Suddenly, the Chiefs are on a losing streak.
By RANDY COVITZ
The Kansas City Star
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers hit Seyi Ajirotutu with a 26-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone with 24 seconds to play, giving the Chargers a stunning 41-38 victory over the Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
After opening the season with nine straight wins, the Chiefs have now lost two in a row and may have to face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos next Sunday without Pro Bowl linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.
Hali, who has nine sacks, left the game early in the second quarter with a sprained ankle. Houston, who has 11 sacks, injured an elbow late in the second quarter. They did not return and their status will be uncertain all week.
In a wild game straight out of the old AFL, the Chiefs appeared to have pulled out the game with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Dwayne Bowe with 1 minute, 22 seconds remaining.
But the Chargers, 5-6, who had lost their last three games by single digits each, rallied behind Rivers, whose pass to Ajirotutu beat cornerback Sean Smith for Ajirotutus third catch of the season and first touchdown.
With Hali and Houston in the locker room, Rivers was under very little pressure to get rid of the ball.
Facing a third and two from the Chargers 40, Rivers floated a pass to backup tight end Ladarius Green, who had a step on Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers at the Chiefs 45.
Green, a second-year player from Louisiana-Lafayette, turned on the speed and outran Flowers and safety Quntin Demps for a 60-yard touchdown and a 34-31 lead with 7:50 to play. It was Greens 15th catch of the season and his first NFL touchdown.
San Diego drew to within 28-27 on Nick Novaks 30-yard field goal with 12:31 left in the game, but the Chiefs rebuilt a four-point lead when Ryan Succop answered with a 25-yard field goal.
Jamaal Charles set up the field goal with a seaaon-long 46-yard run to the Chargers 8, but after a 3-yard run by Charles, a pass to tight end Anthony Fasano that lost two yards and an incompletion, Chiefs had to settle for the field goal.
The Chiefs took a 28-24 lead into the fourth quarter on a 4-yard pass from Smith to Fasano. The key play was a 22-yard completion on a third and five to the seldom-seen A.J. Jenkins to the San Diego 23.
The Chargers converted the first turnover of the game -- Smiths first interception since week seven against Houston -- into a 3-yard touchdown run by Danny Woodhead that gave San Diego a 24-21 lead with 5:27 left in the third quarter.
Smiths overthrown pass intended for Donnie Avery was tipped by cornerback Shareece Wright to safety Marcus Gilchrest, who returned it to the Chiefs 16.
The Chiefs were the beneficiaries of three pass interference penalties that led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Charles that gave Kansas City a 21-17 lead with 9:06 left in the third quarter. Two of the penalties were called on Derek Cox and Wright, trying to defend Avery; and the third was on Gilchrest defending Fasano in the end zone.
The Chargers took advantage of the absences of Hali and Houston in scoring on the opening possession of the third quarter and taking a 17-14 lead.
Rivers had plenty of time to scan the field and find Eddie Royal, who eluded cornerback Marcus Cooper and turned a 25-yard pass into a 54-yard gain. That set up a 1-yard plunge by Ryan Mathews with 12:17 left in the third period.
The Chiefs, thanks to two big pass plays from Smith to Avery, led 14-10 at halftime.
Avery, who caught just one pass last week at Denver, had his way with Chargers cornerback Derek Cox.
With the Chiefs trailing 3-0 and facing a third and 11 from the San Diego 32, Avery got behind Cox and hauled in Smiths pass for the touchdown and a 7-3 lead with 1:37 left in the first quarter.
Avery ran the exact streak against Cox in the second quarter and Smith found him for 36 yards to the San Diego 7. On the next play, running back Charles bolted 7 yards for the touchdown and a 14-3 lead with 3:03 left in the half.
The Chargers answered with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that drew them to within 14-10 when Rivers hit running back Danny Woodhead with an 11-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds left in the half.
To reach Randy Covitz, call 816-234-4796 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/randycovitz.