Key play: Quarterback Alex Smith connected with Charcandrick West for a 47-yard gain that set up the Chiefs’ first touchdown.
Key stat: Smith’s completion to West broke the club record for most consecutive attempts without an interception (253).
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Key play: On the Chiefs’ final drive of the half, Smith connected with tight end Travis Kelce for what appeared to be a 12-yard touchdown. But the catch was overturned, and the Chiefs settled for a field goal.
Key stat: The Chiefs outgained the Chargers 254-91 in the first half.
Key play: The game was still in reach until Justin Houston intercepted Philip Rivers’ short pass and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.
Key stat: By the start of the fourth quarter, the Chargers only had 133 yards.
Key play: The Chargers’ Melvin Gordon was stuffed by Eric Berry on fourth and 1 at the Chargers’ 24 with a little over 4 minutes left.
Key stat: The Chiefs went three for five in the red zone, which has been a sore spot.
Player of the game: Outside linebacker Justin Houston only had one tackle, but his pick-six of Philip Rivers essentially ended the game.
Reason to hope: The Chiefs’ defense is on a roll, allowing a grand total of 39 points the last four games. That’s fewer than 10 per game — an outstanding number.
Reason to mope: You can nitpick some in the passing game. The Chiefs remain a team that struggles to hurt teams vertically, and that could come back to bite them against good teams.
Looking ahead: The Chiefs have a home showdown looming Sunday against a competitive Buffalo Bills team. It will be their first home game in more than a month, and it’s a biggie if the Chiefs are serious about staying in the playoff picture.
Terez A. Paylor, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Chiefs did a nice job of pounding the rock, rushing the ball more times than they threw it (31-25). Charcandrick West (11 carries for 16 yards) struggled to get going, but after he went down because of a hamstring injury, Spencer Ware was very good, rushing 11 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns. The Chiefs averaged almost 5 yards per carry, which is a recipe for success.
Alex Smith’s numbers were solid — 20 of 25 for 253 yards and no turnovers — and he did a nice job of evading pressure, often scrambling for daylight when he sensed defenders near. He also had a touchdown pass taken off the board by an official’s review. The Chiefs could use a little more dynamism from their quarterback, particularly on downfield throws, but when the defense is playing this well, Smith is playing good enough to win.
Chargers rookie Melvin Gordon never got going, carrying the ball 15 times for 37 yards — a meager 2.5 yards per carry. It doesn’t get much more dominant than that. The Chiefs’ front seven was outstanding.
Entering the game, Philip Rivers was second in the league in passing, so holding him to a meager 178 yards was a real achievement. He was sacked three times and picked off once, with the latter going for a backbreaking touchdown in the third quarter. The Chiefs limited Danny Woodhead and Antonio Gates, two of Rivers’ favorite targets, to two combined catches.
Kicker Cairo Santos missed an extra point, but it was from 43 yards out due to a Travis Kelce penalty. Santos made both his field-goal attempts, Dustin Colquitt was his usual excellent self and the coverage units were on point, as they recovered and downed a punt at the 1-yard line.
The players did the work, but the coaching staff deserves credit for keeping this team together through a 1-5 start. Bob Sutton’s defensive game plan was excellent, and the offense moved the ball well enough to win.