A Quarterback Showdown Is Decided by Kansas City’s Out-of-Nowhere Rookie

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Three years ago, Jaylen Watson was working for his mother at a Wendy’s in his Georgia hometown. On Thursday, he was getting an opportunity in the Kansas City secondary because cornerback Trent McDuffie, a first-round pick, pulled a hamstring in the season opener.

Watson made the most of it.

With Kansas City and Los Angeles tied, 17-17, in the fourth quarter and the Chargers 3 yards from taking the lead, Watson stepped in front of tight end Gerald Everett, picked off a throw from Justin Herbert and rocketed 99 yards for a game-changing pick-6.

It was a back breaker for the Chargers, who were trying to do something they had not done in 10 years: begin the season 2-0.

Instead, Kansas City built on the play to win Thursday night’s game, 27-24.

Matt Ammendola, the kicker Kansas City signed this week to replace the injured Harrison Butker, booted a 35-yard field goal with a little over three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to put his team up by 10 points. Herbert then drove the Chargers 73 yards in two minutes, punctuating the drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Josh Palmer. It was not enough.

Los Angeles attempted an onside kick that bounced Kansas City’s way, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes knelt out the rest of the clock.

What was supposed to be a pinball-style scoring fest propelled by Herbert and Mahomes turned into a battle between two oft-maligned defenses. In taking a 10-7 lead into halftime, the Chargers had bullied Kansas City’s offensive line, stuffing the run and harassing Mahomes deep behind the line of scrimmage on virtually every play.

When Mike Williams made a one-handed grab for a 15-yard touchdown on the Chargers’ opening drive of the second half, the rebooted Chargers looked poised to run Kansas City off their home field.

But a patient Mahomes proceeded to pick the Chargers apart. And on the ensuing possession, when he saw Justin Watson streaking down the middle of the field by his lonesome, Mahomes winged a pass that Watson took 41 yards for the touchdown to narrow the Chargers’ lead to 17-14.

Jaylen Watson and his defensive teammates apparently were rejuvenated. Defensive linemen Chris Jones and George Karlaftis chased Herbert throughout the second half, and Mike Danna’s hit on the Chargers quarterback with just under five minutes remaining briefly sent Herbert out of the game.

He returned and finished with a valiant 334 yards on 33 of 48 passing, with three touchdowns. Mahomes — perhaps missing Tyreek Hill, his top threat from a season ago who was traded to the Miami Dolphins in the off-season — racked up 236 yards and two touchdown on 24 of 35 passing. Mahomes did deliver passes to 10 different teammates during the game.

But it was Watson who delivered the heroics.

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