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5 Takeaways: Bolts Lose Another Close One to Kansas City

5 takeaways W11

The Bolts are 5-5 after a 30-27 loss to Kansas City.

Here are five takeaways from the Chargers-Chiefs matchup:

1. Another close loss to KC

It's not that the Chargers can't hang tough with the Chiefs.

The Bolts proved that again Sunday night by delivering their share of blows in a back-and-forth affair that once again came down to the final seconds.

But for the second time this season, the Chargers couldn't make one more play against their vaunted division rival.

The result was a 30-27 loss on Sunday Night Football that left a sense of frustration in the Bolts locker room. It was a similar feeling to Week 2, when the Chargers lost 27-24 at Arrowhead Stadium.

"Extremely frustrated," said Chargers safety Derwin James, Jr. "That one hurts. That's a tough one, especially against that team."

James later added: "Close is not good enough in this league. We didn't make enough winning plays to win the game. It hurts."

Morgan Fox added: "Losing in general sucks. It's not fun. Especially when you go out there, you fight hard. It's a great team, we played great. We played as well as we could but they made more plays than we did."

The Chargers have now lost nine straight games at home to the Chiefs, and 15 of 18 overall against a team that once again looks like they will earn yet another division crown.

The Bolts now sit at 5-5 and trail the Chiefs (8-2) by three games in the standings. But with Kansas City holding the head-to-head edge by virtue of their pair of wins, a seventh AFC West title seems likely for the Chiefs.

Again, the Chargers were right there with the Chiefs. Just like they have been in recent years, as seven of the past nine games have now been decided by one score or less. The Bolts are 2-5 in those seven games.

"You should be frustrated," said Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley. "We just lost to a good team at home. We had the lead. We weren't able to close it out.

"That's an outstanding team that we played," Staley added. "To not beat those guys is disappointing because we felt like our level was good enough to win, but we didn't finish plays in that fourth quarter to get it done."

Keenan Allen said: "Anytime we play, it's always a tough game. We come out, we feel like we play our best game and they still win. Just got to find a way and hopefully get them next time."

Browse through live action photos of the Bolts Week 11 Sunday Night Football matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs at SoFi Stadium!

2. Defense rues final drive, third-and-longs

Linebacker Drue Tranquill summed it up best in the postgame locker room.

"If you want to be a great defense you have to close out games," Tranquill said. "We didn't do that on the last drive."

The opportunity was certainly there for the Chargers, who led 27-23 with 1 minute and 46 seconds left in regulation.

But the Chiefs marched 75 yards for the game-winning score in just six plays as Patrick Mahomes found Travis Kelce for a 17-yard touchdown with 31 ticks left.

James was matched up on the final play against Kelce, who finished with six catches for 115 yards and three scores.

"My man caught the ball. It's frustrating," James said. "A tough situation but he made a play on a drag route. He made a play."

He added: "I've got to make that play. That's what they pay me to do."

The matchup put two All-Pros against each other in James and Kelce. In a battle of the best, one player simply won on that play.

"Yes. That's exactly it," Staley said.

The Bolts had their chance earlier in the drive, when a Mahomes incompletion brought up fourth-and-4 at midfield. But James was called for an iffy holding penalty, and the Chiefs scored just three plays later. 

Tranquill credited Mahomes and Kelce, who have now connected for 45 touchdowns, for coming through.

"It's one of the best tandems, maybe in NFL history, those two," Tranquill said. "You know you've got your work cut out when you're going out with a minute [and] 30 [seconds] left.

"We've just got to make plays," Tranquill added.

Tranquill also lamented the Chargers third-down defense, which gave up five conversions on 10 tries.

But on the five downs where Kansas City faced third-and-7 or longer, the Chargers only stopped the Chiefs once.

The killer was a third-and-17 late in the third quarter when the Chiefs were at their own 7-yard line. That drive ended with a Kelce touchdown from Mahomes.

"We certainly didn't do good on third-and-long," Tranquill said. "There were a few times we had them pinned, and against that team you have to get off the field. We didn't do that."

Staley added: "We have to make more plays. We have to make more plays. It's as simple as that on third down. We're not covering well enough on third down. That's all there is to it."

Mahomes was sacked just once on the night, by James that set up that third-and-17 above. Other than that, the Bolts couldn't corral the Chiefs quarterback to the ground.

"We just didn't rush or cover well enough to finish it," Staley said.

3. Offense laments inconsistent play

The Bolts started hot in primetime, scoring on their opening drive with a 50-yard touchdown from Justin Herbert to Joshua Palmer.

The penultimate drive was a thing of beauty, too, as Herbert hit Palmer for a 6-yard score that gave the Chargers the lead with under two minutes to go.

The seven drives in between? It was a mixed bag, as the Bolts recorded a touchdown and two field goals, but also a lost fumble and three punts.

"I thought that there were a lot of good things that we did, offensively," Herbert said. "There's still room for improvement for us to continue to develop and get better.

"Some of the third downs that we could have converted in the third quarter, we, unfortunately, fell short," Herbert added. "We didn't put up enough points today. We just have to go back and watch film and get better."

Herbert referenced the Chargers third-quarter performance, which featured two drives that both ended in punts. The Bolts gained 18 total yards on eight plays.

Herbert was sacked on the initial third-down try on third-and-12, and the next drive ended when Austin Ekeler was stopped on third-and-1. Staley elected to punt it from his own 34-yard line after that play.

"I really felt like flipping the field position there was the right thing to do," Staley said. "The game was even and I didn't want to swing the momentum their way.

"We had been stopped on a couple short-yardage plays," Staley added. "I just felt like our defense was playing at a high enough level and wanted to give our defense a chance to compete."

4. Allen provides spark in return

The Bolts got a pair of welcome returns in Week 11 as Keenan Allen (hamstring) and Mike Williams (ankle) return from their respective absences.

But only one of them finished the game, as Williams left late in the first quarter after making a terrific leaping catch for a 15-yard gain on third down.

Staley said Williams "tweaked the same ankle" and didn't know the severity of the injury.

Allen, meanwhile, saw his first action since Week 7. He finished with five catches for 94 yards but also lost a fumble.

The turnover occurred a few minutes into the fourth quarter when the Bolts, who trailed 23-20, were nearing the red zone.

The Bolts defense forced a turnover on the ensuing drive, and Allen later made up for it with a diving 46-yard completion on third-and-18 that helped set up Palmer's go-ahead score.

"It was for the guys. Felt like I owed them," Allen said. "Fumbling in the fourth quarter against a team like that can go down a way lot harder than we did.

"Defense came through, got the ball back and put us in position and was able to come down with a big catch," Allen added.

Herbert said: "It was third-and-18, so the odds are stacked against you, but when you have a guy like Keenan, you have to give him a chance. Just put the ball up there, knowing that he is going to go fight for it. He made an incredible play on it."

While Herbert said he was glad to get both players back in the mix, he also praised Palmer, who had eight receptions for 106 yards and two scores.

"Josh just stepped up big time. He's one of those guys that is able to win against man coverage," Herbert said. "He's not playing like this is his second year. We trust him completely. He's picked up the offense very quickly and has really established himself."

5. Chargers look ahead to Cardinals

The Bolts rollercoaster season continued as they have no lost two straight after winning three of four.

The Chargers, now 5-5, reside outside of the AFC playoff picture as the Buffalo (7-3), New England (6-4) and Cincinnati (6-4) hold Wild Card spot. The New York Jets are also 6-4.

The Bolts will now turn their attention to the Cardinals, who are 4-6 and play the 49ers in Mexico City on Monday night.

Although they were frustrated by Sunday night's result, the Bolts vowed to push ahead toward Week 12.

"We've got seven games left," Tranquill said. "The way I see it, why not us? Guys are getting healthy, guys are coming back. I think our best football is ahead of us."

Herbert added: "It's part of the NFL. We're doing everything we can to win these games. Unfortunately, it's not going our way. We could sit here and complain and blame each other, but we're not. This team is special and we believe in each other."

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