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Chargers Can't Contain Travis Kelce, Leading to 30-27 Loss vs. Chiefs

The Chargers fall to the Chiefs, 30-27, on Sunday night, moving to a 5-5 record.

INGLEWOOD – When regulation finished, the Chiefs were without three of their top wide receivers, but Travis Kelce's efforts were just enough to pull past the Chargers, 30-27, late in the final quarter.

The Chargers and Chiefs exchanged fumbles halfway through the fourth quarter. But as the Chargers took over on offense following a takeaway when Troy Reeder knocked the ball loose from Jerick McKinnon six plays after Keenan Allen turned the ball over, Justin Herbert orchestrated a 10-play, 64-yard drive to pull ahead by four points with 1:46 left.

However, that left plenty of time for Patrick Mahomes to work his late-game magic.

The Chiefs capped off a go-ahead six-play, 75-yard drive in which Mahomes found Kelce streaking across the middle of the field after breaking free from Derwin James in coverage for a 17-yard score.

Herbert received one final chance to win it with 31 seconds left, but was picked off two plays later by Nick Bolton to seal the game.

"So frustrated," James said after the Chargers' late-game loss. "Especially because my man caught the ball."

"It was a man-to-man pick route. They ran a good play, executed. He was running away from our leverage. When I did try and catch up, the dude got in my way, but I got to make that play."

Kelce gave the Chargers headaches all game. Even with Kansas City entering play short-handed among their skill players, being without Mecole Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Kadarius Toney not playing a snap in the second half as a result of a hamstring injury, there was zero to little resistance in stopping Kelce. He caught six passes for 115 yards and three touchdowns.

"It's one of the best tandems, maybe, in NFL history – those two," linebacker Drue Tranquill said of Mahomes and Kelce. "You know you got your work cut out when you go out there with [1:46] left and they got a timeout or two."

The Chargers tried several different defenders in coverage against the highly-productive tight end, but the results looked quite similar across all four quarters.

"He's a great player. Can't take anything from him. He's gonna finish as one of the best tight ends to ever play the game, like he showed tonight," Allen said of Kelce. "Time after time, he does that."

The Chiefs entered play as the No. 1 scoring offense and they remained on par Sunday night, picking up points on six of their drives that resulted in 485 total yards – three touchdowns and three field goals.

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"To close out games against great offenses, special players, the rush and coverage has to come alive," Chargers coach Brandon Staley said after the game. "You have to rush and you have to cover at the end of games, and they made a couple of more plays than we did.”

Offensively, the Chargers received a spark with Allen and Mike Williams returning to action for the first time since Week 7. As Herbert was able to look in the direction of his most reliable targets, the Chargers were quite effective in moving the ball during the first two quarters.

They scored on four of their first five drives, carrying 20 points as they went into halftime. Williams, though, left the game after re-aggravating the same ankle that held him out of the previous two games.

Allen, however, said after the game he "felt great" as it pertains to his hamstring injury. It was the first time he's played all four quarters in a game this season. Allen finished with five catches for 94 yards, setting new season-highs.

“Keenan was on a little bit of a pitch count tonight," Staley said. "This is part of his return to play. I thought he exceeded my expectations, for sure. I thought he played well in the game. He felt good all week and he kind of played how he practiced.”

Allen later suggested that his pitch count restriction was lifted once Williams left the game and didn’t return.

For the second time in two meetings against the Chiefs this season, the Chargers have led for longer portions of the game than Kansas City has. Yet, the Chiefs' late-game heroics have been the difference maker to swing things in their favor.

"Close is not good enough in this league," James said. "I didn't make enough winning plays, we didn’t make enough winning plays to win the game. It hurts but we got to move on and get ready for the next one."

The Chargers fall to a 5-5 record and will travel to Arizona in Week 12 to face the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.


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Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.