Top 10 NFL Games of 2018: #1 Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Rams

As if there was any other choice for the #1 NFL game of 2018-19.

The Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams were set on a collision course for week 11 on Monday Night Football. Both teams entered this game at 9-1 and on top of their respective conferences.

Originally a scheduled as a neutral site game at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, the game was moved to Los Angeles at the last second due to poor field conditions.

Despite the abrupt venue change, both teams showed up ready to play and an instant NFL classic was born.

First Quarter

Kansas City would win the toss and elect to defer until the second half.

It didn’t take long for the fireworks to explode in this game. On the fourth play of the game, Jared Goff found Brandin Cooks on a slant for a gain of 30 to the Kansas City 26-yard line. Aided by two Kansas City penalties resulting in automatic first downs, the Rams found themselves in scoring position early.

Los Angeles comes out in an 11-personnel formation to no one’s surprise. Robert Woods (#17) is lined up to the boundary behind tight end Tyler Higbee (#89). Goff (#16) sells a play-action fake to running back Malcolm Brown (#34), drawing the linebackers towards the line of scrimmage and freezing the secondary for a split-second. Woods briefly hesitates before he takes off on his crossing route over to the field. Kansas City is in man coverage with Orlando Scandrick (#22) on Woods. Goff patiently lets the play develop and lobs a beautiful throw to a spot that only Woods can get to. Los Angeles goes up 7-0 early.

Kansas City’s first drive begins at their own 29-yard line. The first play of the drive is a nice gain of 18 yards off of a option-pitch to Kareem Hunt, but it is called back for an illegal block in the back. The Los Angeles defense would hold, and Kansas City is forced to punt early.

The Rams’ high-octane offense would deliver another touchdown on their second drive of the night, marching 83 yards down the field. Goff’s second touchdown pass of the night would come on a 4-yard pass to Josh Reynolds.

Already down 14-0, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense was up to the challenge of responding to the Rams.

Chunk plays from Hunt and Tyreek Hill power the Chiefs’ offense down to the Los Angeles 25-yard line.

Kansas City is in an 11-personnel formation with trips to the field. Hill (#10) is lined up in the near slot with Sam Shields (#37) across the line of scrimmage in man coverage. Kansas City is playing Cover 1. Shields fires his outside arm at Hill in an attempt to jam the receiver at the line. Hill is the fastest player in the NFL, and gives Shields a quick shake off the line before breaking to the inside and taking off downfield. Shields is out of position early with his unsuccessful attempt at jamming Hill. Hill runs a seam route to the rear boundary pylon, leaving Shields in the dust. Mahomes (#15) throws a good touch pass towards the end zone and safety John Johnson (#43) is late to react and unable to help with coverage over the top of Hill. Kansas City is on the board with their first touchdown of the game.

The Rams take over at their own 16-yard line after the kickoff. Kansas City is penalized on the third play of the drive for defensive pass interference, gifting the Rams 37 yards to the Kansas City 30-yard line. Two plays later, Los Angeles is in the red zone, looking to score one more time before the quarter ends.

Los Angeles stays in 11-personnel. Reynolds (#83) is the nearest slot receiver to the offensive line to the field. Goff and Brown run towards the boundary in play-action. Reynolds does a great job on the chip block, slowing Breeland Speaks (#57) down, allowing Goff to roll out to his left. Goff then does his best Patrick Mahomes impression as he makes a great throw across his body to Reynolds. The Rams are set up with first and goal from the Kansas City 6-yard line.

Second Quarter

On third and goal at the five-yard line, the Chiefs were called for pass interference, setting the Rams up for another set of downs in a goal to go scenario. Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid challenged that the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage and won, voiding the defensive pass interference call. Los Angeles is forced to settle for a short field goal.

The Kansas City offense follows up the long Rams drive with one of their own. Starting at their own 25-yard line, the Chiefs went 10 plays and 74 yards, when they are faced with a third and goal from the one-yard line.

Kansas City is in 11-personnel with trips to the field and Travis Kelce (#87) lined up tight on the line of scrimmage into the boundary. Coach Reid dials up another speed option to the boundary. Kelce is tasked with blocking the last man on the perimeter, Johnson. Kelce hesitates coming out of his stance and allows Johnson to get around the edge and make a play on Hunt (#27). A small mistake by Kelce wrecks a potential scoring play on third and goal, and the Chiefs are forced to settle for a field goal.

Los Angeles’ next drive starts from their own 25-yard line. Xavier Williams gets to Goff for a sack on second down for a loss of eight yards. The Rams face a long 3rd and 13.

The Rams are in a tight 11-personnel formation. The Kansas City defense plays great situational defense with a deep Cover 3 zone. Chris Jones (#95) and Allen Bailey (#97) get immediate pressure up the middle, flushing Goff to his left and forcing him to scramble. After running around avoiding the initial rush, Goff gets hit from behind by Bailey and Dee Ford, (#55) who strips the ball. A scramble for the ball breaks out and Bailey recovers at the Los Angeles 21-yard line.

The next play from scrimmage, Kansas City runs a screen to Hunt that scores. Kansas City takes the lead, their first of the game.

The Rams’ offensive struggles continued on their next series, as they failed to cross midfield before being forced to punt. An illegal block in the back on the return pushes Kansas City back to their own six-yard line to start their next drive.

Five plays and 19 yards later, the Rams’ defense makes a play.

Kansas City spreads the field with 11-personnel in an empty backfield formation. Aaron Donald (#99) is playing the 3-tech lined up across from left guard Cameron Erving (#75). Donald’s rare combination of strength, speed, and agility gets him past Erving to a scrambling Mahomes. Donald is able to strip-sack Mahomes and the ball goes bouncing towards the sideline. Samson Ebukam (#50) recovers the fumble and runs into the end zone for a defensive touchdown.

Kansas City regains possession with 1:43 remaining in the half. In five plays, Mahomes leads his offense back into scoring position.

Kansas City comes out once again in their 11-personnel trips formation into the field. Mahomes begins the play looking towards Kelce on his left, but the tight end is covered. As the pocket begins to collapse, Mahomes steps up and begins rolling to his left. Chris Conley (#17) begins the play in the outside slot to the field. Conley plays through early contact and continues on his crossing route, working with Mahomes across the field. Mahomes shows why he was a first-year sensation with a beautiful throw from a very awkward platform and arm angle. Touchdown, Kansas City.

Harrison Butker would miss the following extra point. Both teams enter the locker room tied 23-23.

Third Quarter

Kansas City starts the second half with possession. A 27-yard completion from Mahomes to Conley starts off the half. The Los Angeles defense would help move the Chiefs down the field with holding and illegal use of hands penalties. With the Chiefs knocking at the door again on the Rams 25-yard line, Aaron Donald makes another play.

Kansas City is in 12-personnel with both tight ends to the boundary. Kelce comes across the formation in motion before the snap. Donald is lined up at 3-tech on the left guard. Donald gets a great jump off the snap and violently uses his hands to get past Erving. Mahomes feels the pressure and begins to roll to his right, but Donald is too fast. Donald leaps onto the back of Mahomes and swipes the ball out of his hands. The second sack fumble for Donald is eventually recovered by John Franklin-Myers (#94), and the Rams defense ends another Chiefs’ possession early.

Los Angeles takes over at the Chiefs 46-yard line. The Rams go 46 yards in eight plays, with the drive capped off by a Goff scramble from seven yards out for a touchdown.

Despite the turnovers, Andy Reid and the Chiefs’ offense stayed aggressive by trying to push the ball down the field.

On the ensuing drive, the Chiefs are faced with a 2nd and 10 from the Los Angeles 38-yard line.

Kansas City is back in 12-personnel, with Kelce lined up tight on the bottom of the screen. Marcus Peters (#22) is lined up across the field, assigned with covering Kelce. Hill clears out the coverage on the bottom of the screen by running a corner route and drawing double coverage. Kelce is running an out route, and when he makes his break towards the sideline, Peters falls down, leaving the tight end wide open. Mahomes has a clean pocket and delivers an accurate throw, allowing Kelce to gain yardage after the catch. It takes multiple defenders before Kelce is finally brought down at the five-yard line.

Two plays later, Kelce would cap the drive off with a touchdown from four yards out. The game is tied, 30-30.

The ensuing Los Angeles drive would be successful, but they would be forced to settle for a field goal in the red zone.

The next Kansas City drive would only last one play.

Sticking with 12-personnel, Hill motions across the formation to line up tight next to Demetrius Harris (#84). The Chiefs are trying to work a curl-flat combination to the boundary with Harris and Hill. Mahomes play fakes and then makes the correct read throwing to Harris. Ebukam is able to get a hand up and deflect the ball into his grasp. The linebacker then takes off and barrels though Hill and over Mahomes to score his second touchdown of the game.

The Chiefs get the ball back after the turnover but go three and out shortly after. The Rams would be forced to punt as well; Johnny Hekker booms a punt pinning the Chiefs deep at their own 9-yard line.

Fourth Quarter

Two Mahomes passes and the Chiefs are out of the shadow of their own end zone at their 27-yard line.

Kansas City is in a tight 11-personnel formation with Conley and Hill in the slot to the field. Shields is initially covering Conley off the line in zone coverage until Conley breaks across the field and Hill keeps running up the seam. Shields’ responsibility switches to Hill, and the corner stumbles trying to keep up with Hill’s lightning-fast speed. Kelce gets just enough of Ebukam to keep Mahomes free from pressure. Patrick Mahomes then does Patrick Mahomes things and unleashes an absolute rocket down field. Hill runs under it and coasts into the end zone, and the Chiefs are back within a field goal.

The Rams are penalized on the ensuing kickoff, pushing them back to their own 15-yard line.

Facing third down from their own 14-yard line, Los Angeles is forced to go downfield. The Kansas City pass rush pins their ears back. Justin Houston (#50) is the defensive end to the boundary rushing against left tackle Andrew Whitworth (#77). Jones and Bailey create pressure up the middle and Ford loops around on a stunt. Goff is unable to step up in the pocket and is forced to throw almost 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Whitworth actually does a good job of running Houston around the pocket, but because Goff is so deep and can’t step up, Houston gets a paw on the ball and forces a fumble. Bailey is in the right spot at the right time and the ball ends up in his arms for a walk-in touchdown. Kansas City regains the lead 44-40.

The Los Angeles offense finally gets moving on their next drive. After a 27-yard completion to Reynolds, the Rams have a first down from the Chiefs’ 43-yard line.

After the big completion to Reynolds, the Rams smelled blood in the water and quickly got up to the line for their next play. Again, 11-personnel for Los Angeles. Woods is the slot receiver lined up on the line of scrimmage to the field. The Rams run play-action to the boundary, and the protection is beautiful for Goff. Woods runs a deep post route, adjusts to the underthrown ball, and secures it for another big play, this time for 36 yards.

Three plays later, Goff finds Gerald Everett in the end zone from seven yards out, giving the Rams a 47-44 lead.

The Chiefs and Rams both go three and out on their next series.

Kansas City regains possession at their own 35 with 6:33 left in regulation. The Chiefs struggled on their first series and faced a fourth and two from the 43-yard line.

Kansas City is in 12-personnel, the Rams are playing Cover 3. Kansas City does a great job of spreading out the underneath defenders in Los Angeles’ zone coverage. The motion from Hill going across formation, to the backfield, and back to the field takes Troy Hill (#32) out of the play. The curls from Harris and Kelce along with Hunt’s flat route spread the two hook/curl defenders out enough for Kelce to settle in between zones. After the catch, Kelce immediately gets up field and gains 18 yards; more importantly, the play keeps the Chiefs’ drive alive.

Mahomes finds Conley in the end zone one more time four plays later. The Chiefs pull ahead 51-47 late.

The Rams take over with 2:47 remaining on their own 25-yard line. A Cooks reception for 22 yards and Higbee catch for 10 yards sets Los Angeles up at the Kansas City 40-yard line.

The Rams are in 11-personnel with tight end Everett split out wide to the field. The Chiefs tip their hand early when safety Ron Parker (#38) rotates towards the line of scrimmage before the snap. Goff keys in and knows he has Everett in one on one coverage to Parker’s side of the field. Goff takes his drop, sets, and throws for Everett running a go route down the sideline. Goff drops it right into the bucket, and Daniel Sorensen (#49) is unable to make the tackle. Everett struts into the end zone, putting the Rams back in front, 54-51.

With time winding down, Mahomes is letting the ball fly to give his team a chance to win. The young superstar QB would find Hill on a third and ten for 26 yards, moving the Chiefs across midfield to the Rams 48-yard line.

A new set of downs for Kansas City.

The Chiefs are in 11-personnel and are looking to take another deep shot. Demarcus Robinson (#11) and Hill run go routes down the field, and Conley runs a deep crossing route towards the boundary. Mahomes takes a deep play-action drop and sets up for another downfield bomb. Ebukam is rushing against Kelce, and this time he’s able to get pressure on Mahomes to affect the throw, hitting his throwing arm. The ball flutters out towards Conley but falls short. Peters catches an easy interception.

Los Angeles takes over with only 1:18 remaining on the clock, but Kansas City still has all three timeouts. The Rams didn’t do themselves any favors, passing the ball on all three downs and only forcing the Chiefs to use two timeouts before Hekker comes onto the field to punt the ball away.

Only 50 seconds remain for Patrick Mahomes to complete the comeback in what is now the third-highest-scoring game in NFL history.

Kansas City is able to gain a first down on their first series moving the ball to their own 26-yard line. They burned their last timeout during the previous series, and now have to move the ball quickly to have a chance.

Twenty-five seconds remain for the Chiefs.

Kansas City is in 11-personnel, and Hill is playing in the outside slot to the boundary. The Rams are determined to not let anyone get behind them, especially Hill, and are playing Cover 4. Ebukam nearly gets to Mahomes again, and Mahomes flushes out of the pocket to his right and locks Hill in his sights deep down the field. Mahomes puts all he can into the throw while on the run, but the ball falls short again. Lamarcus Joyner (#20) is waiting deep down the field, and the ball falls right into his hands.

Goff takes one final knee to run out the clock and the Rams survive a thriller, the best game of the 2018 season.

MVP of the Game

Up until this point in this series there has yet to be a defensive MVP. While Aaron Donald is the best player on his defense, he was not the best player for the Rams on this given night. Samson Ebukan was harassing Patrick Mahomes all night, creating pressure and scoring twice. It’s ironic that in a 54-51 game a defensive player was the most effective player of the game, but things got wacky in Los Angeles for this week 11 matchup. Honorable mentions go out to Jared Goff for his incredible performance on this night, and to Patrick Mahomes who fought valiantly and nearly brought his team back for a huge road win. Games like this only come around once every few years. Let’s see if the 2019 season can deliver with another instant classic like this.

Re-live this game and watch the highlights here.

Follow Jake on Twitter @JakeSchwanitz. Check out the rest of this series and Jake’s archive here, including his look at the #2 NFL Game of 2018, #3 NFL Game of 2018, #4 NFL Game of 2018, UTEP corner back Nik Needham, and how Sony Michel was eased into his rookie season.

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