Jaylen Watson was working at a Wendy’s managed by his mother in Augusta, Georgia, three years ago as he waited for a chance to continue his football career. He finally became academically eligible and finished his college career at Washington State.
On Thursday night, before a national television audience, Watson starred for the Chiefs.
The seventh-round draft selection’s 99-yard, pick-six turned around the game, helping the Chiefs to a 27-24 victory over the Chargers.
Watson’s game-changing play — the longest go-ahead, fourth-quarter touchdown scored by a rookie in NFL history — came with the Chargers at the 3-yard line and on the verge of breaking a 17-17 tie. He stepped in front of Gerald Everett and took the interception the distance.
The Chargers blew a 10-point, second-half lead as the Chiefs scored 20 points in a row before Justin Herbert threw a late touchdown pass to Joshua Palmer. Los Angeles didn’t recover the onside kick with 1:11 left — though the ball was free for a moment — ending their comeback hopes.
Herbert was pummeled after losing center Corey Linsley, who didn’t play the second half because of a knee injury, and right tackle Trey Pipkins, who went out in the second half with an ankle injury. A hard hit by Chiefs linebacker Mike Danna to Herbert’s midsection left the quarterback in obvious pain the rest of the game.
Danna’s hit forced Herbert to leave for one play, with Chase Daniel replacing him.
Herbert finished 33-of-48 for 334 yards with three touchdowns and the pick-six.
Patrick Mahomes, who had two potential interceptions dropped by Asante Samuel, went 24-of-35 for 235 yards and two touchdowns. He threw scoring strikes of 9 yards to Jerick McKinnon and 41 yards to Justin Watson.
Matt Ammendola, filling in for injured kicker Harrison Butker, kicked field goals of 19 and 31 yards.