
Big game after big game for the Kansas City Chiefs. Each test is getting passed by Mahomes.
Fourth-quarter comeback of more than one score on the road against a divisional rival? Check. Soundly defeat the best defense in the league without throwing a touchdown pass? Check.
Defeat Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots in Foxborough in prime time? TBD.
Los Angeles Chargers, 3-2
The Chargers have rebounded from a tough loss against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3 with consecutive home victories against the floundering San Francisco 49ers and the hapless Oakland Raiders. Still, those games had to be won, and the Chargers did so: 29-27 and 26-10, respectively.
QB Philip Rivers started slow against the 49ers with (yet another) pick-six. With most of the first quarter gone, the Chargers were down 14-0. But they battled all game, eventually tying it at 17, taking a nine-point lead midway through the 3rd quarter before falling behind again early in the 4th. Ultimately, they gained the lead for good on a 21-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis with just under eight minutes to go.
Rivers threw for three touchdowns, running back Melvin Gordon added another to go along with 104 rushing yards, and the defense forced a punt and an interception on the 49ers final two drives of the game.
The game against the Raiders was never really in doubt. It was tied at 3 in the second quarter when Rivers connected with running back Austin Ekeler for a 44-yard touchdown, and the Raiders never threatened again, only scoring again when down 26-3.
As good as the offense looks, the Chargers defense is looking just as good, led by edge rusher Melvin Ingram and boosted by rookie safety Derwin James. L.A. is two games behind the Chiefs (and lost to them head-to-head in Week 1), but the Chargers remain Kansas City’s only intra-division threat.
Up next for the Chargers is a road game against a Cleveland Browns team that is 2-2-1 followed by hosting the enigmatic Tennessee Titans. After that’s a bye followed by consecutive road games. Going into that bye at 5-2 will be pivotal.
Denver Broncos, 2-3
Man oh man, did they let last Monday night’s game against the Chiefs slip away. Not only did they blow a 10-point fourth quarter lead, but then QB Case Keenum missed a wide open WR Demaryius Thomas in stride on the final drive. Had they connected, it would have been an easy six, and with the extra point, a three-point lead. Instead, Keenum overshot him, and the drive ended with a turnover on downs after the next play.
Then, incredibly, the Broncos followed up that performance with an absolute stinker against the New York Jets, losing in New York 34-16. A week after bottling up Mahomes, this defense got obliterated by the Jets rushing game, allowing 219 yards to Isaiah Crowell and another 99 to Bilal Powell. Rookie QB Sam Darnold finished only 10-for-22, but three of those completions went for touchdowns.
Tough loss for Denver. Things won’t get much easier either, with six of their next seven games against teams in the hunt for a playoff spot. That 2-0 start is but a distant memory.
Oakland Raiders, 1-4
When the Rams were still in St. Louis, I was a fan. But I couldn’t tell you why as it was obvious the ownership had absolutely no desire to put on the field a winning product after the Kurt Warner Era ended. Between Warner’s last season as a starter in St. Louis (2001) and when the team left, they had one winning season, in 2003.
Still, it was a bit of a punch to the stomach when the Rams’ owner, Stan Kroenke (a Missouri native!), announced the team would be moving to Los Angeles.
It was a punch, in part, because the team had exciting, young players on both sides of the football, with RB Todd Gurley II on offense and DT Aaron Donald on defense.
It was even bigger punch when the Los Angeles Rams traded up for the first pick of the draft to acquire QB Jared Goff out of Cal. The St. Louis Rams would never have made that deal.
And then it was an even bigger punch when the Rams (finally) fired their head coach, Jeff “7-9” Fisher, and ultimately replaced him with the exciting, characteristic Sean McVay.
This is exactly what the Oakland Raiders are doing right now, and it sucks for their fans.
They’ve gutted a contending team and hired a coach with an eye for the future, when the team will be in Las Vegas.
That’s when this team will contend next. That’s when the Raiders will give the Chiefs a run for their money. That’s when the Raiders will again be relevant.
2018 was a wash since pre-season. That hasn’t changed, and it won’t change.