Chiefs’ defense anchors high moments Sunday against Chargers

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs’ 10-3 win over the San Diego Chargers wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty in wet conditions.

Dec. 13, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs linebackers Dee Ford (55) and Tamba Hali (91) celebrate after Ford sacked San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers at Arrowhead Stadium. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Dec. 13, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs linebackers Dee Ford (55) and Tamba Hali (91) celebrate after Ford sacked San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers at Arrowhead Stadium. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Both offenses struggled for consistency in a penalty-filled contest, but the Chiefs’ defense held firm as the team extended a winning streak to seven games.

“All in all, it was a good win,” coach Andy Reid said. “You’re going to have these kinds of games, especially against the AFC West rivals.

“You’ve got to find ways to win. We fought ourselves a little bit to do it, but we found a way to win at the end, which ended up being very important.”

Important, indeed.

With the win, the Chiefs moved to 8-5 on the season and now sit two games behind the Denver Broncos (10-3), who lost Sunday to the Oakland Raiders, in the AFC West with three regular-season games remaining.

A look back at Sunday’s game with highs and lows:

HIGHS

• Second-year outside linebacker Dee Ford, who drew a consecutive start in place of Justin Houston (knee), exploded to lead the Chiefs with a career-high three sacks.

Ford was all over the field and totaled seven tackles, including three for a loss, three quarterback hits and was in on the final play of the game covering Chargers running back Danny Woodhead in the end zone.

“He just balled,” safety Eric Berry said. “He just did a great job and basically he just iced the game for us and he had a great game.”

• Led by Dee Ford, the Chiefs enjoyed another sack party against the Chargers with five. Safety Ron Parker displayed hustle by coming around the edge to chase down quarterback Philip Rivers and defensive end Jaye Howard also dropped Rivers behind the line of scrimmage.

In the two games against the Chargers this season, the defense tallied eight sacks, two interceptions and limited the San Diego’s offense to six total points.

• Wide receiver Albert Wilson took a quick slant pass and broke free for a 44-yard touchdown, the game’s only touchdown. The second-year pro now has two touchdowns of 40-plus yards on the season, the other coming in Week 6 on a 42-yard play.

While most of the attention will be on his scoring catch against the Chargers, Wilson displayed fearlessness early in the second quarter. Quarterback Alex Smith threw a high pass down the middle of the field, but Wilson jumped up high in front of two defenders to come down with a 29-yard reception.

“Just Alex having the faith in his receivers to go out there and make a play,” Wilson said. “(Assistant head coach/wide receivers) Coach (David) Culley preaches that, every time he gives you an opportunity to take advantage of it.”

Wilson capped off the day with four catches for 87 yards and the touchdown.

• Rookie cornerback Marcus Peters continues to makes his case for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors with yet another strong game Sunday. Peters totaled five tackles (three solo) and a pass defensed, which came on a tipped pass that inside linebacker Derrick Johnson pulled in for an interception.

Peters’ 19 passes defensed through Week 14 established a new franchise rookie record and is tied for sixth in franchise history. He’ll have plenty of chances to add to that total when considering there are three regular-season games remaining.

• The rainy conditions throughout the game signaled a battle of field position, which often means a running game will be relied upon heavily. The Chiefs entered the contest ranked seventh in rushing (121.3 yards per game) and that ranking could move after the team churned out 150 yards rushing on 25 carries (6 yards per attempt).

Running backs Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware split the workload as expected. West totaled 10 carries for 54 yards, while Ware had eight rushes for 52 yards. Ware left the game with a rib contusion.

Quarterback Alex Smith chipped in with 40 yards rushing on six carries.

LOWS

• Wide receiver/punt returner Frankie Hammond Jr., lost a fumble against the Chargers, marking the second straight week he put the ball on the ground on special teams. Hammond, who has filled in as the punt returner while De’Anthony Thomas recovers from a concussion, muffed a punt in Week 13 against the Oakland Raiders.

• Perhaps it would be easy to place some of the blame on the weather since the Chiefs have played in the rain for three straight weeks, but the kicking game struggled for a second straight game.

Kicker Cairo Santos missed badly on a 40-yard attempt following what appeared as a bad snap from James Winchester to punter/holder Dustin Colquitt.

In Week 13, Santos missed two point-after-touchdown (PAT) attempts.

• The NFL officials had one of the oddest moments of the game before halftime when quarterback Alex Smith was flushed out of the pocket. Smith threw the ball to away.

OK, no harm, no foul, right?

Head referee Pete Morelli first announced there was no infraction for intentional grounding, only seconds later to announce it was an infraction because the pass never reached the line of scrimmage.

That prompted a discussion between Smith and the officials.

“I was yelling my point,” Smith said. “It didn’t matter that it has to cross the line of scrimmage if there’s a receiver there behind the line of scrimmage – that’s what my understanding of it was.”

The referees convened yet again before Morelli announced there would be no penalty for intentional grounding.

“I felt like there was a receiver in the area, it didn’t have to go past the line of scrimmage,” Smith said. “It’s no different than a screen pass that you ground; if there’s a receiver there it’s not grounding. And luckily the refs talked it out.”

• Sunday’s contest produced a combined 15 penalties between the Chiefs and Chargers. The Chiefs drew the flag eight times for 53 yards, while the Chargers were penalized seven times for 48 yards.

• Chargers safety Jahleel Addae is no stranger to the Chiefs. The NFL fined Addae in Week 11 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, and Addae could hear from the league again for his actions on Sunday.

Quarterback Alex Smith scrambled out of the pocket early in the third quarter for a 12-yard gain. Smith was heading out of bounds when Addae came over and hit Smith to send the quarterback sliding to the Chargers’ bench, resulting in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.

For his part, Smith didn’t harbor ill will after the game.

“Nothing against him,” Smith said. “He’s a physical player, he brings it, he hits hard. It’s a division game, it’s going to be heated, that’s what football’s about. It was that type of game today, for sure.”

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Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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