Chiefs games in San Diego have produced some memorable moments through the years.
With the Chargers’ final game there most likely at hand on Sunday, here are more than 50 years of memories distilled to a veteran NFL reporter’s top five.
Oct. 19, 2014: Chiefs 23, Chargers 20
As Chiefs rookie kicker Cairo Santos stood over a potential 48-yard game winning field goal, he remembered exactly what had happened at Qualcomm Stadium the year before.
Ryan Succop had missed a 41-yarder at the end of regulation in the 2013 regular-season finale against San Diego, a game the Chargers would win in overtime, and a miss that went a long way toward Succop eventually losing his job to Santos.
Santos, whose 2014 rookie season started shaky with misses in each of the Chiefs’ first two games, stared at the end zone, waited through a San Diego timeout. And then he drilled the ball into a slight breeze squarely between the goal posts before he was mobbed by his teammates.
“They told me that’s why I’m here,” Santos said of his teammates’ reactions. “To hear that from them is awesome.”
Even though Santos made just two of his first four field-goal attempts through the first five games of the season, the Chiefs stuck with him. He made a 40-yarder earlier in the game at San Diego, and the game-winner validated their decision to go with a rookie. Santos is still with the team and among the league’s best kickers.
“Listen, the kid won the job,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said afterward. “I felt like he was going to make it. He’s made the opportunities he’s had during the last couple of games. He was due for an opportunity like this. He stepped up and did a heck of a job.”
Nov. 4, 2001: Chiefs 25, Chargers 20
The Chiefs, in Dick Vermeil’s first season as head coach, built a 19-0 halftime on the strength of Trent Green’s passing and Priest Holmes’ running, and a trick play in which tight end Tony Gonzalez completed a 40-yard throw to fellow tight end Michael Ricks on a double pass.
But the Chargers stormed back behind rookie quarterback Drew Brees, with 20 straight points for a 20-19 with a little more than 6 minutes to play.
Green then marched the Chiefs 71 yards in 10 plays, starting with a 25-yard pass to Snoop Minnis. Five straight runs by Holmes — who would finish with 181 yards and a touchdown in the game — moved the Chiefs to the San Diego 1. From there, fullback Tony Richardson blasted across the goal line for his second touchdown of the game and a 25-20 lead with 1:30 to play.
The Chiefs failed on the two-point conversion, leaving an opening for Brees, who took over in the second half after starter Doug Flutie suffered a concussion.
The Chargers reached the Kansas City 28 when linebacker Donnie Edwards, a San Diego native who had 11 tackles in the game, and a swarm of Chiefs defenders tackled Brees inbounds as time expired, giving the Chiefs their first win in San Diego since 1997.
Jan. 2, 1993: Chargers 17, Chiefs 0
Though the Chiefs and Chargers have been rivals since the formation of the American Football League in 1960, this game marked the first — and still only — time the franchises have met in the postseason.
The Chiefs swept the regular-season series from the Chargers, but they were stagnant on offense in this AFC wild-card game. They rushed for just 61 yards and quarterback Dave Krieg threw two interceptions in the rain at then-named Jack Murphy Stadium.
The loss, following a 10-6 regular season, led to a lot of grumbling in the locker room and soul searching by the coaching staff.
“We have not been able to do the things that we have set as our specific goals,” said coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose Chiefs post-season record slipped to 1-3. “Until we do that, we’re always going to be frustrated.”
In the aftermath of the defeat, Schottenheimer decided to junk his Marty-ball, smash-mouth style of offense. He fired three trusted and well-respected coaches on the offensive staff and hired Paul Hackett as offensive coordinator to install the West Coast offense used so successfully by the San Francisco 49ers.
And to operate that offense, the Chiefs acquired quarterback Joe Montana and signed running back Marcus Allen for the 1993 season, changing the face of the franchise.
Nov 2, 1986: Chiefs 24, Chargers 23
The Chiefs staged two comebacks in the final 2 minutes and pulled out the victory on Nick Lowery’s 37-yard field goal with 7 seconds remaining in the game.
The Chiefs trailed 16-0 at halftime, but scored 21 second-half points — including 17 in their final three possessions — for their third straight win.
The Chiefs’ fourth-quarter comeback began when they were trailing 16-7. Quarterback Bill Kenney completed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Emile Harry with 7:43 left in regulation. Veteran Mike Pruitt’s 1-yard run with 1:46 left gave the Chiefs a 21-16 lead, but the Chargers responded with a touchdown for a 23-12 lead with 1:02 to play.
The Chiefs, however, responded as Kenney completed four passes in a 50-yard drive to the Chargers’ 19, setting up Lowery’s game winner. The victory gave the Chiefs a 6-3 mark en route to a 10-6 finish and first playoff berth in 15 years.
Sept. 10, 1960: Chargers 21, Dallas Texans 20
Lamar Hunt, founder of the American Football League, brought his Dallas Texans to the cavernous Los Angeles Coliseum for the inaugural game in franchise history against the Los Angeles Chargers, owned by Barron Hilton, one of the eight AFL owners known as “The Foolish Club.”
The Texans dazzled the small gathering of 17,724 fans by jumping to a 20-7 halftime lead on two touchdown passes by Cotton Davidson and a 1-yard run by Jack Spikes run (who also kicked two extra points).
Hunt, who always put the league first, told coach Hank Stram at halftime that he felt bad about making the Chargers look so bad in front of their home fans and worried how that might affect future ticket sales. That sympathy was misplaced. The Chargers rallied and won on the strength of Jack Kemp’s two second-half touchdown passes.
Hunt admitted later he would never again feel sorry for an opponent.
As it turned out, the Chargers would fail to impress the fans in Los Angeles, where they shared a home with the NFL’s Rams, and they would relocate to San Diego for the 1961 season. The Texans, meanwhile, in a losing battle with the Dallas Cowboys, would follow suit and move to Kansas City in 1963 and become the Chiefs.
And in 2017, it appears the two franchises will renew their rivalry in Los Angeles once again.