SAN DIEGO-The most telling difference in the AFC West Division game between the San Diego Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium was time on the clock. This is a front in which the Chargers lost decisively, coming up on the short of a 39-21 minute disadvantage. This is the same strategy the Chargers worked well in the team’s upset against the Seattle Seahawks.
This time around it the irony is that another team with a savvy coach like Andy Reid pulled the fast one on the Chargers, keeping Mike McCoy’s explosive offense on the sidelines for most of the game. And it was this type of game management in which Reid, his quarterback Alex Smith and the Chief’s’ offense worked to perfection throughout the game.
Smith and the Chiefs executed this scenario with seamless ease on a nine-play, 62-yard drive that resulted in Cairo Santos booting a 48-yard field goal right down the middle of the goal posts with 21 ticks left on the clock to give the Chiefs a 23-20 win. The division defeat to the Chiefs make the Chargers’ looming trip to Denver an even more important game for the team, particularly a defensive unit that has given up 23 points (28 in the win against Oakland) or more just twice this season.
This is a unit that ranks. No. 5 in the NFL in total defense and No. 3 in pass defense, according to NFL.com Of, course, it is something that Chargers have something to be proud about this season considering this was the one area the team needed to shore up to be considered serious Super Bowl contenders. And they have, yet Sunday’s defeat to the Chiefs is a stark reminder of the challenge of an NFL team stopping another one cold is a week-by-week gamble.
The Chargers defensive unit certainly was at its high point during the young season with shoutout win against the New York Jets (31-0), looked vulnerable against the Raiders, and basically was out on the field a very long time against Kansas City. And much like the way the Chargers was able to dominate the clock and grind a out a tough win against the Seahawks, Kansas City just flipped the script on San Diego.
The Chiefs used an efficient passing game from Smith and a hard-nosed rushing attack that was spearheaded by Jamaal Charles to offset the time of possession for Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ potent offense. As it turns out, playing keep away was the the Chiefs’ best weapon. Kind of what he is known for around the league, Smith was operable behind center, completing 19 of 28 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown. Charles brought the hammer to the Chiefs’ run game, rushing for a bruising 95 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
The Chiefs rushed for 154 yards. The Chargers, on the other hand, could only muster 70 yards on the ground. That’s just not going to get it done if the Chargers has aspirations to dethrone Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos as AFC West champs. It sure as heck won’t help you in the time of possession game.
The Chargers only had the ball for 4: 16 in the second quarter and controlled the clock for just 1:02 in the third period. No run game usually spells trouble. The Chargers, without a solid running game, had a hard time keeping the ball.
That meant the defense being out on the field a little longer than they’re accustomed to doing, which could help explain the Chiefs being able to drive down the field to kick the game-winning field goal. Cornerback Shareece Wright isn’t buying that theory.
“There’s no excuses,” Wright said. “If you’re out there on the field…no matter what, if you’re out there, you gotta to do your job, make your plays and make your tackles when they come your way. We’re banged up….we were out there probably longer than we’ve ever been on defense. It was a load for us, but we got to take care of business.”