Key play: Philip Rivers’ 20-yard pass down the middle to Eddie Royal to the Chiefs’ 25.
Key stat: 18 yards and two first downs on Chiefs’ penalties; defensive holding on safety Ron Parker and pass interference in the end zone against cornerback Jamell Fleming.
Key plays: A drop by receiver Junior Hemingway forced the Chiefs to punt, and the Chargers answered with Antonio Gates’ catching a ball tipped in end zone by Parker for a TD with 14 seconds left in the half.
Key stat: Jamaal Charles became the Chiefs’ all-time leading rusher with his 16-yard touchdown run.
Key plays: The Chiefs converted on third and 12 with a 19-yard pass by Alex Smith to A.J. Jenkins, third and 4 with a 6-yard pass to De’Anthony Thomas, and third and 5 thanks to a Chargers penalty, all leading to a go-ahead touchdown.
Key stat: The Chargers ran three offensive plays in the third quarter.
Key play: Dwayne Bowe was wide open down the middle for 19 yards, helping set up Cairo Santos’ game-winning field goal.
Key stat: The Chiefs won the time of possession battle, 39 minutes to 21 minutes.
Player of the game: Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles’ 16-yard touchdown run was a fitting way to break the franchise’s career rushing record held by Priest Holmes.
Reason to hope: The schedule now turns favorable for the Chiefs, with six of the next 10 games at home. And they still have two games with Oakland.
Reason to mope: The Chiefs’ passing game still can’t get vertical. It’s a lot of short passes to backs and tight ends, though Dwayne Bowe came alive after former teammate Brandon Flowers left the game because of a concussion.
Looking ahead: The Chiefs return home for a noon game Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, followed by a visit from the New York Jets on Nov. 2.
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The Chiefs did just enough damage against the NFL’s No. 3 defense and No. 9 defense against the run. Charles averaged a hard-earned 4.3 yards per carry, and the 16-yard touchdown run, in which he broke Priest Holmes’ franchise career rushing record was a thing of beauty.
Alex Smith was resourceful, completing passes to eight different receivers and converting critical third-down passes in the third quarter when the Chiefs owned the football for all but three plays. A drop by Junior Hemingway might have been a killer, but Dwayne Bowe came through when the Chiefs needed him most with five catches for a season-best 84 yards. And how about fullback Anthony Sherman’s catch-and-run for an 11-yard touchdown.
The Chiefs bottled up rookie sensation Brandon Oliver, holding him to 67 yards after he rushed for 114 and 101 yards the previous two weeks against the Jets and Raiders. Inside linebacker Josh Mauga was credited with just five tackles, but he seemed to be everywhere Oliver went.
The Chiefs shuffled the secondary some, giving newcomer Jamell Fleming his first start at left corner in place of Marcus Cooper, and rookie Phillip Gaines his first start as the nickel back. Along with the pass rush of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, they helped hold Philip Rivers to just 205 yards passing and a season-worst 83.4 passer rating. The Chargers worked on Fleming early, but only a brilliant catch by the Chargers’ Antonio Gates off a ball tipped by safety Ron Parker marred the day.
Rookie Cairo Santos made the clutch, game-winning, 48-yard field goal. What else do you need to know? Santos also made a 28-yarder and his kickoffs were deep. The return game wasn’t at its best, and rookie De’Anthony Thomas probably should have fair-caught a couple of punts he let hit the turf, but he makes it exciting out there.
Andy Reid, as usual, used the bye week to his advantage, finding ways to exploit San Diego’s run defense as a way to keep Rivers off the field. The shakeup in the secondary worked as well. The challenge of a spot during San Diego’s first field-goal drive in the fourth quarter was worth taking, especially since the Chiefs didn’t need the timeout later.