May 27, 2024

Mike Edwards’ scoop-and-score, Harrison Butker’s field goals propel Chiefs past Chargers 13-12

Kansas City Chiefs safety Mike Edwards (21) picks up a fumble before running it back for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

By JOE REEDY AP Sports Writer
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Blaine Gabbert showed he’s ready to step in for the Kansas City Chiefs should something happen to Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs.
Gabbert had a pair of first-down scrambles late in the fourth quarter Sunday that led to Harrison Butker’s 41-yard field goal with 49 seconds remaining, and the AFC West champion Chiefs beat the Los Angeles Chargers 13-12 while resting most of their starters.
“It was invaluable for myself and for a lot of the young guys that were playing,” said Gabbert, who completed 15 of 30 passes for 154 yards in his first start since 2018 with Tennessee. “We were playing against a starting defense and they were playing to win the game. Our defense played great all day. We had opportunity there to go in, and we executed when it mattered most.”
With the Chiefs (11-6) locked into the AFC’s No. 3 seed for the playoffs, Mahomes and Travis Kelce were inactive. Kelce finished with 984 receiving yards, ending the All-Pro tight end’s bid for an eighth straight 1,000-yard season.
Chris Jones played and got a sack in the third quarter to reach 10 1/2 on the season and collect a $1.25 million bonus.
Kansas City will host either Miami or Pittsburgh in a wild-card game on Saturday night.
The possibility that Gabbert might see action during the playoffs is not far-fetched, considering Mahomes has suffered injuries in the divisional round in two of the past three seasons. Chad Henne came in to preserve wins over Cleveland in the 2020 season and Jacksonville last year.
“Blaine did a great job with the long runs,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “It gives those a young guys a lift not only to say that they got in but that they won the game.”
The only touchdown of the game came with 4:56 remaining in the first quarter when Mike Edwards returned a fumble 97 yards.
The Chargers (5-12) closed the season with five straight losses, the last three after coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco were fired on Dec. 15.
“We didn’t get the wins like we wanted to, but as far as what we were trying to accomplish, coming off of a difficult loss in Las Vegas, the character of these guys, I really think they rallied together and really fought for three games, I really do,” interim coach Giff Smith said.
Easton Stick, who started the last four games after Justin Herbert suffered a season-ending finger injury, was 28 of 47 passing for 258 yards and had 77 yards rushing on 13 carries. Donald Parham had five receptions for 83 yards.
Cameron Dicker kicked four field goals for the Chargers. Los Angeles ended the season without a touchdown in its last 10 quarters.
“There are a lot of really great people in there. Ultimately, when you go through a season like this that’s really tough — a lot of tough losses, it ended up nowhere near where we thought we would be at the start — that’s the stuff that you realize is important, and you’re thankful for,” Stick said.
Kansas City’s go-ahead drive followed Dicker’s 20-yard field goal with 4:06 remaining that put the Chargers on top for the first time. It was Los Angeles’ second drive of 18 plays.
On third-and-7 at the KC 28-yard line, Gabbert had a 25-yard scramble up the middle to get the Chiefs into Chargers territory. After La’Mical Perine was held for no gain, Gabbert had a 14-yard run around right end to get into Butker’s range at the two-minute warning.
Four plays later, Butker’s second field goal capped a nine-play, 51-yard drive and dealt the Chargers their seventh loss in a game decided by three points or fewer.
MOMENTUM SHIFT
The Chargers were on the 18th play of their opening possession when Stick was sacked by Chiefs defensive lineman Charles Omenihu at the Kansas City 5-yard line and fumbled. Edwards scooped the ball at the 3 and went 97 yards for the fourth touchdown of his five-year career.
It was the longest scoop-and-score in the NFL this season and the third-longest in Chiefs history.
According to Sportradar, it was the seventh time since 2000 a team had a drive of at least 18 plays and turned it over. It was the first of those on which a defensive touchdown was scored.
“That was a long drive, I’m not going to lie. Charles made a heck of a play,” Edwards said. “It was a big play for us and started us off early.”
INJURIES
Chiefs: OL Wanya Morris left in the second quarter with a concussion. … WR Justyn Ross suffered a hamstring injury in the third quarter and did not return. … WR Rashee Rice (hamstring), WR Kadarius Toney (hip/ankle) and CB L’Jarius Sneed (calf) were inactive.
Chargers: TE Gerald Everett (first quarter) and OT Trey Pipkins III (third quarter) suffered knee injuries and did not return. … WR Keenan Allen (heel), LB Kenneth Murray Jr. (shoulder) and OG Zion Johnson (neck) were inactive.