For 30 minutes of football, the Kansas City Chiefs slogged through a sloppy Estadio Azteca field and watched the Los Angeles Chargers outgain them by 203 yards.
But they managed to take a 10-9 lead into halftime and found a semblance of offensive rhythm in the second half to secure a critical 24-17 win over their division rival.
It wasn’t an easy win for the Chiefs, who appeared to have taken control with a 24-9 third-quarter lead only to watch the Chargers keep pressure on until Philip Rivers’ fourth interception of the night in the end zone with 18 seconds remaining put an end to the game.
Critical win in AFC West race
With the victory, the Chiefs improve to 7-4 and pick up a half-game lead on the resurgent Oakland Raiders, who have inserted themselves into the AFC West race.
The loss drops the Chargers to 4-7 and ostensibly out of the AFC playoff hunt.
Rough night for Chiefs offense
Patrick Mahomes looked little like his MVP self in an ugly first half that raised questions about how much the poor field conditions in Mexico City were impacting the game and the precision Chiefs offense.
Loose turf led to faulty footing for both teams as Mahomes managed 63 passing yards through the first two quarters. The Chargers outgained the Chiefs 312 yards to 109 in the first half, but repeatedly stalled in the red zone, settling for three field goals.
A Tyrann Mathieu interception of Philip Rivers set Kansas City up for the only touchdown of the half, a six-yard scamper by LeSean McCoy.
The Chiefs picked up the pace on back-to-back touchdown drives in the third quarter, the second of which produced one of the few offensive highlights of the night, a 23-yard dime from Mahomes off his back foot that found Travis Kelce in the corner of the end zone.
Tyreek Hill injured early
They built their lead without wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who left the game on the first Kansas City possession with a hamstring injury and never returned.
The Chargers responded with their first touchdown as the third quarter wound down before a fourth quarter saw both teams trade punts and fail to score.
Dramatic last gasp for Los Angeles
Los Angeles saw one last chance with two minutes remaining after fielding a punt at their own 9-yard line. Rivers connected with Mike Williams for a 50-yard gain to keep hope alive in the game’s final minute.
But his end-zone pass to Austin Ekeler ended up in the hands of Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen to put an end to the game.
The late turnover summed up the night for Rivers, who regularly made miscues against the Kansas City zone en route to his four interceptions. He nearly threw another to Mathieu, who dropped a floater that hit him in the hands in the third quarter.
It continues a rough stretch for the veteran Chargers quarterback, who now has seven interceptions in the last two games.
Win sets up Week 13 AFC West showdown
The Chiefs won without a big game from Mahomes, who finished with 152 passing yards on 19-of-32 passing with a touchdown and an interception. The turnovers proved to be the difference as Los Angeles outgained Kansas City 438 yards to 310, but turned the ball over four times to just one for the Chiefs.
The Chiefs head into a bye week before a Week 13 game with the Raiders, who would improve to 7-4 with a win over the New York Jets next week and set up a showdown with first place in the division on the line.
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