The Chiefs defense had been on the field twice and allowed two Chargers’ scores to open the game. Quarterback Philip Rivers was having his way, and gashing best describes how the San Diego running game was operating.
But here is where the Chiefs’ division-clinching 37-27 victory on Sunday reached its first turning point.
With the game tied 10-10, Rivers felt pressure from safety Daniel Sorensen as he released a pass intended for Dontrelle Inman.
The play was to the left side of the Chiefs secondary, where Marcus Peters has been a lonely soul for weeks. Teams haven’t challenged one of the NFL’s top ball hawks. Rivers did this time, and he paid for the decision.
Peters, who had five interceptions in his first five games, came up with his first pick since the Oct. 16 victory at Oakland.
The 16-yard return set up the Chiefs at the Chargers’ 34 and the go-ahead touchdown resulted from the short field drive.
“We wanted to get a stop, we wanted to get the ball back,” Sorensen said. “The offense had been moving the ball really well. (San Diego) was able to put some drives on us, move the ball, so that was huge, a big momentum swing for us.”
But the Chiefs, Sorensen and Peters weren’t finished.
The Chargers moved from their 25 to the Chiefs’ 18 with 1:17 left in the half. Rivers spotted Isaiah Burse running toward the pylon in the back corner of the end zone.
Sorensen raced over, saw where the ball was headed for an overthrow and timed his jump perfectly.
He grabbed the ball on the leap and got both feet down before tumbling out of bounds.
“Marcus put me in a good spot before the play,” Sorensen said. “Philip threw the ball high and I went after it. I got up there and was able to bring it down.”
Rivers didn’t want to talk about the plays.
“I’m not going to analyze the game for you and it doesn’t matter right now,” Rivers said. “We won’t play again for eight months … I need to play better.”
Sorensen, a third-year pro from Brigham Young, has been a big part of the Chiefs’ takeaway success. The interception was his third of the season. Only Peters (six) and safety Eric Berry (four) have more.
He also has two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles, giving Sorensen a direct hand in seven takeaways. On Sunday, he also recovered a onside kick to snuff out a potential Chargers’ comeback.
The Chiefs entered the game first in the NFL with 31 takeaways, and the picks by Peters and Sorensen turned the game.
“It’s something we preach for everybody on the defense,” Sorensen said. “We try to create turnovers. It’s a principle of the defense that we all buy into.”