The Kansas City Chiefs wanted to show their confidence in the scapegoat of the previous week’s contest.
After fumbling the ball with 1:25 left on the Chiefs’ final possession in a Week Two loss to the Baltimore Ravens, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire received the very first touch of the Week Three game against the Los Angeles Chargers and ran behind right guard Trey Smith for a four-yard gain.
It was part of a conscious effort by the Chiefs.
After running backs rushed just 16 times in each of the Chiefs’ first two games, they emphasized the run game against the Los Angeles Chargers, particularly Edwards-Helaire.
Edwards-Helaire reached 100 yards for the third time in his career — 17 rushes for 100, to be exact — and the Chiefs totaled 186 rushing yards on 30 carries as a team.
“The run game was working,” Edwards-Helaire said.
But his performance was definitely a mixed bag. And it makes one wonder if the Chiefs will re-sign Edwards-Helaire, who has two years left on his four-year, $10.8 million rookie deal.
With 11:06 left in the first half, Edwards-Helaire went up the middle for seven yards, but Tevaughn Campbell hit him in the back, forcing a fumble. Edwards-Helaire never saw Campbell coming, and Chargers defensive back Michael Davis recovered it.
The Chargers would score on the ensuing possession and take a 14-0 lead.
Though Edwards-Helaire didn’t fumble on his 181 carries as a rookie, this was his second straight game with one.
It was part of four turnovers the Chiefs committed in the 30-24 loss.
“We can’t turn the ball over,” Edwards-Helaire said. “It’s just that simple. Four turnovers in a game is completely unreasonable.”
The four turnovers included two interceptions by Patrick Mahomes, who had been undefeated in September in the three seasons prior and had never thrown a pick in the month.
Now he has lost two straight September contests and thrown three in the last two games.
There, though, was plenty of blame to go around.
But just like after Edwards-Helaire’s previous fumble, the Chiefs once again showed confidence in their No. 1 running back.
On the very next offensive play, following his fumble, he received the carry and ran hard behind left guard Joe Thuney for five yards.
Edwards-Helaire is resolute. A national champion at LSU, he was raised by his stepfather, a military man named Shannon Helaire.
His son showcased his versatile skills, including hauling in a third-quarter touchdown pass, and demonstrated physicality by running up the gut of the Chargers’ defense.
Much of the talk of the week had been about the Chiefs’ porous run defense.
They entered the week dead last in the NFL, allowing 202 rush yards. That was over 40 yards more than the next worst team (the Seattle Seahawks).
Head coach Andy Reid had attributed the issues on run defense to a poor job getting off blocks and poor tackling. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, the Chiefs missed 21 tackles in two games, including nine by safety Daniel Sorensen.
However, the Chiefs had noticed on film that the Chargers also struggled against the run. They ranked third to last, allowing 162 yards.
“There are multiple opportunities to get the ball north and south,” Edwards-Helaire said prior to the game.
The Chiefs did just that, even opening the second quarter with three straight runs by Edwards-Helaire, but that promising drive ended with his fumble.
After his previous fumble against the Ravens, the team — especially Mahomes and Travis Kelce — rallied around him.
“Everybody kind of came around me and gave me that positive reinforcement,” Edwards-Helaire said, “even Pat, Trav, just the whole offense.”
Time will tell if the defending AFC champs can bounce back from their latest turnover-filled loss.
“It’s how you respond,” Mahomes said. “We’ve got a long season ahead of us.”