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Chargers’ playmakers step up when needed after Keenan Allen leaves with injury

KANSAS CITY, MO., THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2018 - Chargers receiver Travis Benjamin pulls down a pass
Chargers receiver Travis Benjamin pulls down a pass over Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller for 26 yards to the 12-yard line on a fourth down play to keep the game winning drive alive.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The jubilation started bubbling up in Tyrell Williams the moment the Chargers receiver saw two Kansas City Chiefs defenders stick with him on a short in route while fellow receiver Mike Williams, who was lined up with Tyrell on the right side, broke free to the outside.

There wasn’t a red-shirted player within 10 yards of Mike Williams when he caught a two-point conversion pass from Philip Rivers with four seconds remaining to give the Chargers a dramatic 29-28 come-from-behind victory Thursday over the Chiefs before a stunned crowd of 75,091 in Arrowhead Stadium.

“As soon as I saw two guys covering me, I knew it was game over, I knew it was a wrap,” Tyrell Williams said. “I started celebrating before he even caught it. Those are the toughest ones, when you’re wide open by yourself for the game, but he made the catch. It’s exciting.”

On a 38-degree, windy, misty playoff-clinching night in which the Chargers lost their best receiver, Keenan Allen, to a hip injury in the second quarter, the remaining pass-catchers showed why Allen calls this receiving corps “the best in the business, no question.”

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Mike Williams caught seven passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns, including a one-yard flip from Rivers to cap the game-winning drive, and he took a pitch from Rivers and burst 19 yards through the middle for a touchdown that pulled the Chargers to within 21-14 with 4 minutes 57 seconds left in the third quarter.

Tyrell Williams caught six passes for 71 yards, one for 17 yards on a third-quarter scoring drive and three for 25 yards on a fourth-quarter scoring drive. Travis Benjamin, who missed four of the first six games this season because of a foot injury, made two huge catches for 31 yards and 26 yards on the final drive.

“I don’t think I told them boys one thing all day — that’s the type of group we’ve got,” said Allen, who leads the team with 88 receptions for 1,074 yards and six touchdowns. “We feed off each other’s energy. Mike’s playing well, Tyrell is making big plays, and Travis made some big plays at the end.

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“It was tough, because I want to be out there making the plays, but when the guys are stepping up and doing what I usually do, I don’t have to play. They’re doing it.”

All three receivers were involved on the final two-point conversion, which was a subject of debate between Mike Williams and Benjamin before the Chargers, trailing 28-21, took over on their 40-yard line with 2:37 remaining and one timeout left.

“The crazy thing was, I was on the sideline, and I was like, ‘Trav, we score, we need to go for two,’” Mike Williams said. “Trav was like, ‘Nah, this is a divisional game, we need to win.’ I was like, ‘We need to go for two and win it!’”

The gutsy call by Chargers coach Anthony Lynn would not have been possible had Benjamin not made two clutch catches on the final drive.

The first came on a first and 20 from the 30-yard line, when Benjamin hauled in a 31-yard pass from Rivers on a deep post pattern, holding on to the ball while absorbing a vicious hit from defensive back Eric Murray.

On a fourth and seven from the Chiefs 36-yard line, Benjamin caught a 26-yard pass from Rivers on a seam route over the middle to give the Chargers a first and goal at the 10-yard line, absorbing another hard hit by Murray.

“Those were big plays, and he got hit on both, big hits,” Allen said. “Most people don’t even make that catch. You’ve got to be a tough receiver to make that catch. He’s a playmaker. Playmakers make plays, and that’s what we were doing out there today.”

A pass-interference penalty on Kansas City cornerback Kendall Fuller in the end zone with eight seconds left gave the Chargers a first and goal at the one, and Rivers hit Williams on a fade route to the right side to make it 28-27.

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On the two-point conversion attempt, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams and Benjamin lined up on the right side, forming a triangle. Benjamin went in motion to the left.

When Tyrell Williams broke inside, Fuller and cornerback Orlando Scandrick followed him. Mike Williams hesitated for a second after the snap to let Tyrell Williams run by and slipped into the right side of the end zone.

After cradling the ball in his arms, Mike Williams thrust his right arm and index finger into the air and raced toward midfield, sparking a wild celebration with his teammates as they celebrated the end of a nine-game losing streak to the Chiefs.

“I was wide open,” Mike Williams said. “The dudes in front of me both went with Tyrell. That left me in the back of the end zone, and I just made a play.”

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Mike Williams outjumped cornerback Steven Nelson to catch a three-yard touch-down reception on a fade route to the back corner of the end zone in the second quarter.

“Just being a big physical receiver is the main thing,” said Williams, a first-round pick out of Clemson in 2017. “Those are the plays I used to make in college.”

What about his 19-yard scoring run in the third quarter?

“I’m just bringing out my running back skills, hitting the hole and high-stepping into the end zone,” Williams said. “I always had that skill, just don’t showcase it that much.”

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna


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