Chargers defense comes up big to guarantee Justin Herbert a signature victory

KANSAS CITY -- For the third time in as many weeks, the Los Angeles Chargers found themselves having to come through in a last-drive situation to win or lose a game.

But unlike their victory against the Washington Football Team in the season opener, this time the Chargers were on defense. And unlike their last-second, Week 2 loss at home to the Dallas Cowboys, the Chargers' defense held tough.

They had just scored a touchdown to go ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs on Mike Williams' 4-yard catch in the upper left side of the end zone with 32 seconds left. But with the wind swirling like crazy, Tristan Vizcaino missed his second PAT, which would have given the Chargers a seven-point lead and taken some of the heat off. Had he made it, even if the Chiefs had scored a touchdown (barring KC going for two and making it) the Chargers would have been assured a tie and overtime.

But Vizcaino missed the kick, their lead was only 30-24 and the Chargers' defense was on call. And for the second time down the stretch on Sunday, it delivered to give the Chargers (2-1) a crucial road victory to keep pace in an AFC West that's looking tougher than previously thought.

Here's how it went after Williams' go-ahead touchdown, which was set up by an interception by safety Alohi Gilman with 1:55 left.

After an incompletion on first down, the Chiefs hit on a big chunk play out to the Chargers' 49-yard line after a 21-yard scramble by Patrick Mahomes and five additional yards due to a defensive holding call by Tevaughn Campbell, who forced two first-half fumbles to help the Chargers to a 14-3 halftime lead.

With the gain, it looked as if Mahomes and the Chiefs (1-2) would do their thing (like they did to the Chargers in Week 2 last year in Herbert's first-ever NFL game) and the Chargers -- who have lost 17 games by one score since 2019, including last week's loss to the Cowboys -- would have that familiar late-game distress.

But just like that, Mahomes magic was no more. He threw incomplete to Travis Kelce (covered by an ailing Joey Bosa). Then incomplete down the left side to WR Byron Pringle, with third down resulting in another incompletion headed in Pringle's direction with Campbell covering as time expired.

"We trusted the defense to get a stop," Williams said on his thoughts after scoring the eventual winning touchdown.

Thanks to the efforts of the Chargers defense, Mahomes was turned away down the stretch while Herbert thrived, causing Mahomes to briefly revisit a quote he offered about the Chargers' second-year quarterback this offseason.

"I guess I believe it," Mahomes said of Herbert's game-winning heroics. "That's all you can say."

The Chargers defense gave up a lot of yards to the Chiefs, 437 to be exact, but forced four turnovers -- two interceptions and two fumble recoveries by cornerback Michael Davis. And Herbert was quick to credit them with the win, even though he had a huge part in it himself by throwing for 281 yards and four touchdowns on 26-of-38 passing with zero turnovers.

It's what Herbert does; deflect praise, meet with the media for bit, deflect more praise, then get on a plane and go home.

Of Herbert, Staley said, "We're fortunate enough to have a gangster quarterback," who stood on the sidelines for the final what had to be agonizing 32 seconds,to watching to see if Mahomes would work another miracle.

He didn't, thanks to the Chargers defense stepping up in a position where it has been beaten too many times in the past. And thanks to their efforts, the Chargers have set themselves up for a Monday Night showdown with the undefeated Las Vegas Raiders (3-0) next week.

Strap your seatbelts on.