Chiefs turn aside Chargers, stay atop AFC West
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Fueled by timely plays from the offense and defense in a playoff-type atmosphere, the Kansas City Chiefs regained sole possession of the AFC West lead with a 30-13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium.
Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. He added a game-high seven catches for 51 yards and a touchdown. Hunt now has back-to-back 100-yard rushing games after going seven straight games without breaking the century mark.
“Honestly, we know how good of a team we can be,” Hunt said. “Winning is the most important thing. We know how big these games are now. We’ve got to treat every game like it’s a playoff game.”
Kansas City coach Andy Reid credited offensive tweaks for Hunt’s recent explosion.
“We’ve spread people out a little bit more,” Reid said. “We’ve given Alex (Smith) a few more of the run-pass options. The offensive line I think has done a nice job.”
Smith completed 23 of 30 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns.
The win put the Chiefs (8-6) a game ahead of the Chargers (7-7) in the tight AFC West race. Kansas City owns a tiebreaker advantage over Los Angeles thanks to a season sweep of the Chargers. The third-place Oakland Raiders are 6-7.
Philip Rivers rallied the Chargers from an early 10-0 deficit. The quarterback put his team on top 13-10 early in the third quarter with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates. Rivers completed all five of his passes on the drive for 88 yards.
Kansas City responded with a deliberate 12-play, 69-yard drive. Hunt put the Chiefs back in front with a 3-yard touchdown catch from Smith.
The Chiefs’ defense took over from there. Cornerback Marcus Peters (two interceptions) picked off Rivers on the next drive, returning the ball to the Chargers’ 6-yard line. Kansas City settled for a 24-yard Harrison Butker field goal.
Reid credited defensive coordinator Bob Sutton for a creative defensive game plan as well as the team’s pass rushers for putting heat on Rivers.
“We were able to get pressure on the quarterback,” Reid said. “I thought everybody rallied and took their game up a notch.”
Peters again got involved in a turnover on the next Los Angeles drive. He grabbed Chargers running back Austin Ekeler after a short reception, then linebacker Reggie Ragland punched the ball from Ekeler’s grasp. Safety Ron Parker recovered for Kansas City.
Parker picked up his second takeaway of the game on the next Los Angeles drive. Rivers had his arm hit as he threw a fourth-down pass, and Parker picked it off.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn though his team turned a corner avoiding turnovers and crucial penalties before this game.
“I think bad games can crop up at any time, but I would like to think that were beyond some of these and that we had taken that next step as a program,” Lynn said. “We took a step back today.”
The Chargers brought a four-game winning streak into the game, largely driven by turnover margin. The defense generated 11 takeaways in that stretch while the team lost just one. Rivers did not throw an interception during the winning streak.
“We were just the opposite of that today,” Rivers said. “I turned it over, we turned it over too many times in this environment against that team. It’s hard to win when you turnover it.”
Rivers finished 20 of 36 for 227 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions. Melvin Gordon led the Chargers in rushing and receiving with 19 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown as well as six catches for 91 yards.
The Chiefs led 10-6 after a defensive first half.
Butker started the scoring with a 31-yard field goal ending the first quarter. That capped a 15-play, 82-yard drive that began at the Chiefs’ 6-yard line.
The drive nearly didn’t start at all after Kansas City safety Daniel Sorensen bumped into his teammate, punt returner Tyreek Hill, at the Chiefs’ 32-yard line, leading to a scrum for the football. Backup tight end Orson Charles corralled the ball, saving the possession for the Chiefs.
Kansas City extended the lead on its next drive. Smith took a gamble on third-and-2 from an empty backfield, finding Hill open down the right sideline against single coverage. The 64-yard touchdown pass put the Chiefs on top 10-0.
Los Angeles scored late in the half. Rivers led a 10-play, 67-yard drive topped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by Gordon. Kicker Travis Coons missed the point-after try.
NOTES: Kansas City’s Marcus Peters, who made two interceptions Saturday, started at his customary left cornerback position after serving a team-imposed one-game suspension last week. ... Chargers K Travis Coons missed a point-after try in the first half, his third miss in 29 career PAT attempts. ... Chiefs S Eric Murray’s 9-yard sack of Chargers QB Philip Rivers in the first half gave the second-year player his first career sack in 28 games. ... Chargers ILB Denzel Perryman left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury. ... Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt topped 200 yards from scrimmage for the second time this season. His 206 yards represented his second-best performance behind his 246 yards in the season opener against New England. ... S Adrian Phillips led the Chargers with eight tackles. He briefly left the game with an ankle injury but later returned to action.