It wasn’t always pretty, but once the Kansas City Chiefs realized the AFC West title appeared within their reach, quarterback Alex Smith’s team turned on the jets and cruised past the San Diego Chargers 37-27 in the team’s season finale.
Kansas City earned a shot at the AFC West title thanks to the Denver Broncos dominating the Oakland Raiders 24-6 in Denver.
“We took care of our end and obviously got some help from Denver,” Smith said. “It was pretty sweet when we saw the score there at the end, when we had our deal sealed up.”
The Chiefs and Raiders finished with identical 12-4 records, but the Chiefs earned the tiebreaker by virtue of their season sweep over the Raiders.
The Chiefs finish the season with a 12-4 record, their best since achieving a 13-3 mark in the 2003 season. The win also gives the Chiefs their first AFC West title since 2010.
The Chargers opened the game with a field goal for a 3- 0 lead and led 10-3 early in the second quarter.
But the Chiefs scored 17 straight points, building a 20-10 halftime lead. Cornerback Marcus Peters and safety Daniel Sorensen delivered key plays with interceptions to end San Diego scoring threats. The Chiefs scored 10 points off the turnovers, which coach Andy Reid said proved critical.
“I thought (Peters) kind of got us going,” Reid said. We were running a little bit in sand there for a minute and then his interception kind of sparked things up a little bit.”
Smith finished 21-of-28 passing with 264 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 21 yards and a touchdown rushing.
Running back Charcandrick West chipped in 58 yards on 16 carries and added another 58 yards on five receptions along with two touchdown receptions.
The Chargers pulled within 20-17 thanks to a tipped Smith pass returned 90 yards by safety Jahleel Addae.
The Chiefs responded with a 12 play, 60-yard drive capped off by a 2-yard touchdown pass from Smith to West to extend the lead to 27-17.
“That was a big drive for us to eat up the clock and move the ball down the field and get a score,” Smith said. “Because that game certainly could’ve gone differently had we’ve not gotten that score.”
Rookie Tyreek Hill dealt the final blow to the Chargers’ chances a few minutes later when the Chiefs forced the Chargers to punt. Hill returned the kick 95 yards for a touchdown. The score gave Hill his 12th touchdown on the season. That ties the team’s rookie season record held by Abner Haynes in 1960.
The win gives the Chiefs the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs. That means the team earns a week off before hosting a playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium in two weeks.
West said the team looks forward to the extra rest.
“Anytime you can get your body back is great,” West said. “This doesn’t mean we are off, we are still going to go in for practice, watch games, know who we’re playing, we are going to get ready until it is time to go.”
Smith agreed, pointing to the home game at Arrowhead Stadium as equally important.
“To have the bye to get healthy and then get a home game right after that,” Smith said,” it’s a very different road than we’ve travelled twice before. They’re just different.”
Next weekend’s wildcard round features the third-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the sixth-seeded Miami Dolphins and the fifth-seeded Raiders visiting the fourth-seeded Houston Texans.
The Chiefs will host the best remaining seeded team. The lowest-remaining seeded will visit the New England Patriots, the AFC’s top seed.
Reid said he will tell his players their schedule for the next two weeks on Monday.
“I told players I’ll let them know tomorrow we have a meeting tomorrow and then I’ll get them all that,” Reid said.